In a field dominated by men, female dermatologists may feel like outsiders—underestimated and even stereotyped because of their gender.
Challenges faced by female dermatologists
The prevalence of gender bias or discrimination in the workplace is perhaps the most common challenge female dermatologists face.
A study published in 2020 by The New England Journal of Medicine found that over a span of 35 years (up to 2013), female physicians in academic medical centers were consistently and disproportionately passed over for promotions and department chair positions, with no sign of improvement.
Related: Academic medicine falls short when it comes to female leadership
From inappropriate behavior to burnout
Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that women in medicine are disrespected by colleagues and face moral policing.
According to another JAMA Internal Medicine article, female physicians are commonly not selected to be speakers at important meetings, such as grand rounds. Female physicians are also treated less professionally than men—for example, being introduced by their first name only, rather than with their proper title.
“I believe that all of these factors can lead to burnout and career dissatisfaction, and could possibly discourage women from pursuing careers in dermatology.”
— Alpana Mohta, MD, DNB
From competition to objectification
As entrepreneurs in the cosmetic field, female dermatologists face multiple challenges, including the following:
Lack of support and representation: Finding female mentors and role models in the medical-cosmetic industry can be difficult, and there may be fewer opportunities for funding or partnerships for female dermatologists.
Competition: The field is highly competitive, with many doctors vying for a limited number of positions and clients.
Pressure about appearance: The appearance-oriented nature of the field can pressure dermatologists to maintain the aesthetics of their own skin, which can be difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating.
Objectification on social media: Many dermatologists use social media to promote their practices, but unfortunately, these “skinfluencers” often receive objectification and unwanted attention based on their appearance. Such experiences could hinder positive engagement on platforms used to promote their medical practice.
Women in dermatology leadership
Even today, there are relatively few female dermatologists in leadership positions, such as department chairs or presidents of professional organizations.
In 2012, only 17% of full professorship positions in the clinical sciences in the United States were held by women, according to a study published by Archives of Dermatology.
However, the shift toward laser technology and cosmetology in our field has sparked a change in patient perception about the competence of female dermatologists.
Women practitioners in dermatology are no longer met with skepticism or hesitation when it comes to cosmetic procedures.
A potentially thriving industry for female physicians
“Today’s cultural emphasis on maintaining a look of youth and vitality has significantly impacted the popularity of cosmetic dermatology.”
— Alpana Mohta, MD, DNB
According to research published in the International Journal of Indian Culture and Business Management, female clinicians are more sensitive to their patient’s emotional needs.
These qualities are particularly beneficial for patients undergoing cosmetic procedures, which often involve emotional and psychological considerations.
Women at the helm of cosmetic dermatology
Here are some ways in which I believe a professional focus on cosmetic dermatology has helped female physicians build successful careers:
Independence and entrepreneurial opportunities
Unlike clinical dermatology—which often relies on referrals from other medical specialties—cosmetic dermatology offers women the independence and freedom to build their patient base.
Not only is this field remunerative, but it also allows for a degree of flexibility, making it a desirable prospect for those with other commitments, such as childcare duties.
Potential for higher income
Patients are often willing to pay out-of-pocket for elective cosmetic procedures.
Dermatologists specializing in these procedures typically earn higher incomes than those focusing on traditional areas of dermatology. While I believe cosmetic dermatology is an ideal option for female physicians, challenges persist, including those related to ingrained issues of patriarchy that may impede a woman’s success in her medical career.
However, I remain optimistic that female physicians will continue to make advancements in specialized fields such as cosmetic dermatology, earning greater respect and, better yet, higher wages.
What this means for you
Cosmetic dermatology has provided opportunities for female dermatologists to thrive, but it nonetheless presents challenges that must be overcome—most notably, those related to gender bias. As female dermatologists continue to find success in this field, many female physicians like myself are hopeful that issues like gender bias, wage disparities, and a lack of representation may soon become a thing of the past.
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