Work environments are largely designed for the single breadwinner, even though most households, including physicians, have two earners. As a result, women who seek work flexibility or work part time often are labeled as “not serious about their careers,” Dr. Valantine says. This label affects women, who begin to think they can’t pursue leadership roles because they’re working less than full time, says Rachel George, MD, MBA, CPE, FHM, chief operating officer of the West and North-Central regions and chief medical officer of the West region for Nashville, Tenn.-based Cogent HMG, the largest privately held HM and critical-care company in the nation with partnerships in more than 100 hospitals.
There’s an inherent conflict between the professional and biological time clocks in that when female hospitalists are trained, working for a few years, and ready to accept new challenges, they’re also starting families, says Kim Bell, MD, FACP, SFHM, regional medical director of the Pacific West region for Dallas-based EmCare, a company that provides outsourced physician services, including hospitalist care, in more than 500 hospitals in 40 states.
“Part of the problem is that we look at this as an all or none, that you have to be fully immersed in whatever leadership role it is, and be willing to give a tremendous amount of hours, but that’s really not true,” Dr. George says. “There are different levels of leadership. It’s OK to take it slow and do a little bit, whatever the reasoning may be.”
Dr. Carnes says many women who achieve leadership positions find themselves outside the behavioral norms assigned to women and, therefore, often confront negative reactions and perceptions that they’re disagreeable, arrogant, and superior-minded. Women sometimes get pushback from other women, too.
“When you talk to stay-at-home moms and part-time moms, I think they try and put the guilt trip on you all the time,” says Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD, board member of the American Women’s Medical Association and executive director of the National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health at Indiana University in Indianapolis.
That, in turn, often compounds the internal guilt many women feel, pitting their work and leadership goals against their responsibilities at home, she says. “There is still a big pull for women to be at home, and when you’re not, you feel guilty about it,” Dr. Rohr-Kirchgraber explains.
Good Things Don’t Come to Those Who Wait
Regardless of gender, those individuals who are known to get results, be proactive, and be part of a solution are the ones who gain the attention and, many times, have opportunities open up for advancement.
—Kay Cannon, MBA, MCC
Female hospitalists who aspire to lead must take the initiative, experts say.
“Regardless of gender, those individuals who are known to get results, be proactive, and be part of a solution are the ones who gain the attention and, many times, have opportunities open up for advancement,” says Kay Cannon, MBA, MCC, an executive leadership consultant and coach who teaches advanced courses at SHM’s Leadership Academy.
Cathleen Ammann, MD, can attest to that. A year after joining the then-fledgling hospitalist program at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, N.H., Dr. Ammann thought she could lead it in a positive direction.
“With zero leadership experience, I went to our CMO, who was basically the administrator for our group, and said, ‘I think I could do a good job with this,’” she says. The CMO concurred, and in October 2006, Dr. Ammann took over the hospitalist program, which she continues to lead today. “They really took a chance with me, and I’m glad they did.”