Equity for women in
the progress of women in medicine nationally and at U.Va. over
the last decade, numerous challenges remain, panelists agreed
at a Medical
Center Hour several weeks ago on "Women in Academic Medicine
-- Toward Equity."
10 percent of U.S. women medical faculty reach full professor
status, said Janet Bickel, associate vice president for institutional
planning and development and director for women's programs at
the Association of American Medical Colleges. But 50 percent of
the women faculty are at the assistant medical professor level,
she said. Bickel attributes this directly to gender bias, a lack
of mentoring, and "non-democratic practices," such as
administrative procedures whose basis is known only to a few.
This leads "inevitably to cronyism and unequal access to
resources," she said.
on Women seeks to improve environment for all U.Va. medical
Dearing W. Johns
Medical School's Committee on Women is working to improve
the overall environment for all medical faculty at U.Va.
As one effort, the committee is looking to other academic
medical institutions for models for possible new programs
here. It's also about to conduct a survey of U.Va. medical
faculty, the findings of which will be reported by year's
end. Both the external search and internal survey will be
used as tools to propose alternatives or changes to existing
policies and assure equity for all faculty in academic medicine,
said Dr. Dearing W. Johns, chair of the 17-member committee.
226 of U.Va.'s 700-plus full-time medical faculty are women,
but only 22, or 10 percent of these women are full professors.
"I've been on the faculty for 30 years and had hoped
we'd be further along by now," said committee member
Dr. Sharon L. Hostler, the McLemore Birdsong Professor of
Pediatrics and medical director of the Kluge Children's
School Dean Dr. Robert M. Carey for his support, but
said the "piecemeal efforts thus far need to be rethought
if we are to become a top 10" medical center. To succeed
in improving this environment, these efforts must be carried
out by "men and women at all levels of the University
on a continual basis."
committee's top priorities to address such disparities include
hiring and retaining more senior women faculty on staff;
providing on-site, 24-hour, sick-and-well childcare; and
creating an environment that better accommodates families,
the last 10 years we've done a good job of getting, but
not retaining" senior women faculty, Johns said. "There's
nothing more discouraging than joining a staff [with certain
expectations], then being disappointed." The Medical
School also needs to place more women in leadership positions
and in consideration for national committees, she said.
Hopkins University is one of the medical institutions the
committee is looking to for models. "They recognized
they were losing women faculty and have made changes in
their retention efforts to remedy this," Johns said.
The upcoming medical faculty survey, similar to one conducted
in 1990, will seek faculty members' attitudes on such matters
as professional development, representation, compensation,
support systems, sexism, safety and sexual harassment.
noted that progress had been made since the last survey.
The biggest advance was a change in promotion and tenure
several years ago, she said. The two elements, vital to
medical faculty's progress in academe, were separated to
allow for flexibility, she said. Dr. Hostler "deserves
a huge amount of credit for this change," Johns said.
Hostler, who is now chair of the Committee on Promotion
and Tenure, in addition to her other duties, has been instrumental
in preparing both surveys.
also cited the creation of a faculty development program
as another significant improvement in the Medical School
environment over the past decade. It alerts young medical
faculty to advancement opportunities and offers helpful
seeking answers as to why there are so few women in tenured positions
at U.Va., Dr. Amy Tucker, a "fledgling faculty member"
who came here as an intern 15 years ago, shared her own story
with the audience. "Overall, I've had a good experience,"
said Tucker, a single mother of two children, who is an assistant
professor of internal medicine in cardiology, with the tenure
bar yet to clear. However, "I found that social bonding between
men, though not intended to isolate women, does just that. Women
are embraced as part of the work force but not culturally."
are often "thrust into the limelight too soon." There
are "so few of us, we can be spread too thin," she said,
urging women to first focus on research. Another point she stressed
was that the role of a faculty member is not the same as that
of a resident. The aim "is not to survive the training regimen,
but to thrive. Do your homework. Set personal goals. And select
a mentor who will support you," she said. Finally, "maintain
balance in life to protect your personal and rest time,"
said Tucker, who sees U.Va. as a place trying to cultivate an
environment where personal choices are part of career decisions.
own findings correlated with those found in studies that Bickel's
organization had conducted. They revealed that relationships occur
most naturally between "like" individuals; that majority
individuals find it difficult to empathize with minorities; that
performance of minorities is scrutinized more closely; that society
undervalues women's intellectual contributions; that cross-gender
relationships are subject to suspicion; and that younger women
faculty feel "personally betrayed" if a senior woman
faculty member isn't helpful.
the floor was opened to the audience, which was about 95 percent
female, Dean Carey was the first to speak. He reported that a
new mentoring program for clinical investigators would soon be
launched. It may also "be time to reconsider our promotion
and tenure" process again, he said. "There's no question
that we've made progress" on improving the environment for
women at the Medical School. "But there's no question that
there's more progress to be made. ... We should bring more women
[faculty] to U.Va."
Claudette Dalton, assistant dean for medical education, and a
member of the Committee on Women since 1989, said she was throwing
down a "gentle, white-gloved gauntlet" for more people
to get involved. The committee desperately needs financial and
staff support for its work. But it also needs "the perspective
of the younger generation, those who are building their careers."