Orthopaedic Women's Link (OWL)



OWL is an advocate for women in orthopaedics. OWL aims to encourage and support women through their orthopaedic careers, from as early as medical school, through to consultant level.

OWL also seeks to create visible role models, encourage women to pursue and complete orthopaedic surgical training, address education issues, monitor gender-related matters and statistics, and providing advice to women trying to overcome work-life challenges.

Sarah Watts initially conceived the idea of OWL as an organisation to support women in orthopaedic surgery in 2008/2009. Peter Steadman, who was the QLD Branch Chair was very supportive and took the idea to the AOA Board. Sarah was advised to put together a proposal and her sister designed the OWL logo. in 2010—2011 the AOA Board approved OWL as an affiliated group. 

The first OWL meeting was held in 2012 at the Sydney AOA ASM. Sarah enthusiastically printed flyers and made balloons, with Sue Liew giving the first presentation — thus, OWL was born. While OWL was recognised and supported by AOA and the membership, OWL was granted official status as an AOA committee in 2016 at the request of the OWL members. In 2018 the OWL membership voted to adopt a revised terms of reference for OWL to further establish a transparent and robust governance structure. 

For more information on OWL's history, please download the OWL chapter of A History of Orthopaedics in Australia 1980–2016.

OWL is currently addressing the following issues: radiation safety and pregnancy, return to work after maternity leave, international policies and organisations of same, and looking at training problems versus gender issues.

For further information and to seek OWL’s services please email owl@aoa.org.au

  • To advocate with regard gender issues, career support, training, flexibility and educational opportunities for women interested in pursuing a career in orthopaedic surgery

  • To provide leadership within the AOA by:

    • Aiming to represent the perspective of women on all AOA committees
    • Supporting the implementation of the AOA Diversity Strategy
  • To liaise with students in second and tertiary education, and junior doctors, to encourage and promote more women to pursue orthopaedic surgery as a career by:
    • Creating visible role models
    • Providing career advice opportunities
    • Providing educational opportunities 
  • To provide a mentorship for emerging leaders, trainees, junior doctors and medical students.
  • To evaluate gender specific issues in the field of orthopaedics, including:
    • Monitoring trends and statistics related to numbers of women training and working in orthopaedics
    • Identifying gender barriers in training and developing solutions to remove them
    • Identifying safety issues for female surgeons including radiation safety eg. breast cancer rate in female orthopaedic surgeons,
    • Specific health concerns for female patients eg. radiation concerns for scoliosis patients, prevention of ACL injuries in the female athlete
  • To develop strategies to address parental leave requirements within the profession, for example: 
    • Parental leave access and impact on training commitments
    • Health safety while pregnant including radiation minimisation strategies, utilisation of cement intraoperatively and needlestick injuries
    • Guidelines for on-call during pregnancy
    • Return to work planning and support
    • Collaboration across specialties, health jurisdictions (nationally and internationally) and aim for best practice guidelines.
  • To promote flexible training within the workplace and support AOA in developing models that allow for interrupted training, including:
    • Parental leave
    • Family members requiring heightened care (children, partners, parents)
    • Other leave requirements (sporting, personal medical care, public service, higher education) 
  • To work with RACS Women in Surgery in research and exploring solutions to the impact of:
    • Health risks in pregnancy
    • Operating theatre sessions and on-call in pregnancy
    • Return to work and support after parental leave d. Breastfeeding/expressing as a surgeon
  • To research the policies of other surgical groups both nationally and internationally with regard to leadership, selection, training, health and well-being of women in the surgical specialties and provide feedback to AOA for the purposes of policy development. 
Visit owl.aoa.org.au for information on future events.

OWL Essay 2020

The Orthopaedic Women’s Link (OWL) and Australian Orthopaedic Association (AOA) invite all female (and those who identify as female) medical students from Australian medical schools, interns and PGY2 doctors currently working in Australian hospitals, to enter the inaugural OWL Essay.

We aim to promote diversity amongst orthopaedic surgeons and provide a platform for communication to increase the representation of women in orthopaedic training, teaching, research, and leadership.

Topic: Orthopaedic surgeons are born, not made. Please discuss.

Deadline: Submissions open on Monday 28 September and close on Monday 26 October 2020.

Please fill out your details and submit your essay via this online form.

Please read the Terms and Conditions upon entry.

Prize: One nights accommodation and registration to attend a local AOA state branch meeting in 2021/2022, including social components.

If you have any queries, please contact owl@aoa.org.au

OWL representatives


Chair: Jennifer Green

NSW/ACT: Lynette Reece


QLD: Danielle Wadley 


SA/NT: Nicole Williams


VIC/TAS: Avanthi Mandaleson


WA: Katherine Stannage

FTC: Ian Incoll

Co-opted Board representative: Chris Morrey

AORA: Lily Garcia

Champions of Change: Andrew Wines

  • Michelle Atkinson 2016—2018
  • Sarah Watts 2012—2016
  • Canberra 2019: AVM Tracy Smart and Commodore Michele Miller
  • Perth 2018: Professor Fiona Wood
  • Adelaide 2017: Chris Castle & Rekha Ganeshalingam
  • Cairns 2016: Sarah Coll
  • Brisbane 2015: Sheanna Maine
  • Melbourne 2014: Annette Holian
  • Darwin 2013: Sarah Watts
  • Sydney 2012: Sue Liew

Articles of interest about the following topics: