In 2016, 1.7 million elective cosmetic surgeries were performed in the United States. Of these 1.7 million, over 200,000 were rhinoplasties, or nose jobs. Women underwent 75 percent of these nasal surgeries, the vast majority of which were performed by men.
Men make up 85 percent of board-certified plastic surgeons. If, in 2016, you selected one of those surgeons at random, you would have been nearly six times more likely to wind up with a man than with a woman.
Finding a plastic surgeon is not exactly like drawing blindly from a hat. There are online directories and annual rankings, like Super Doctors and America’s Top Doctors.
The gap between male and female cosmetic surgeons is also true of surgery overall, but the disparity is more startling in plastics because it is so unlike the one among patients. Ninety-two percent of cosmetic surgeries are performed on women, and women make up only 15 percent of the doctors available to patients. Wander New York’s Upper East Side and you’ll see this statistic IRL: Dr. Adam, Dr. Brad, Dr. Craig on every corner.
The underrepresentation of female surgeons is generally attributed to one of two connected beliefs: that surgery is and has always been an old boys club, and that women’s domestic responsibilities interfere with the practice’s long hours and physical demands. This latter tenet may be botched. A 2011 survey of nearly 8,000 surgeons (12 percent of whom were in plastics) showed that 91.8 percent of respondents who identified as men had children, whereas 40.5 percent of those who identified as women did not. The survey also showed that women surgeons overall were less likely to be married or divorced, but also less likely to feel that their schedules contained enough personal time.
As for the boys’ club, it may be getting less clubby. The percentage of general surgeons who are women rose from 3.6 percent to 19.3 percent between 1980 and 2015. Nevertheless, the barrier to entry remains high, and the opportunity for woman-to-woman mentorship low. A 2013-2014 survey of women in academic medicine showed that only 38 percent of surgery residents are women, and surgery ranks among the med school departments with the lowest proportion of full-time women faculty.