Recently an article was brought to my attention from Harvard Business Review regarding female leadership in medicine. The article titled, “What’s Holding Women in Medicine Back from Leadership” brings up an extremely important topic - if we as women don’t have a seat at the table how can we advocate and bring awareness to the gender disparity in medicine and the workplace in general? The article opens with some impressive statistics:
“For over 25 years, women have made up at least 40% of U.S. medical students. This past year, more women than men were enrolled in U.S. medical schools. Yet overall women make up only 34% of physicians in the U.S., and gender parity is still not reflected in medical leadership. Women account for only 18% of hospital CEOs and 16% of all deans and department chairs in the U.S.—positions that typically direct the mission and control the resources at medical centers. Women are also in the minority when it comes to senior authorship (10%) and Editors-In-Chief (7%) at prestigious medical journals.” (1)
Forty percent of medical students are women, yet only 18 percent of hospital CEOs are women and 16 percent of deans and department chairs are women. Why is this happening?
In 2015, I left a medical group to pursue a career that was fulfilling and free of gender and pregnancy discrimination. I wanted to practice medicine but also be a leader to advocate for women and minorities. In 2016 I had the opportunity to become Chief of Orthopedics for a surgical hospitalist group, but wasn’t sure if I was up for the challenge. I had 2 kids under 2 and in addition was trying to build and run my own practice. This new leadership position would involve a lot of meetings and management of other physicians. With support from my husband, I decided to take on the role.
I can’t tell you how many meetings I have been to, where I am the only woman at the table.
This isn’t completely foreign to me as my field of medicine is male dominated- but why would this be in a large hospital group setting where all fields of medicine are represented? Why are most CEOs, CMOs and medical directors male? Why, when we are making decisions is there no input from female leaders? I don’t have all the answers, but I encourage you to read the article and think about how we can change this culture.
And for women interested in leadership, it won’t be easy- I have been told I won’t be taken seriously because I am a woman. I have had senior leadership try to intimidate and “pimp” me as if I am their subordinate. And if I miss or am late to a meeting, it is assumed I cannot fulfill my responsibilities because I am a mom. I have to be damn near perfect as a surgeon and as a leader to get the same respect as my male counterparts. But I am up for the challenge, and I hope other women are as well.
We can and will change the culture!
Mangurian, Christina, Eleni Linos, Urmimala Sarkar, Carolyn Rodriguez, and Reshma Jagsi. “What’s Holding Women in Medicine Back from Leadership,” 8/8/2018. https://hbr.org/2018/06/whats-holding-women-in-medicine-back-from-leadership
For more information on this article, see our Journal Club section.