Women are now outnumbering men in Medical school; they tend to have higher grades than men do. They are equally educated, talented, and skillful but they do not achieve promotions or advancements at the same rate as men. To achieve gender parity and bring about institutional changes, we cannot wait for an invitation to the table. Let’s acknowledge the role of unconscious bias in the workplace; people like to promote other people who are like them. If a woman or woman of color waited for an invitation, it might just never happen. Through the Physician Women in Leadership group, I notice that some practices have commonly proven instrumental in advancing the leadership paths. Here are my learnings to help you attain your leadership prospects.
1. Let your CV reflect your aspiration.
∙ Be intentional about your leadership interest and Passion. Consider adding a paragraph on what you have done so far or what you are looking for even if it seems trivial to you.
∙ Many highlight Research and Publications with passion but the leadership experience and contributions are given limited space, generally in a very passive way and towards the end. While these clinical achievements would thoroughly impress anyone and will help you find an excellent clinical job. Unfortunately, it fails to highlight your current leadership focus.
∙ Bring up leadership experience in the initial part of your CV. Add some bullet points on how you have contributed and what impact it made. It does not have to be your personal achievement, adding the impact created by the committee you were part of will do as long as it is honest. In addition, your achievements as a clinician/ scientist should definitely follow to paint the full picture.
2. Mentorship. Proactively seek mentorship and build alliances.
∙ Reach out to influential and talented senior leaders in your organization or field. Being an introvert, socially awkward, and goofy, I struggle with this myself. However, this is my mantra. Start by asking about their leadership journey. People love to talk about themselves and their work; it will ease you in, as the focus is not on you.
∙ Ask directly if they will be interested or willing to participate in formal or informal mentoring. Be ready to answer what it entails or be open about what they could offer.
∙ Focus on your efforts and not the outcome. All you can do is reach out, some will say yes and some will not. You cannot control how they react and this should not define your success.
∙ If your imposter kicks in, remember this Phrase “Ego is a wonderful servant but a lousy master” Time to call in your servant. Make a list of your achievements or skills, go back and read those aloud. Once you feel more confident, go back to asking.
∙ Once you get a mentor, make sure you actually get on their calendar and it is not an empty yes. Be intentional about your questions keeping your long-term goals in sight. Do not let it become a venting session.
∙ You might or might not like what you are being mentored on, and that is ok. Treat the advice as data points, take what you find valuable, and leave everything else behind. Having a mentor in your field has more benefits than merely learning. Your mentor is more likely to promote and sponsor you.
3. Fair compensation is great but should not be the primary goal.
∙ Women, in general, do not ask or negotiate, and yes, we need to do a better job of advocating for ourselves. Nevertheless, I do not think it is as black and white as it seems. It should not mean you should decline every unpaid opportunity.
∙ Remember not every reward is monetary. Why not start with what you get, paid, or unpaid. You can always say no but what if you said ‘’yes and…”?
∙ The unpaid work will help you get visibility and the opportunity to “be in the room where it happens” (ref-Hamilton). Be open-minded about the value of visibility, experience and skills, etc. you can get under your belt through the opportunity.
∙ With time (maybe in 6 months or a year), when you have gotten some traction, do not forget to go back to advocating for yourself and to negotiate.
Finally, my friends “Be Driven with Purpose, Be Relentless in your alignment with Excellence. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity to grow.”