Fixing Disparities Starts at the Top
Without a conscious commitment by current leaders to change what senior leadership looks like, the advancement of women into leadership will continue at a snail’s pace, according to a report by McKinsey & Company. “When chairs, deans, society leaders, and other leaders decide that increasing women in their ranks is a top priority and commit to recruiting women leaders deliberately, then we will see more progress toward gender diversity and gender equity,” said Kelly Michele Malloy, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and associate chief clinical officer for surgical services at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Explore This IssueJanuary 2020
When chairs, deans, society leaders, and other leaders decide that increasing women in their ranks is a top priority and commit to recruiting women leaders deliberately, then we will see more progress toward gender diversity and gender equity. —Kelly Michele Malloy, MD
In particular, Dr. Malloy recommends asking women to apply for leadership positions and aiming for at least half of candidates to be female. “Promote women and hire women, and not just for early career or entry-level positions,” she said.
To get things started, diversity and inclusion committees can provide data to their institutions regarding salary, promotion, and leadership roles for male and female physicians. Departments should make research, clinical support, salary, and resource allocation transparent to all members, and institutions should offer training and mentorship specifically for women in research, publishing, and leadership, Dr. O’Brien said.
Employers should dedicate resources to making their support of women and other underrepresented groups clear. “This can include specific diversity and inclusion language in strategic departmental and institutional initiatives that have measurable goals, such as [offering] financial support for underrepresented or minority students to do away rotations, ensuring that all faculty complete unconscious bias training, or being intentional about invited grand rounds speakers to ensure they represent diverse backgrounds and experiences,” Dr. Villwock said. “It can also manifest in resources such as lactation rooms, an adequate number of restrooms, pipeline development programs for potential leaders, and maternity/paternity leave policies that minimize potential financial or professional penalties.”
Dr. Kerschner said that equality begins with equal pay. “If you can’t demonstrate that you have pay equity across gender, race, and ethnicity, then anything else you do regarding equity will seem hollow,” he said. “There have been a number of reasons why organizations have not achieved transparent pay equity in the past. However, analytics and best practices now exist that allow this to happen. It does require effort and costs something for an organization to ensure this is happening. The Medical College of Wisconsin has ensured pay equity related to gender and under-represented status for many years; it is doable.”
To achieve pay equity, a detailed internal compliance team evaluates pay metrics annually and prepares a report for senior leadership to identify any areas of discrepancy based on analysis, Dr. Kerschner said.