The last several years have put “women” at the forefront of the zeitgeist. From #MeToo to politics, classrooms to boardrooms, our cultural dialogue has increasingly included conversation about women. In medicine, where women represent over half of the profession, startling statistics continue to emerge reflecting pervasive sexual harassment, experience-adjusted wage and promotion gaps, and consistent under-representation of women at leadership levels. In cardiology, where women represent just 20% of the profession, these statistics are worse.
The response from women in the field has been fierce. Many of the cardiovascular professional organizations have created initiatives to support their female members, forming networking and professional development programs. Additional effort has gone towards circulating data which supports the understanding that a more diverse workforce results in stronger work. These are efforts that, for the most part, have been initiated and led by women. Many women cardiologists have also taken to the airwaves via social media, through the journals and in interviews, publicly calling attention to these issues.
But one thing has continued to bother me; where are the men in all of this? Where should the men be in all of this?
If 20 in 100 cardiologists are women, that means that 80 of them are men. Multiply that out by the workforce and there are a whole lot of men in cardiology. And I know many of these men care about the women in their field. I see them speaking out on social media and at professional conferences in support of women in cardiology. And that’s great. But that’s not enough, and further, there aren’t enough of you doing it.
If I were a male cardiologist, I might be a little annoyed by all of the raised fists of the women in cardiology. It is likely eye roll inducing to get barraged with Twitter posts about WOMEN! or to hear women complaining about men. I’m sure men understand why women are passionate about this issue. In many ways, men are also passionate about this issue. But from a day-to-day standpoint? They have other priorities. And frankly, they don’t want to be accused of anything. So they continue to stand at somewhat of a distance.
And that makes sense, but here’s why standing at a distance is a problem; the women in cardiology are not shouting out about this issue because it’s fun. Or because they want to diminish their male colleagues. Women are shouting out because sex-based disparities in medicine are a massive, social, cultural and professional problem that will only persist if nothing is done. If women don’t shout out about this, who will?
Women as One was named as such because we recognize that “women” is not the number one priority of men or of any medical professional organization. Nor should it be. We recognize that we can make more powerful strides forward if we band together and create our own priorities, drive decisions and come out strong with one voice, insisting in unison that things must change. But in order to push that change over the tipping point, the entire field must also recognize the problem and participate in the solution.
So guess what, guys? Time to step off the sideline. We need your help.
How do you help? Great question. You help. Help is a verb. It implies action. So you need to act. How? Not by saying you’re supportive, but by doing something in support of the women in cardiology.
What does that mean? Well, it does not mean you need to start attending women’s networking lunches. It also doesn’t mean, as is frequently suggested, that you need to promote women just for the sake of promoting women.
It means you should actively evaluate and react to your daily professional circumstances.
Here’s what that looks like;
- If you are sitting on an all-male panel, or board of directors, or planning committee; speak up. That’s not cool.
- If you witness a male colleague speak over a female colleague during a meeting; speak up. That’s not cool.
- If you recognize talent in a younger female colleague, don’t be scared to help her! Because guess what? She probably can’t find a female mentor. There aren’t very many of them, which isn’t cool.
- If you are sitting in a position of institutional power, gather data on your hiring, payment and promotion practices. Look at it. See if it makes sense to you. If it doesn’t, change it. It’s not cool to hire, pay or promote deserving women at a lesser rate than men.
Act. Don’t nod your head and say, “this is important, I fully support you.” DO something about it. And follow us on Twitter. @Womenas1
I’ll throw in a few tweets about football every now and then.