Raising Awareness
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International Women’s Day: Perspectives from Prominent Women in Leadership

Published Online: March 7th 2022
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International Women’s Day (IWD) provides a key moment to celebrate women’s achievements, both in the workplace and their personal lives.

This year’s theme for IWD2022 is #BreakTheBias and it was an honour to speak to so many prominent women in leadership roles in medicine and hear the highlights and challenges they have faced throughout their careers. 


“If your heart tells you to go for it, then do it, as it probably means you should go for it. Have no hesitation and draw inspiration from women who have been there and done it already. Don’t hold back, follow your instinct.”

Elena Nikiphorou
Consultant Rheumatologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer, Centre for Rheumatic Diseases, School of Immunology and Microbial Sciences, King’s College London, London, UK

Could you tell us about your career highlights so far?  

My highlights have been the chance to build strong networks and collaborations with colleagues from all around the globe, and work on common research and educational activities, with the overarching goal to improve the lives of our patients living with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. Other highlights have been working more closely with patient research partners and appreciating the value of the patients’ input into research. 

Why is International Women’s Day important for medicine and clinical practice?

Women in medicine deserve so much recognition. Dedicating your life to medicine, while in parallel ‘running a family’ and playing the crucial role of women as mothers, wifes, sisters, and so on, is commendable. 

What have been the major challenges in your career? 

The major challenge has been trying to combine a healthy family life with ‘full-on’ academic and clinical duties. Trying to minimise the ‘guilt’ from, for example, spending a couple of extra hours in the hospital or analysing data, rather than being with my children. 

What advice would you give to young women embarking on a career in medicine?

Have no regrets. If your heart tells you to go for it, then do it, as it probably means you should go for it. Have no hesitation and draw inspiration from women who have been there and done it already. Don’t hold back, follow your instinct. 

What resources are available for women hoping to attain leadership roles in medicine? 

Publicised examples of women in leadership, Royal College of Physicians, Royal Society of Medicine are both good examples of sources of inspiration.


“Lots of work remains to be done for equity in the workplace and in society including closing (and making up for the years of) the gender pay gap.”

Ghada Bourjeily
Director, Research and Training, Women’s Medicine Collaborative, LifeSpan; Professor of Medicine, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

“International Women’s Day is an important day for women around the world to be recognized for their contributions to society in general and to their professions.

Unfortunately, in 2022 and in many places around the world, women are still at a disadvantage in many aspects. Healthcare is a perfect example. Even though women constitute the majority of the workforce, leadership positions are largely occupied by men. In many countries around the world, women get paid less for the same type of job. Knowledge in medicine is still based, in many areas, on research that has been performed in men, and extrapolated to women. Hence, clinical presentation in women is often called “atypical” because it is different from the clinical presentation in men. 

Lots of work remains to be done for equity in the workplace and in society including closing (and making up for the years of) the gender pay gap. Training is required to reduce the bias that leadership style should typically mimic that of men. Research should only exclude women if there’s a strong scientific rationale for the exclusion. Scientific journals should have set criteria for the study of gender-based medicine and should have adequate representation of women leaders.”


“As women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves… It can be challenging to balance everything we want to achieve in our lives and we have to be forgiving.”

Dr Meeryo Choe 
Assistant Clinical Professor, Pediatric Neurology, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Watch Dr Meeryo talk about:

Breaking the bias

Supporting women seeking leadership roles


“Women should be aware of themselves, of their strengths and knowledge, believe in themselves and not take on the position of an inferior… go for your goal and realise you can do it, not even if you are a woman, but because you are a woman.”

Professor Chantal Mathieu 
Professor of Medicine, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium / Chair of Endocrinology, University Hospital Gasthuisberg Leuven, Belgium

Watch Professor Chantal talk about:

Advice and support for women in medicine

International Women’s day 2022


“This International Women’s Day we should give a shout out to all women to follow the career that they would like in a man’s world, and make it a man and woman’s world.”

Trudie Lobban MBE 
Founder and Trustee of the Arrhythmia Alliance, Chair of the HRC Organising Committee

Watch Trudie talk about supporting more female heart rhythm specialist 


 

“While the advancements in the fields of sexual health are impressive, we still have much work to do in order to achieve true gender equality, both for patients and women working in the medical field themselves.”

Olivia Van Gerwen
Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Birmingham, AL, USA

Watch Olivia give perspectives from a working mother and sexual health & infectious diseases specialist 


“On this International Women’s Day let us call on institutions to tackle the biases and systemic inequities that exist for female physicians, so that women can continue to positively impact the field of medicine and achieve their fullest potential.”

Maria Oliva-Hemker
Director, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition; Stermer Family Professor, Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

“In the United States Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, is recognized as the first woman to receive a medical degree in 1849, and she was followed in 1865 by Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who became the country’s first African-American woman physician. We have come a long way since the time of these two trailblazers with women now comprising about 50% of U.S. medical students. In many countries around the world the proportion of women in medical schools is even greater. However, in academic medicine women are still hitting the glass ceiling and remain underrepresented in senior faculty ranks and key leadership positions. There are a number of pragmatic solutions that institutions can consider to retain women and enable them to advance their careers in medicine. These include the creation of mentorship programs for women, facilitating sponsorship, implicit bias training, performing institutional salary reviews, adopting online reporting systems for harassment and instituting family friendly policies. On this International Women’s Day let us call on institutions to tackle the biases and systemic inequities that exist for female physicians, so that women can continue to positively impact the field of medicine and achieve their fullest potential.”


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