Women in medicine seeking to advance their careers need to be prepared to work harder, promote themselves, be in the minority and, generally, just be prepared, according to speakers at the 102nd annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.
A Women in Leadership session offered five tips for women in radiology seeking to attain leadership roles, most of which apply to women physicians in any medical specialty.
- Study management in advance. If women want to get into the business side of medicine, they should get an MBA. If they want to pursue leadership roles, they should get leadership training before — not after — being named to such a role, said Carol Rumack, M.D., the founding president of the American Association for Women Radiologists and associate dean for graduate medical education at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine in Aurora. “Don’t wait until you’re the leader,” said Rumack, adding that “every physician is a leader in some way.”
- Get out of your comfort zone. Rumack also instructed female radiologists to “defuse the anxiety which may sabotage your success.” For example, if you’re nervous about public speaking, she said to practice public speaking. Similarly, M. Elizabeth Oates, M.D., department of radiology chair at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in Lexington, recommended taking on “something you don’t really want to do,” even if it’s not directly related to your career goals. “You might need to travel, speak or write,” Oates said, adding that she’s someone who doesn’t like to travel, speak or write, but “I’ve learned to do them.”
- Be locationally flexible. To gain a leadership post, you must also be open to relocation. “I never thought I’d move from Boston to Kentucky, but it’s the best move I’ve ever made,” said Oates, who is also past president of the AAWR and an American Board of Radiology trustee. “I’m very happy.”
- Get used to not having many women doctors as colleagues. Oates noted that — wherever they work — women radiologists will most likely be outnumbered by men. While medical schools are approaching a 50/50 gender mix, radiology is still a male-dominated field. Men make up 78.6 percent of the radiology workforce and 84 percent of radiology department chairs, according to research cited by Oates. “Don’t be intimidated by it, work through it,” Oates said. “Be prepared to have to work harder for recognition.”
- Get professional help with offspring. Oates and Rumack said there is really no way of handling household duties without outside help. “I made $6,000 as a resident, and $4,000 went to my babysitter,” Rumack said. “It’s worth the investment.”
The RSNA meeting runs through Friday. Read H&HN's full coverage this week and next.