Addressing gender inequities in medical leadership

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In its ongoing work to identify and overcome barriers preventing women physicians from assuming more leadership roles in VCH Vancouver Acute and Vancouver Community, the Vancouver Physician Staff Association (VPSA) hosted an Appreciative Inquiry on April 17. VPSA members and VCH leaders gathered to build on the work of an earlier inquiry and a networking event and Physician Leadership Institute workshop.

“We’re here today because we’re passionate about diversity in leadership,” said Dr. Lynn Straatman, one of the event’s organizers, as she welcomed participants. “We want to understand why there are not more women physicians in medical leadership positions and we’re not alone in being curious about this. Diversity and inclusion have become an important focus for Doctors of BC and we’ve had discussions with CMA President Dr. Gigi Osler who is also committed to ensuring gender diversity in physician leadership.”

VCH President and CEO Mary Ackenhusen attended the Appreciative Inquiry.

“As a female leader I’ve spent a lot of time studying this,” said Mary. “Physician leadership is key to VCH and the challenges we face. We can achieve greater things through diversity; our biggest diversity challenge currently is the lack of a physician voice in leadership regardless of gender. We need to address this quickly. We know that the best health care organizations (Kaiser; Mayo Clinic) hire for leadership capability and the desire to lead. We don’t do that yet, but we can start.”

Essential elements for increased women medical leaders

Four areas were identified as requiring change for more women to become medical leaders at VCH Vancouver Acute and Vancouver Community: culture and environment; succession planning; meaningful metrics; and leadership skills. Under the guidance of facilitator Ann Brown (Providence Health Care’s former director of learning and organizational change) and using the skills of VCH’s leadership team coaches, the attendees discussed all four areas and provided their input.

“Participants were given the opportunity to have input on the design as well as the planning stages of these essential elements,” commented Ann. “There were some clear themes that emerged and these will be reflected in the report that the VPSA Facility Engagement team and I will put together over the coming days.”

That report will be presented to VCH to consider its recommendations. Aspiring women medical leaders can also sign up for the VPSA-sponsored May 24 and 25 PLI course on Leadership for Medical Women.

Click here to view photos from the April 17 appreciative inquiry.

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