Over the past two years, I have had the opportunity to meet, learn from, and work alongside many great leaders in medical education. I was especially fortunate to have met several fantastic female leaders in medical education, women who are forging ahead to improve Canadian health care, often in rooms surrounded by men. These female physician leaders have inspired me to dream bigger, to see myself in leadership positions that come with titles such as “Dean” or “President” in the future. They have allowed me to make mistakes, allowed me to learn, allowed me grow, gave me a voice, and at times I think I was even able to teach them something.
Recently, one of these very inspiring, highly qualified physician leaders, put her name forward for nomination for Dean of Medicine at a Canadian medical school. She was unsuccessful. She lost to a person who is highly qualified, highly intelligent, has leadership skills that will advance the future of medicine, and is male.
I’m sure this was a horrible moment for her, as it was a horrible moment for me. For every step forward that women make towards leadership equity, it’s events like these that push us back down. The future that I envisioned for myself when I too had toiled for many years in clinical practice, research and medical education leadership, building a resume that gave me qualifications to one day have “Dean” after my name suddenly seemed like a trivial dream. If she can’t do it, how can I?
So, what do I do know? Do I throw in the towel, resign that my gender, no matter how strong my qualifications are, will always be a barrier to leadership? Well…that idea seems even more ridiculous than the idea that I might be a Dean one day.
I will continue to move forward, continue to build my CV, and continue to hope that the female leaders ahead of me won’t give up either, that they will continue to lay paving stones for me to follow, and I will do the same. After all, it is 2018.