Women as One – Promoting Equity and Opportunity in Medicine

By: Sarah Poteryko 


Women as One was founded in 2018 by Dr. Roxana Mehran and Dr. Marie Claude Morice, two leaders in cardiology with a vision of improving treatment, recruitment and retention of female specialists. Although women comprise approximately 75% of healthcare workers worldwide, the vast majority of leadership positions are held by men [1]. The overarching goal of Women as One (WaO) is to serve as a platform to unify houses of medicine (particularly within cardiology) to help combat the pervasive gender gap that we see – not only within the United States, but globally. 

Specifically, WaO works on gender equity projects addressing issues such as female leadership and pay inequity. Currently, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women, and their “Escalator Awards” program combats this by offering grants of $50,000 to female specialists working on projects related to health equity and research [2,3].

Another cornerstone of this organization is their Talent Directory, used to connect women to professional development opportunities, and share information with organizations to advance the careers of women. In 2019, female cardiologists in this directory were able to build connections, which resulted in speaker placement at the 2020 American College of Cardiology (ACC) and Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) conferences [2]. Making these connections is crucial as female presenters are underrepresented at medical conferences, making up only 34.1% of speakers [4]. 

More information on the Talent Directory, and information on how to sign up can be found at womenasone.org/register

We had the opportunity to meet with Erika Squeri, Head of Engagement at Women as One, and discuss strategies that future physicians can use to best approach to advocacy for women in healthcare: 

  1. Don’t be afraid to call out inequity.

Although it can be daunting to call out inequities in healthcare, this is a crucial step in sparking change. Evidence speaks volumes, and the use of data on inequity and disparity to back up your claims will help ensure that your voice is heard, while coming across as respectful. 

Some resources to learn more about inequity in healthcare include: 

https://www.cma.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/Ethics/report-2018-equity-diversity-medicine-e.pdf

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)33135-0/fulltext

  • Find allies and understand that gender disparity affects us all.  

There is no shortage of allies, both male and female that can amplify your voice in your pursuit for equity. When discussing gender disparities with potential allies, emphasis should be placed on the fact that these are not just “women’s” issues – gender disparity affects us all. Operating from this lens can help our male counterparts take stock in these challenges and build strong connections. Gender equality in our medical system has the potential to result in improved patient outcomes. For example, female myocardial infarction patients were found to have higher mortality rates when treated by male physicians rather than female. However, this effect was mitigated in male physicians who had higher exposure to their female colleagues [5]. 

  • This is a global issue, and you are not alone. 

Issues in gender disparity are not limited to one region and affect all of us in different ways. Although cultural and regional differences may impact how gender disparities are presented, it is important to remember that there is an international community tackling these challenges. Whether it be the South Africa Development Community’s gender policy, supporting equal access in STEM subjects [6], or the release of the 2018 “Sexual Harassment of Women” report in the United States, which resulted in multiple medical associations to creating initiatives to end sexual harassment in medicine [7], these movements are all geared towards the same goal. Your advocacy resonates with many young men and women and you are part of a larger global community in the fight for equity. 

REFERENCES 

  1. Shannon, G., Jansen, M., Williams, K., Cáceres, C., Motta, A., Odhiambo, A., … Mannell, J. (2019). Gender equality in science, medicine, and global health: where are we at and why does it matter? The Lancet393(10171), 560–569. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(18)33135-0
  • Women as One: 2019 Annual Report. (2019). Retrieved from https://womenasone.org/uploads/2019/12/womenasone_2019.pdf
  • Ruzycki, S. M., Fletcher, S., Earp, M., Bharwani, A., & Lithgow, K. C. (2019). Trends in the Proportion of Female Speakers at Medical Conferences in the United States and in Canada, 2007 to 2017. JAMA Network Open2(4). doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.2103
  • Greenwood, B. N., Carnahan, S., & Huang, L. (2018). Patient–physician gender concordance and increased mortality among female heart attack patients. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences115(34), 8569–8574. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1800097115
  • Muthumbi , J., & Sommerfeld , J. (2015). Africa’s women in science. World Health Organization.

Leave a Reply