Over 20 women physicians and a handful of “manbassadors” gathered January 29 for a VPSA-sponsored Appreciative Inquiry workshop into a future where women and men physicians are working equally and together in strong leadership roles at VCH for the very best for our staff, as well as our patients, their families and supporters. Currently only 19 per cent of VCH’s medical leaders are women and the past four appointments are all men. One of the goals of the workshop was to identify what is required to support our women physicians to lean in and take on leadership positions.
VCH Board of Directors Chair Dr. Penny Ballem was the special guest at the Appreciative Inquiry and set the tone for the meeting.
“When I told my parents I wanted to study medicine, my mother asked who’s going to cook dinner for my husband,” recalled Dr. Ballem. “And, when I took a six-week maternity leave, I took calls from work every day asking when I was coming back. We’ve come a long way in some ways and in others we’re still in the dark ages. What I have learned is that gender equality isn’t going to happen on its own. We need to deconstruct what it’s like for a woman to be in a medical leadership role and figure out how we can overcome the obstacles. We need to use quotas or set targets, and work towards these.”
Dr. Ballem then turned the evening over to facilitator Ann Brown, Providence Health Care’s former director of learning and organizational change.
“We have an aspirational agenda,” said Ann. “Rather than building a picture of what’s not working, we’re going to focus on the positive future we want to create.”
Using storytelling techniques, the workshop participants developed themes and created “big, hairy, audacious” statements for a future they would like to see at VCH. These were developed independently by four separate groups and yet were surprisingly similar. These possibility statements and the steps required to support their goals will be revealed in a report to be presented within the coming weeks to the VCH Board and senior leadership team including Drs. Marcel Dvorak and Rolando Barrios, the senior medical directors at Vancouver Acute and Vancouver Community.
The Appreciative Inquiry was just one step in VPSA’s work to see more women physicians in leadership roles. A networking evening is set for March 1, which is open to women physicians and manbassadors. A panel including Fiona Dalton, President and CEO, Providence Health Care, Dr. Patricia Daly, VP Public Health and Chief Medical Health Officer, VCH, Dr. Kathleen Ross, President-Elect, Doctors of BC, and others will discuss what’s holding women physicians back. And, the Physician Leadership Institute Leadership for Medical Women workshop is being offered free of charge to VPSA members on March 2 and 3. To sign up for the course and/or for the networking evening, RSVP here.
Check out photos from the Appreciative Inquiry here.