According to research by the international, non-profit organization, Catalyst, Fortune 500 companies with more than three female physicians on their Board of Directors achieved superior sales and higher return on equity and net profits. Although women are beginning to be recognized for their value as leaders, female physicians in leadership roles face real challenges.
Nevertheless, now is the best time to be a woman leader in healthcare. Female physicians who are leaders in medicine are gaining in number and making a positive difference in patient care and the bottom line.
I had the privilege of facilitating a discussion among 50 female physicians at the Women’s Network during the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Physician Leadership.
We Explored Challenges And Opportunities For Today’s Female Physicians Via Four Provocative Questions:
- Why would we build a world in which female physicians have no leadership role in healthcare?
- Is there anything I currently am doing that in any way contributes to that worst-case scenario?
- How can we create a world where female physicians are encouraged and celebrated for what they bring to leadership?
- Starting today, what is one specific thing I could do (or stop doing) that would move us in the direction of the best-case scenario?
Why Did I Ask These Questions?
These questions are important to me, because I want to make a difference supporting women physician leaders to be empowered and appreciated for their contribution. Answering these questions is important to my clients, women physicians who desire to bring their best to leadership. This conversation is important to continue, because it supports personal responsibility and empowerment. As we raise awareness of where the challenges are, we can address them.
Question 1: Why would we build a world in which women physicians have no leadership role in healthcare?
This unlikely question was designed to get people thinking outside the box by being playful and generating energy. Our list of the subtle and overt ways women are blocked became “worst-case scenarios.”
Because road bumps for women leaders are part of our everyday culture, that fact can make these obstacles hard to see. For example, women have few models on how effective women lead. Therefore, a common assumption is that if you want to be in leadership, you need to change your nature.
Question 2: Is there anything I currently am doing that in any way contributes to a worst-case scenario?
Together, we explored the challenges that not only are happening “to us” by organizational practices, but also are happening “through us.” With self-awareness and honesty, women spoke about their fears and sabotaging behaviors. Women admitted it was true that they would:
- Feel resigned that, “This is the way it is.”
- Not ask for help, and not expect help
- Complain about how hard being a leader is
- Minimize their potential
- Give up when they hit an obstacle
- Not encourage friends/colleagues to go for a leadership position
A world where female leaders are NOT empowered in leadership is not good for patient care, physician quality of life, or the bottom line. Ultimately, if we want to change the culture, we have to make different choices and take different actions as individuals.
Look for my next post to learn what is required to “create a world where female physicians are encouraged and celebrated for what they bring to leadership.”