BACKGROUND: Women seldom reach the highest leadership positions in academic plastic surgery. Contributing factors include lack of female role models/mentors and lack of gender diversity. Studies show that female role models and mentors are critical for recruiting and retaining female surgeons and that gender diversity within organizations more strongly influences women’s career choices. We therefore sought to determine the current gender diversity of academic plastic surgery programs and investigate influences of gender and leadership on program gender composition.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study of U.S. plastic surgery residency programs was performed in December 2018. Genders of the leadership were collected, including: Medical School Dean, Department of Surgery Chair, Department/Division of Plastic Surgery (PRS) Chair/Chief, PRS Program Director (PD), PRS faculty, and PRS residents. Gender relationships among these groups were analyzed.
RESULTS: Ninety-nine residency programs were identified (79 integrated ± independent, 20 independent). Women represented a smaller proportion of academic plastic surgeons in more senior positions (38% residents, 20% faculty, 13% PDs, 8% Chairs). PRS Chair gender was significantly correlated with PD gender and PRS faculty gender was significantly associated with PRS resident gender. Although not statistically significant, female PRS Chair gender was associated with a 45% relative increase in female PRS residents.
CONCLUSIONS: Women in leadership and gender diversity influence the composition of academic plastic surgery programs. Gender disparity exists at all levels, worsening up the academic ladder. Recruitment, retention, and promotion of women is critical as such diversity is required for continued progress in innovation and problem-solving within plastic surgery.