Dr. Rohr-Kirchgarber has made appointments with deans, associate deans, and faculty affairs staff to introduce herself, explain her expertise, and find ways to use her skill sets in initiatives and committees that are important to the institution.
“Rather than waiting for three or four years for them to find out who I am and think about me for a committee, I need to get out there from Day One,” she says. “It’s proven to be successful.”
Drs. Ammann and Bell encourage hospitalists in community settings to approach their CMOs or other hospital administrators about their leadership aspirations. “And, of course, networking in a professional organization helps,” Dr. Satpathy says.
Female physicians can take the initiative and position themselves for leadership roles. They can acquire necessary skills by attending SHM’s Leadership Academy, management classes offered by the American College of Physicians and the American College of Physician Executives, and even adult education courses taught at business schools. But in order for them to be successful leaders, institutions must be invested in the effort.
Organizations can start by defining what they mean by “leadership.”
“‘Leader’ is actually a very abstract concept,” Dr. Carnes says. “But if you break it down into very specific activities, then I think you will get more women saying ‘yes.’ The first thing is getting women to see what leadership can allow them to do.”
There are different levels of leadership. It’s OK to take it slow and do a little bit, whatever the reasoning may be.
—Rachel George, MBA, MCC
Men—and women—also have to acknowledge they have unconscious biases, then work to change the cultural norms, she says.
“Smoking is a really good example,” Dr. Carnes explains. “It took multilevel intervention at the individual and institutional level to change the cultural norms for smoking. You have to have a clear statement by the institution endorsed by all the institutional leaders that this is an institutional priority.” Examples of priorities include eliminating male-gendered words from job announcements and performance evaluations, and ensuring a fair and open application process for leadership positions that allow female physicians to make a case for themselves, she says.
Institutions can implement structural elements to help women—and men—better manage their careers and assume leadership roles, Dr. Valantine says. These include tenure clock extension, extended maternity and family leave, short- and long-term sabbaticals, onsite childcare, and emergency backup childcare.(Read about how Stanford University’s School of Medicine encourages women to seek leadership positions at the-hospitalist.org.)
“When I give talks to women about leadership, I tell them about all the programs we’re doing. I say to them, ‘I hope that you will go out and ask for these programs to be set up in your institutions,” she says. “But, more importantly, I tell women, ‘You have a responsibility to remain standing. It’s going to be tough sometimes, but if you don’t remain standing, we won’t have the role models that we need. It’s going to be a vicious cycle. We just won’t advance and increase the numbers of women leaders.”
Lisa Ryan is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.
- Association of American Medical Colleges. Women in U.S. Academic Medicine: Statistics and Benchmarking Report 2009-2010, Table 1. Association of American Medical Colleges website. Available at: https://www.aamc.org/download/170248/data/2010_table1.pdf. Accessed March 2, 2012.
- American Medical Association. Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the US. American Medical Association, 2012. 2012 ed. Chicago: American Medical Association Press; 2011.
- Association of American Medical Colleges. Women in U.S. Academic Medicine: Statistics and Benchmarking Report 2009-2010, Table 4A. Association of American Medical Colleges website. Available at: https://www.aamc.org/download/170254/data/2009_table04a.pdf. Accessed March 2, 2012.
- Association of American Medical Colleges. Women in U.S. Academic Medicine: Statistics and Benchmarking Report 2009-2010, Figure 5. Association of American Medical Colleges website. Available at: https://www.aamc.org/download/179458/data/2009_figure05.pdf. Accessed March 2, 2012.
- American College of Healthcare Executives. A Comparison of the Career Attainments of Men and Women Healthcare Executives: 2006, Table 2. American College of Healthcare Executives website. Available at: http://www.ache.org/pubs/research/gender_study_full_report.pdf. Accessed March 2, 2012.