Operating theatres have been compared to "an old boys' club" by one of Britain's leading female surgeons.
Jyoti Shah, a consultant urological surgeon at Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, called for a culture change and said operating theatres were a "hostile environment for women".
Ms Shah told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Surgery still remains very male dominated, and it does still appear as an old boys' club and you're very much an outsider as a woman.
"You're trying to break into their gang almost, and that culture is quite engrained in surgery."
About 11% of surgical consultants in England are female - a total of around 800.
Ms Shah added: "I know one woman who as she was operating, she leant over and the consultant whom she was operating with very gently brushed against her breast.
"More subtle forms are being referred to as 'the nurse', being in a meeting with men and being the only woman and you're asked to make the tea."
The first female president of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), Clare Marx, said there was a fine line between a joke and sexist abuse.
Ms Marx said: "We have to be very careful that there isn't a confusion between a manner of speaking and something that is rightly offensive."
In a 2013 survey, 68% of newly qualified UK female doctors believed surgery was not a career that welcomed women.