Women in medicine are still treated as second-class citizens in today’s modern medical community. This remains the case despite the fact that equal numbers of men and women now graduate from medical school. And yet, only 3 percent of women serve as chief medical officers while 80 percent of the health care workforce is staffed by females. Plus, evidence shows that having women in upper management and on corporate boards is associated with improved financial performance and enhanced accountability. So what can be done to course-correct this untoward behavior in the medicinal world?
The Athena Swan Charter
Health care organizations need to see how well women perform in their roles as medical leaders. It is also helpful to understand female physicians’ experience in the workplace. Quantification can suitably address gender imbalance. According to The Harvard Business Review:
“A powerful example of this can be seen in the United Kingdom’s Athena Swan Charter and Awards. The Charter recognizes commitment to advancement of women in higher education and research. Depending on how well they meet the Charter’s requirements, institutions are eligible for Bronze, Silver, or Gold Awards. As of 2011, organizations must have received at least Silver Awards to qualify for National Institute for Health Research Funding. Evaluation thus far suggests that the Charter has increased awareness of gender and other diversity issues, created numerical and financial incentives for change, and catalyzed structural and cultural changes, such as increased career support for female researchers.”
Women are lagging behind men in the rate at which they receive rewards and recognition. This, of course, has an impact on promotions. A process of systemization ensures that women and men are equally recognized for their achievements. According to HBR: “systematic identification and publicity of male and female accomplishments can narrow gender-based gaps.”
Engaging both sexes
There has been shown to be negative biases in STEM in general and the medical field in particular. Implicit bias training has been shown to decrease negative and implicitly held beliefs and attitudes about women’s capabilities in STEM. Engaging both men and women has been shown to be helpful in decreasing gender-bias. For example:
“At Dell, the Men Advocating Real Change program engages men as key allies in driving gender equality. Targeted at the largely male executive leadership, the program is run by the nonprofit Catalyst and covers topics such as privilege, unconscious bias, dominant culture, and gender role conditioning and its link to leadership. “
Dell’s program has been shown to have an effect “on Dell’s ability to recruit, retain, and promote women and on the gender balance in male-dominated divisions such as sales.”
Going beyond acceptance and networking, there must be an emphasis on actively promoting women to positions of power. Both male and female leaders should take on sponsorship roles to promote high-potential women’s access to diverse opportunities. One good example is IBM’s Technical Women Pipeline Program that engages mid- and senior-level women identified as strong leadership candidates in a two-day program aimed at boosting their careers. “The program has improved retention rates for mid- and senior-level technical women and increased the number of women considered distinguished engineers.”
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