Women are now leaving the workforce at four times the rate of men. What needs to be done to alleviate this?
It is imperative that executives understand the challenges placed on women — both in the workplace, as well as at home. We have seen repeatedly that women are the backbone in their families, and they juggle tremendous responsibilities on a daily basis. This doesn’t keep them from doing their jobs, rather it creates a situation in which they must be allowed to compartmentalize, shifting from work to home responsibilities without feeling like they must do both at once.
By the same token, we need to empower women in the workplace. Women continue to face systemic issues in the workforce, including being treated as if they are not as dedicated to their employer or they are not committed to their career. We still hear stories of women who are paid less than male counterparts or are subjected to unacceptable treatment simply because they are women. This can be incredibly disempowering for women and leaves many to wonder why they are fighting so hard to remain in the workforce.
In some cases, I wonder if women leave simply because employers are not willing to fight hard enough to keep them. They don’t understand that women make organizations stronger and more responsive to the needs of the general population. When women are not part of the equation, we encounter a world that is designed only for men. We see this in some of the simplest ways, such as the design of crash-test dummies, which represent the average height and weight of a man rather than a woman. We can also see it in the fact that breast cancer rates continue to rise in industrialized nations, but we don’t understand the reason behind it because we don’t dedicate research dollars there.
A Sermo poll conducted February 2021 showed a large majority of physicians believes there needs to be government policies as well as a unified cultural response to support women who are shouldering so much of the extra burdens of the pandemic.
Who was your mentor and what are you now doing to send the elevator back down?
My mother has been my lifelong mentor; she has unwavering optimism. She is incredibly intelligent and also very nonjudgmental and able and happy to explore all kinds of possibilities. Her level of kindness and decency is aspirational to me.
My entire goal is to help lift up women. I mentor them, invest in their advancement and their future, and work to help them see their full potential. Even when they don’t believe in themselves, I believe in them. Sometimes, that is all they need to thrive.
I also put them in a position of allowing them to share their ideas and stand up for their work. It is often easy for the boss or the manager to be the loudest voice in the room. When a person is constantly dictated to or told what to do, they never learn and grow. My role is to provide enough support to offer a safety net if they get into trouble, but not so much that I keep them from walking the high wire all together.
I am proud that because I invest so heavily in my employees, that many of them have followed me from organization to organization.
What is your golden rule at work?
Try. Be bold and try. Our greatest regrets are found in the chances we never take. I would rather that my team tries something new and fails spectacularly than to always play it safe. We learn nothing if we are always perfect.
How have you coped with the unique challenges of the past 12 months?
As both an executive and a mother, I have been in the same position as every woman through the pandemic — figuring out how to keep our organization moving forward while I raise my children, maintain my house and turn into a schoolteacher. In between it all, I try to make sure I take a little time for myself along the way — whether it’s going for a run or reading a book or just taking a long, hot bath while listening to a podcast.
One of the big things I learned was to stop demanding so much of myself. I always want to accomplish it all, and this experience taught me that sometimes, it’s OK to give something 80% if it means I have the resources I need for something else.
What are the first things you plan to do when the pandemic ends?
My first plan is to get my entire team in one room and have a party. They have worked pretty much nonstop throughout the pandemic to ensure that physicians are supported and have the resources they need to remain mentally and socially healthy. Once the pandemic ends, I want to have the chance to thank each and every one of them face to face.