October 3, 2008
Women leaders in medicine

The year 1867 marked a major milestone in MGH history – that year, the Board of Trustees voted to allow female students to study at the hospital for the first time. However, women still faced restrictions – their admission was left to the discretion of visiting physicians and surgeons on an individual basis, they could only enroll in classes that were separate from their male counterparts, and they were allowed to attend clinical practice only on female wards. Women at the MGH have come a long way since then, and yet in the field of medicine overall, many challenges still remain. On Sept. 18, these issues were addressed in a talk, "Business Advice for Women Leaders in Medicine," presented by Jeanine Wiener-Kronish, MD, chief of MGH Anesthesia and Critical Care. The event was hosted by the MGH Office for Women's Careers in honor of Women in Medicine Month. Peter L. Slavin, MD, president of the MGH, and Donna Lawton, senior program manager for the MGH Center for Faculty Development, also spoke at the event.

Wiener-Kronish opened the discussion by sharing both her personal story as a woman physician and the lessons she has learned from those experiences. Analyzing data from other fields, she said that women in leadership roles – or those seeking to obtain such positions – face multiple challenges, including confronting stereotypes that they may be less effective problem-solvers than men and possibly being held to higher standards while receiving lower rewards. Other career barriers she discussed were resistance to women's leadership styles, prejudice against their abilities and the time off many women take to meet family demands. Sharing several solutions to the problem, she stressed the need for women to take active roles in their careers, seek out mentors, network with lawton wiener-kronish and slavincolleagues and analyze their progress. She also encouraged institutions to help women advance their careers through the promotion of a "critical mass" of women to leadership positions and the implementation of family-friendly benefits and policies. She concluded that the many women at the MGH who hold leadership positions are an important resource for women physicians, and that the commitment of Slavin and other hospital leaders to hiring a diverse faculty has made the MGH a great employer for men and women alike. 

EMPOWERING WOMEN LEADERS: From left, Lawton, Wiener-Kronish and Slavin

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