5 Tips for Succeeding in a “Man’s Field”
Dr. Catherine Huang Begovic
“Girls who look like you don’t become doctors,” said the father of my 8th grade classmate. This was one of the first of many sexist and discouraging comments I’ve heard in my life. I started modeling at the age of 12, but it had been my dream since I was a child to be a doctor. I remember when I was working a charity as Miss Delaware Teen USA, an older man told me that I was “very pretty” but should still “consider going to college.” He didn’t believe that I had gotten a perfect 1600 on my SAT’s and was starting Harvard University in the fall.
Now as a Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon, and also a board certified Head & Neck surgeon, having completed not one, but two top surgical training programs, I dare any man to question me.
How have I survived being a woman in a man’s field? How have I fought through the stereotypes to come out ahead? A few tips I have learned along the way:
- Think ahead and have a game plan. I think women are blessed by being great planners. I always knew what my next goal was and then made a list of what I needed to do to accomplish that goal. I would complete each item on that list systematically. This method has helped me stay focused, given me a sense of accomplishment along the way, and kept me from feeling overwhelmed.
- Ask for advice. As a woman, you may think that asking for advice is a sign of weakness, but it isn’t. Don’t be afraid to ask. Sometimes men will give you helpful tips they usually wouldn’t share because they don’t see you as competition! There is no better way to learn than to talk to those who have done something before you. Usually people love to help, and you can learn from others’ mistakes instead of making your own.
- Work harder, be tougher, be better. Being a woman in a traditionally man’s field has been challenging. There have been so many times in my life when I was exhausted – working over 120 hours a week as a surgical intern, taking too many classes at Harvard while participating in too many extracurricular activities. OK – so I was extreme! But women can be just as tough and capable as men. Don’t sell yourself short.
- Exercise and be good to yourself. While leading a busy and stressful life as a surgeon, I always make time to exercise. Taking care of your body is not only good for you physically, but helps refresh you mentally and emotionally. Somehow I always feel more focused after getting a good workout or run. Similarly, getting a facial or massage can be hugely restorative.
- Dress to impress. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional, you should look the part. No matter how tired I’ve been in my life – running around the emergency room all night, or seeing patients at different hospitals – I always made sure I was dressed nicely, my white coat clean, my hair neat. If you look sloppy, people will think your work is sloppy. Just 15 minutes to brush your hair back or iron your clothes takes you a long way.
Dr. Catherine Huang Begovic is a Plastic & Reconstructive surgeon in Beverly Hills CA and CEO of her cosmetic and plastic surgery practice Make You Perfect, Inc. She is also a board certified Head & Neck cancer and reconstructive surgeon. She is on the board of BeautyTV.