A special topic paper looks at the representation of women in the plastic surgery specialty, especially in leadership positions.

According to the paper, some progress has been made in this area. However, further work needs to be done to help women break through the “plastic ceiling” and achieve leadership roles.

The topic paper, written by five women plastic surgeons, appears in the September issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

“Women bring unique qualities to leadership, yet there remain barriers to gender equality,” according to the article, in which the authors note that although women account for half of all medical school graduates, they are still underrepresented in the plastic surgery specialty.

“Thus, there are inadequate role models for the 14%of women plastic surgeons and 32%of female plastic surgery residents,” the authors—led by ASPS Member Surgeon Debra J. Johnson, MD, of The Plastic Surgery Center, Sacramento, Calif—write in the article, per a media release from Wolters Kluwer Health.

Intrinsic barriers to leadership positions include differences in career aspirations as well as a “confidence gap.” Extrinsic barriers include women’s disproportionate responsibility for family and home duties, as well as “role incongruity,” in which women in leadership roles may be viewed as less competent than their male counterparts due to gender-role stereotypes, per the release.

Steps that Johnson and co-authors recommend that the specialty of plastic surgery take to spur women to leadership include plastic surgery organizations making a commitment to greater diversity in leadership, as well as increased mentorship opportunities for women, education on promotion criteria and equal pay for equal work, and institutional support to ease conflict with family responsibilities.

The authors also encourage women plastic surgeons to prepare themselves for leadership roles by seeking mentors and regularly discussing their career progress with supervisors, the release notes.

“Women leaders are valuable and skilled assets that will help their organizations flourish,” Johnson and coauthors conclude, according to the release. “A commitment to nurturing the leadership potential of all plastic surgeons will exponentially increase the creativity and influence of our specialty.”

[Source(s): Wolters Kluwer Health, EurekAlert]