Girls tend to have higher grades than boys in STEM-related classes. Women are now outnumbering men in medical school. They are equally educated, talented, and skillful but they do not achieve promotions or advancements at the same rate as men. To achieve gender parity and bring about institutional changes, we cannot wait for an invitation to the table. If a woman or woman of color waits for an invitation, it might just never happen. Let’s acknowledge the role of unconscious bias in the workplace: people hold beliefs about certain social and identity groups without even realizing it. Through my work, I have noticed that some practices are instrumental in opening up leadership paths. Here are my learnings to help you achieve your leadership goals.
1. Let your CV reflect your aspiration.
- Be intentional about your leadership interest and passion. Consider adding a paragraph on what you have done so far or what you are looking for, even if it seems trivial to you.
- Many women highlight their research and publications, but give limited space and attention to their leadership experience and contributions. Including these clinical achievements will impress anyone and help you find an excellent clinical job, but it fails to highlight your current leadership focus.
- Bring up leadership experience in the initial part of your CV. Add some bullet points on your contributions and what impact they made. It does not have to be your personal achievement; adding the impact created by the committee you were part of works, as long as it is honest. In addition, your achievements as a clinician/scientist should definitely follow to paint the full picture.
2. Mentorship. Proactively seek mentorship and build alliances.
- Reach out to influential and talented senior leaders in your organization or field. Being an introvert, socially awkward, and goofy, I struggle with this myself. However, this is my mantra. Start by asking about their leadership journey. People love to talk about themselves and their work; it will ease you in, as the focus is not on you.
- Ask directly if they would be interested or willing to participate in formal or informal mentoring. Be ready to answer what this entails and be open about what they can offer.
- Focus on your efforts and not the outcome. All you can do is reach out, some will say yes and some will say no. You cannot control how they react and this should not define your success.
- If your imposter syndrome kicks in, remember this phrase: Ego is a wonderful servant but a lousy master. Make a list of your achievements or skills, then go back and read those aloud. Once you feel more confident, go back to asking for mentorship.
- Once you get a mentor, make sure you actually get on their calendar and that it is not an empty yes. Be intentional about your questions, keeping your long-term goals in sight. Do not let it become a venting session.
- You might or might not like what you are being mentored on, and that is OK. Treat the advice as data points, take what you find valuable, and leave everything else behind. Having a mentor in your field has more benefits than merely learning. Your mentor is more likely to promote and sponsor you.
3. Fair compensation is great, but it should not be the primary goal.
- Women, in general, do not ask or negotiate, and yes, we need to do a better job of advocating for ourselves. Nevertheless, it does not mean you should decline every unpaid opportunity.
- Remember not every reward is monetary. Why not start with what you get, paid or unpaid? You can always say no but what if you said ‘’yes and …?”
- The unpaid work will help you gain visibility and the opportunity to “be in the room where it happens,” as Hamilton would say. Be open-minded about the value of visibility, experience, skills, etc. you can get under your belt through the opportunity.
- With time (maybe in six months or a year), when you have gotten some traction, do not forget to go back to advocating for yourself, and to negotiate.
Finally, as author Steve Maraboli states,“Be driven with purpose, be relentless in your alignment with excellence.” The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity to grow.