How Did They Do That? Interviews Of Female Full Professors

Gender Bias: Authors interviewed 87% of the female full professors at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, asking them for their perspective on how they “made it” to their position and what their advice would be for young women entering the profession. Comments were sorted into several themes. This subject remains important, as only 21% of full professors, 16% of deans, and 11% of healthcare CEOs are female. Two major themes were an undercurrent of bias and being treated as “other”, e.g. “Overall I was treated professionally, but there was a sort of silent bias against women.” This was manifested in uneven assignment of tasks, lower financial compensation, and ideas being ignored until (re)introduced by a male colleague. Several described challenges in relationships with (mostly female) nurses, e.g. nurses “are more apt to call the male doctor ‘doctor’ and you by your first name.” The most significant challenge was work-life balance, particularly issues with child care. Several listed common coping strategies, including hard work in a meritocracy, and using symbols such as the white coat. A number “attributed their success to a carefully constructed femininity. These women consciously avoided being seen as too aggressive or too weak.” Advice included proactively pursuing leadership and administrative positions, promoting oneself, finding a mentor or sponsor, and “know(ing) where the power lies.” — Laura Willett, MD

Pingleton SK, Jones EV, Rosolowski TA, Zimmerman MK, Silent Bias: Challenges, Obstacles, and Strategies for Leadership Development in Academic Medicine-Lessons From Oral Histories of Women Professors at the University of Kansas. Acad Med.  2016 Feb

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