Being bullied in the “Boy’s Club”

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    I went into medical school for all the right reasons and to go into Orthopaedics. I have completed 3 1/2 years of ortho residency training. I have never been accepted among the boys in the boys club and now, it has cost me my residency.

    I started off very enthusiastic:rotfl: . I was aggressive and full of excitement. The guys didn’t take to this too well; they saw my being aggressive as my questioning authority…their authority. So, I toned it down. Eventually I was told that I was annoying and that I talk too much. The upper level residents DID NOT like me. So much that it has effected my progress in training. Which has led to my losing my residency :crossfingers: for me. I truly need a :grouphug: .



    You need to get a lawyer to represent you in the grievance process. Immediately. If necessary call the American Civil Liberties Union and see if they know any attorneys that would help you pro bono. Emphasize the gender element. Where do you stand? Have you already been dismissed? Can you transfer to another orthopod residency? Again, I emphasize, get a lawyer. Also, talk to your old med school dean, any mentors, physician friends, etc for advice.


    hi ellie,
    i am so sorry that your experience has been so awful. I am now a practicing pediatrician…but as a former competitive athlete, I too had an interest in ortho. I have always been used to competing against guys. But as my thoughts went to having children and family, I decided the surgerical life was not for me. I got tired of busting the guy’s XOXO. Besides, my mentality of compassion did not match the “cut and move on ” mentality. I thought maybe i could be a fish swimming against the current. I am glad I did not. Every speciality has a certain way of thought. I found a speciality that matched my philosphy, personality and other interests. Besides, I also in pediatrics can take a concentration in sports medicine and even function as a team physician. Which is way cool.
    Pursue your fight to the end…but consider other avenues also. Best of Luck.


    Ellie, I send you a :grouphug: Hang in there


    Thanks y’all
    Yes, already dismissed and yes attorney already involved.
    I intend to fight until the end. But if the end should come, I think that ER would be the next best thing. But I keep thinking how other specialties have their advantages also…peds ortho was what I wanted to go into. So, obviously peds is an option. We’ll see what happens.
    Thanks so much for y’all’s support. I have been dealing with this since at least last January and it has taken a toll :banghead: .
    Thanks for my :grouphug: !!!!!!


    I was a competive basketball player and played Division I ball in college. One of the biggest pieces of advice I give to women interested in medicine is to consider their personality type. Every speciality has a certain type of “personality” and in choosing your speciality interests…consider your personality. Are you a square peg in a round hole. Keep up the good fight. I would love to talk to you personally. If you like I will give you a ring. Send me a private message. Keep your chin up.


    I am a female pediatric orthopaedist. I know how you feel. I would encourage you to read Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. It is amazing how important relationships are in any business and medicine is no exception. I can tell you that in any business that is competitive like orthopaedics, you will undoubtedly encounter a lot of sexism. Some of it is subtle and some overt. It is how you handle yourself that is important. Was there one single or multiple events that led to your problems? If I was in your shoes, I would engage the help of a competent counselor to explore your feelings about your defeats and successes. What a terrible situation. I can tell you that if you can get through everything, that the patients don’t care if you are female in pediatric orthopaedics. They ultimately are the ones who will determine your success or failure.


    Hello Ellie,

    Although I am not a physician, I am an older re-entry phd student in internal medicine and immunology.

    During this re-entry and in my prior profession (electronics) I have always encountered the good ol’ boy mentality. It is every where, and as women we will continue to struggle with this discrimination.

    What I’ve learned, although it may appear counter productive, is to play the game. I am not saying not to defend yourself with legal assistance, but there are times I have found a bit of submission goes a long way.

    There are times to we must conceil ourselves to obtain our goals. Play the expected role until we obtained what we need (a position or training). Once achieved, we are in position to be ourselves and most often able to influence change.

    Good luck, and never give up!



    I’ve been mulling over my reply, but Sandra summed it up: play the game.

    Before I went to medical school, I worked for ten years as an engineer in the defense industry. I was really good at what I did, hardworking, creative, flexible, and reliable. I am also cheerful, humorous, and undemanding. For the entire time that I was an engineer, I bounced from male-conflict to male-conflict and I was totally baffled. It all seemed so unfair and unreasonable. I would suddenly find myself absolutely reviled over the stupidest issues. The worse conflict was with a big boss who took mortal offense when I volunteered to finish a project for someone who had left the company. It took me a long time to understand what I was doing wrong.

    Things are a lot better now, but they still make the rules. They are not nearly as threatened by smart women as they once were, but you can still get too uppity for their comfort. I worked with one woman who had started her career in software engineering in 1960 (the late paleolithic era computer wise). Far from being one of the boys, she always wore a skirt, sweater, and pearls. I’d come bouncing in wearing a Friday Hawaiian shirt and trying to stay even with my own smart-mouthed insults. Consequently, I was labeled a “lesbian” and a “man-hater” when all I was trying to do was be friendly and join the gang. My friend never tried to be an equal and had far fewer problems.

