A Walk in Her Shoes: Women in Anesthesia
By Adaora M. Chima, MBBS, MPH, from the IARS, AUA and SOCCA 2019 Annual Meetings*
The themed breakfast meeting for women in anesthesia was a lively interactive session moderated by Dr. Jeanine P. Weiner-Kronish, Chief of Anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital. The event was well-attended despite taking place at 6:00 am on a rainy Sunday morning, a testament to the interest in such activities.
Attendees ranged from anesthesia residency trainees to academic professors and executive leaders with varied leadership position experiences. The session was very lively and interactive, entertaining questions from junior faculty regarding approaches to promotion, testimonies about institutional culture, and personal accounts of career paths.
Academicians who have been successful with the promotion process described strategies they used in finding mentors and seeking sponsorship. The latter was described as going beyond being an adviser (mentorship) and facilitating opportunities for junior colleagues such as making recommendations on their behalf to stakeholders for promotion-oriented activities and positions.
Seasoned faculty share their approaches to work-life balance and encouraged identifying work commitments that are compatible with personal and professional goals. They also exhorted participants to review details and requirements for promotion and to learn to differentiate assignments that have promotional value and those that do not.
An interesting discussion arose regarding the delayed timeline for professional advancement for women compared to their male counterparts, due to additional responsibilities such as motherhood. Several participants stated that they did not feel their professional trajectory had been changed or delayed by having children while a few participants said they had to reduce clinical responsibilities or work part-time.
Dr. Gianni Lorello, a male faculty member at University of Toronto, was also in attendance, to support representation of women in all facets of the field of anesthesia. He is a member of various committees at his institution and the Canadian Anesthesiologists Society that aim to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the field of anesthesia.
A few take home points from the session include:
- Seek out mentors who can walk you through strategies for professional advancement or promotion. Pay it forward by doing the same for others.
- Seek sponsors (they can be different from mentors) to open doors and create connections that you may not be capable of on your own.
- Spread the word, educate your colleagues (male and female) on roles everyone can play to help support and promote female colleagues in the workplace.
- Be honest about what you can take on. Make the choice that works for your personal and professional goals. If this means scaling back your clinical responsibilities, so be it. Do not feel guilty about scaling back to a part-time commitment if that is what’s needed. Rather, focus on demonstrating mastery of your craft.
- Women should not be penalized with exclusion from leadership opportunities because of the choices they need to make for a work-life balance.
- Learn to say “No,” however, make sure you know how to make a distinction between “No” and “not right now.”
- Understand the promotion requirements of your institution so that you accept/align your tasks and roles to those with promotional value.
- Supportive leaders are necessary for this campaign to succeed. If you do not have one, seek out ways to educate your administrative leaders on the professional challenges faced by women in your institution.
- Women remain a minority in leadership positions in anesthesia.
- Minority females may face additional biases.
Unconscious bias continues to present unique challenges for women in the workplace and will likely continue to do so for a long time. Mentorship, sponsorship, mastery and expertise, and strategic navigation are all necessary for professional advancement. Women have broken barriers in the workplace and will continue to do so to attain excellence and equality in the practice of anesthesia. The Women in Anesthesia breakfast meeting successfully created a venue for discourse on relevant issues that are of concern to women in the field of anesthesia.
For those interested in joining this conversation, send an email to [email protected]. The IARS will be connecting all those interested in continuing the conversation that started during the Women in Anesthesia breakfast meeting on Sunday morning.
*Coverage from the Themed Breakfast: Women in Anesthesia during the IARS 2019 Annual Meeting