Plastic Surgery Association May Encourage Women to Gain Leadership Positions and Break through the “Plastic Ceiling”

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According to a topic paper in the September issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), more work is needed to achieve equal representation of women plastic surgeons in leadership positions.

While some progress has been made, there is still work that needs to be done to reach gender equality.

“Women bring unique qualities to leadership, yet there remain barriers to gender equality,” says the article written by five leading women plastic surgeons. “Our failure to attract, nurture, and sustain women for leadership positions significantly reduces the talent pool of capable leaders in plastic surgery.” The lead author is ASPS member surgeon Debra J. Johnson, MD, of The Plastic Surgery Center, Sacramento, California.

The Plastic Ceiling

The scarcity of women in leadership roles and the obstacles that impede their career advancement combine to create the glass ceiling effect; this phenomenon was first described in the 1980s. In the field of plastic surgery, it is known as the “plastic ceiling.”

The authors of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery article discuss the many natural and unnatural barriers facing women plastic surgeons in the field. Natural factors include different career ambitions as well as a “confidence gap,” which is blamed on a lack of encouraging mentors. Unnatural factors include women bearing disproportionate responsibility for family and domestic duties. An additional factor is “role incongruity,” where women in leadership roles may be seen as less competent due to gender stereotypes.

“While women leaders may not be as popular as their male counterparts, there is actually no difference in their effectiveness as leaders,” Johnson and her co-authors write. “In fact, women more often exhibit leadership styles that are associated with greater effectiveness.”

Silva, A.K. et al, “Melting the Plastic Ceiling: Overcoming Obstacles to Foster Leadership in Women Plastic Surgeons,” Wolters Kluwer web site, September 2016;

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