Women comprise roughly half of all graduates of medical schools. However, they are still underrepresented in the plastic surgery field in general and leadership roles in particular, according to a new paper that was published in the September 2016 issue of “Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery,” which is the medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
The paper was authored by five leading plastic surgeons, all of whom are women. Surgeon Debra J. Johnson of Sacramento, California was the lead author of the paper.
More progress is needed
Dr. Johnson and her co-authors wrote that the low numbers of women in leadership roles in the field means that “There are inadequate role models for the 14 percent of women plastic surgeons and 32 percent of female plastic surgery residents.” The authors go on to note that although women “bring unique qualities to leadership, yet there remain barriers to gender equality. Our failure to attract, nurture, and sustain women for leadership positions significantly reduces the talent pool of capable leaders in plastic surgery.”
Given that there is no difference in the effectiveness of male leaders versus female leaders, this discrepancy is unacceptable, the authors write. The paper identifies both intrinsic and extrinsic barriers that promote gender inequality in the plastic surgery field. One example of an extrinsic factor is the false, yet commonly held belief that women are somehow less competent than men in fulfilling leadership roles. Another extrinsic barrier is the disproportionately large percentage of responsibility that women typically assume in caring for their families and homes.
An example of an intrinsic barrier is the lack of self-confidence. “Women are less likely to have strong mentors pushing their careers, and are hesitant to seek promotion unless they are fully qualified,” write the authors.
Recommendations moving forward
Dr. Johnson and her colleagues have offered a set of proactive solutions that may help foster diversity and inclusivity in leadership roles in the plastic surgery field. Currently, the ASPS has a 12-member Executive Committee that includes three women.
The authors note that this is “an important milestone;” however, women are still clearly in the minority. The paper also calls for equal pay for equal work, institutional support to increase greater flexibility with domestic obligations, education regarding the criteria for promotions, and more mentorship opportunities for female surgeons. The paper also encourages female plastic surgeons to proactively prepare for and seek leadership roles. The paper concludes by asserting, “Women leaders are valuable and skilled assets that will help their organizations flourish. A commitment to nurturing the leadership potential of all plastic surgeons will exponentially increase the creativity and influence of our specialty.”
Female NYC plastic surgeon
Dr. B. Aviva Preminger is a leading plastic surgeon in New York City who serves as a model of how women can break through the glass ceiling in the plastic surgery field. As an Ivy League-educated, board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Preminger has held numerous leadership positions throughout her remarkable career. She is a sought-after lecturer and has held active leadership roles in numerous organizations.
Among other distinguished accomplishments, Dr. Preminger holds faculty appointments at Columbia University and other accredited NY hospitals. She serves on the medical advisory board of Sharsheret, a national non-profit, and she serves on the board of the New York Regional Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.
Dr. Preminger is available for one-on-one consultations. Patients can reach her office at 212.706.1900.