    You are a lot less likely to get yourself in trouble and achieve your goal if you do your best to be a “credit to your gender”, to borrow a phrase from another fight. You have to accept that you are going to be judged by a different standard. If you choose to break barriers, you have to be prepared to get hurt doing it.


    P.S. You would probably have a slightly easier time out here on the left coast.


    The Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) is an excellent organization…don’t know if you are in contact with them but they’ve been in existence since 1981, have a long hx of advocacy and are really a good place to start. (They publish an excellent Resource Manual and a Handbook on Sexual Harassment as well.)

    Association of Women Surgeons
    414 Plaza Drive Ste 209
    Westmont, Il 60559
    fax (630-0391)

    Get the book “Walking Out on the Boys” by Frances K. Conley, MD, FACS. It is very good and moving. She went through the ringer in the boys club as the first female tenured neurosurgeon in the US. Conley was listed as a distinguished member of AWS in the 2000 resource manual. She is listed as employed by the Palo Alto, CA VAPAUCS.

    Keep fighting Ellie. You deserve to do your work and the world needs your talents and dedication.


    Dear Ellie,

    Just wanted to offer you some moral support. There was certainly a boys club when I was in my fellowship in pain management – golf outings, nights out, stock trading tip sessions to which I was not invited. My cases numbers were 50% of my male peers. The program director would not help. It was very frustrating. I completed the fellowship and stayed on as staff, but saw that I had no future. (Incidently, I saw another female fellow after me having an even worse time than I had – she chose to go head-to-head with other fellows…The following year, no female fellows were admitted to the program.) I did leave and now have a plum job which is incredibly rewarding.

    I agree with the “play the game” advice. You will have more power and control when you are out of training. Get all the legal counsel and support you can. Transfer if possible and train prudently – it is a phase that will pass.. Good luck reaching your goals.


    Hi, message isn’t that different from some of the others posted, but know that you’re not alone. I was the first female categorical general surgery resident at my program in ten years and it didn’t take me long to figure out why.

    My program director was supportive…he was anxious to increase the representation of women in our program. Along the way, I found which faculty members were “on my side”, but most weren’t. The old “boys’club” mentality was institutionally passed from most of the faculty to the residents.

    Obviously for you, the first step is either re-securing your position or securing another residency position elsewhere. Once you do, unfortunately, you do to some extent have to play the game as Sandra said. Learn what you can from the other residents, even if it’s what not to do.

    If you can find at least one faculty mentor that you can go to when things are tough, that will be helpful. Even when you get out into practice (because I’m sure that you will eventually), you’re certainly going to encounter some colleagues that are jerks (that’s the self censored version). I’m finally in a solo practice where my medical colleagues, the hospital and my patients seem to appreciate me and that has made all of the past difficulty worthwhile.

    P.S. My husband after reviewing this message is urging me to add this: If it’s a hard road, the results will be that much more rewarding. He thinks I’m ongoing proof of that.


    What a tough problem. I was the 7th woman to finish in my surgery residency, and have never been able to just shut up and put up with it. Do not feel that it is your fault. They really are immature and pitiful, but if you let them know that you feel that way, you will get burned. I would try to get back in your program with whatever legal help is necessary. However, there is always a reason to fire a resident, but it might not be the one that you know it is. Get competent help from a good labor attorney. Also get on the web to the Association of Women Surgeons website. ( There are women in that group that have sued and won.

    When you do get done, it still can be tough. If you aren’t one of the boys, you hear about it. If you are one of the boys they make fun of you. Patient like us though. We can consider their feelings, and be there for them. Just get done, get into a real job, and get a good partner and it will be ok. Keep us posted on what is happening


    i am a general surgeon, out of residency for 2 1/2 years. i have had 2 children since completing my residency. i can relate to all of your concerns and how you have been treated. i worked with many men who tried to change me in training, change me to be more like them. it did not work. it was difficult, but i believe i am a strong person. i was told not to go into surgery because “you are too nice and they will eat you alive”. i am proud of who i am and that i am very feminine and now accepted because i was able to prove myself. you can do the job, have a personal life and even family if you want. surgery needs more women for so many reasons. be strong, be yourself. they will accept you and respect you more if you can do the job and stand up for yourself. you can be their friends and colleagues at the same time. patients will like you and respect you. just be yourself. stand up for what you have earned. you are a surgeon regardless of what those training you might think.
    good luck.


    Wow. Thanks everyone.
    I appreciate and respect all the words you have shared.
    I am still in the middle of waiting on further info in terms of teh grievance process.

    If I am reinstated, I will definitely follwo the advice. To be honest, I think that was the attitude that I started out with, but as the support dwindled…I think I felt more like I was grasping for air as I sunk into their whirlpool.

    I hate to say it, but they got the better of me. I hope that I am given a second chance to get this done with…with a new attitude. If I get back in there, I am gonna be asking again for some encouragement when it gets rough. 😉 Thanks again for your support.

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