April 05, 2018
Dr. Carolyn Meltzer, the William Patterson Timmie Professor and Chair of the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences and associate dean for research at Emory University School of Medicine, was the keynote speaker at our Women Faculty Forum Spring Seminar. She spoke on “Running Uphill: Women in Science and Medicine.”
Dr. Meltzer gave a thought-provoking talk on the status of women in academic medicine, noting the slow path for women faculty to attain the ranks of associate and full professor, as well as other senior leadership positions. She noted that a gender gap exists not only in medicine but also in corporate America. Moreover, the data she presented revealed that gaps exist despite the fact that companies with more women in leadership positions have higher profitability. Dr. Meltzer pointed to early socialization of girls vs. boys, implicit bias, and differential opportunities for men and women as root causes of gender imbalance. She discussed increased awareness as a first step in closing the gap.
I am proud that we have a Women Faculty Forum (WFF) to promote a conversation around issues that are important to our women faculty. I was delighted to speak with co-chairs Danielle Garsin, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, and Deepa Iyengar, M.D., associate professor of family and community medicine, to give us more insight into the group and its impact on our school.
When was the Women Faculty Forum established and why is such a group needed at the medical school at this time?
The WFF was founded in 2015. The intent was to establish a formal group dedicated to addressing the professional needs and life-work balance issues of women faculty at McGovern Medical School. The forum was spearheaded by two very engaged faculty members, Dr. Vasanthi Jayaraman and Dr. Gurur Biliciler-Denktas, whose interest in the needs and concerns of McGovern women faculty was brought to the attention of the incoming Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs, Dr. Kevin Morano. The mission of the group is to provide advocacy, networking, opportunities for professional development, and a discussion forum for the concerns unique to our women faculty.
What is the climate for women in medicine and science today?
The academic literature and the popular press abound with stories about the dramatic opening of doors for women in science and medicine in recent years, as well as the ongoing challenges. To give a short summary, while women were once a great rarity in academic medicine, they have been entering the medical professions in high numbers for close to 30 years. Women currently make up about half of U.S. medical students, over half of our graduate students, and about half of junior faculty, entry-level academic positions. Unfortunately, the increased representation of women at more senior academic ranks has been slower than predicted by the growing pipeline of young faculty. Many studies conclude that significant pay gaps still exist between men and women. There is also evidence that women continue to be victims of bias, micro-aggressions, and harassment. Based on current data, the climate for advancement of women is improving—but does not yet fully foster equal growth opportunities for men and women professionals in medicine and science. We can and should do better.
What kind of changes do you hope the forum can create? Have you seen desired results because of the work of the forum?
Ultimately, our mission through advocacy, networking, and professional development is to help McGovern women faculty overcome and overturn barriers and achieve their professional goals. A particularly popular event that hits on all aspects of our mission has been our twice-a-year roundtables at which we discuss issues of interest and concern. Just yesterday, we held our spring roundtable. Topics discussed were “Managing Everyday Sexism,” led by Dr. Margaret McNeese and Deana Moylan; “How to Self-Promote,” led by Dr. Amber Luong; and “Building Mentor/Mentee Relationships,” led by Dr. Michelle S. Barratt. The event was well attended and the discussions very thoughtful. We also have networking events featuring local and invited speakers of note. Dr. Theresa Koehler, professor and chair of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and Dr. Janice Whitty, visiting professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, gave inspirational talks at our Fall Networking Event. The hope is that these events will address some of the common concerns and barriers faced by women in science and medicine and also provide examples of women who have overcome challenges to achieve great success. Attendance at these events has been strong, and we’ve received positive feedback from attendees.
Nominations just closed for the 2018 Women Faculty Forum Excellence Awards. What do these awards recognize?
The Women Faculty Forum Excellence Awards are designed to recognize outstanding contributions to the McGovern Medical School. We recognize excellence in all areas of our mission – education, research, and clinical service. Two awards are given to senior faculty – one to a clinical faculty member and one to a research faculty member. A third award is designed to highlight and support a rising star – a junior faculty member with great promise in either clinical care or research. Enthusiasm for these awards continues to grow – we received a record number of nominations this year!
The awards are designed not only to recognize our excellent women faculty but also to help propel them to further accolades. A commonly noted phenomenon in academia is that awards tend to beget awards. Women are not nominated as frequently as men and don’t usually self-nominate and/or self-promote. We hope these awards will help our women faculty get into the pipeline for other awards both inside and outside of McGovern. By strongly encouraging colleagues to self-nominate for these awards, we hope they will develop a mindset to more actively promote themselves and others for important academic honors. Winning prestigious awards not only benefits the individual, but also brings valuable recognition to our medical school.
Anything else to add?
We are especially grateful to Dr. Kevin Morano, associate dean for Faculty Affairs, who was instrumental in establishing the forum and who continues to provide moral support and resources to advance our mission. We also want to thank Zoie Castellanos, our dedicated support staff in the Office of Faculty Affairs.
Please join me in thanking Drs. Garsin and Iyengar as well as Drs. Jayaraman and Biliciler-Denktas for their leadership of the WFF.
Please send me your thoughts. I want to listen to and try to address the needs of our faculty. What do you think the school can do to help our women faculty?
P.S. This week is National Public Health Week – celebrating an effort to create the healthiest nation in one generation. Read more here how you can show your support and take action.