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Gender Differences in the Professional and Private Lives of Plastic Surgeons

Halperin, Terri J. MD; Werler, Martha M. ScD; Mulliken, John B. MD

doi: 10.1097/SAP.0b013e3181b02292

There are over 700 female members in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The purpose of this study was to assess possible differences between female and male plastic surgeons with respect to their practice characteristics, duration of practice, and some aspects of their private lives.

We designed a 41 question survey to compare the practice features and personal demographics of female and male members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. A total of 1498 questionnaires were sent via e-mail to all female members (n = 687) and a random cohort of male members (n = 811). The respondents were age stratified by decade and their responses were compared by gender using χ2 tests.

The overall response rate was 36.3%: 337 females (49%) and 207 males (25.5%) (P < 0.0001). Of female respondents, 35.3% were not married, as compared to only 12.5% of the males (P < 0.001). Additionally, 42.9% of women had no children, as compared to 11.5% of men (P < 0.001). Men also tended to have more children than their female counterparts, across all age groups. The majority of women (58.8%) delayed child-rearing until after residency, as compared to only 25.7% of men (P < 0.001). Male plastic surgeons were more than twice as likely as female plastic surgeons to earn an income greater than $400,000 per year (P < 0.001). Of 39 respondents who stated that they were no longer practicing, 21 (54%) were male and 18 (46%) were female (P = NS).

Female plastic surgeons are significantly more likely to be unmarried, to postpone having children or be childless, as compared to their male counterparts. Furthermore, female plastic surgeons have a lower income than their male colleagues despite similar hours and practice profile. Nevertheless, female plastic surgeons appear to have similar career satisfaction and are no more likely to retire earlier or more frequently than male plastic surgeons.

From the Department of Plastic Surgery, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Slone Epidemiology Center, Boston University, Boston, MA.

Received December 10, 2008, and accepted for publication, after revision, May 27, 2009.

Reprints: Terri J. Halperin, MD, 235 Cypress Street, Suite 210, Brookline, MA 02445. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.