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Dome - Paving the way

October 2010

Paving the way

Date: October 7, 2010

A new program aims to prepare women faculty for leadership roles in the school of medicine.

(From left) Elisabeth Glowatzki, Ebony Boulware and Lori Grover are among the first 40 participants in a course designed to help women faculty move into high-profile positions.
(From left) Elisabeth Glowatzki, Ebony Boulware and Lori Grover are among the first 40 participants in a course designed to help women faculty move into high-profile positions.

Ebony Boulware has proven her mettle in working her way up the academic career ladder to associate professor. And during the past few months, she has learned how to negotiate resources for her research and refined the way she communicates with colleagues, thanks to an innovative course that helps ready women faculty for leadership positions.

“I’ve learned techniques for improving collaboration, for creating agreement and for managing conflict,” says Boulware, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology. She works with a team at the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research on ways to better the health of patients with kidney disease.

Boulware, Lori Grover, an assistant professor of ophthalmology, and Elisabeth Glowatzki, an associate professor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery and neuroscience, were among the first 40 women to finish the Leadership Program for Women Faculty in June. A second cohort of 45 women begins this month.

Created by the Office of Women in Science and Medicine, the Office of Faculty Development, and the university-wide Department of Talent Management and Organization Development (TMOD), the program consists of nine half-day sessions that provide training in such critical areas as negotiating, communicating and networking.

“As scientists and medical doctors, we know how to do research and treat patients, but we’re not taught how to manage a laboratory or how to deal with interpersonal relationships at work,” Glowatzki explains.

The next step

The course addresses what organizers consider the next stage in the effort to improve gender equity at the school of medicine: While the number of women faculty has steadily risen, they are poorly represented among leadership ranks, and efforts to recruit them from outside of Hopkins have faced serious obstacles.

During the past five years, the percentage of women full professors has grown from 15 to 21 percent. This spring, the school celebrated the promotion of the 155th woman professor since 1917; within the past decade alone, 46 women have attained the highest academic rank.

Yet a 2009 review of the school’s gender-equity initiatives found that only three of 31 department directors are women—Julie Freischlag (Surgery), Carol Greider (Molecular Biology and Genetics), and M. Christine Zink, (Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology).

“Even though women make up 50 percent of medical school classes and a high percentage of junior faculty ranks, medicine is still a difficult place for women,” says Vice Dean for Faculty Janice Clements, the school’s only female vice dean. “If you look at leadership, at the deans and department directors, you see men.”

Freischlag attributes the lack of female directors, in part, to a paucity of candidates. Of the five national department director search committees on which she has served, only three attracted a single woman candidate, even after vigorous recruitment.

“Many women don’t want to move because they have their whole family support network set up,” she says. “Although I believe that the willingness to move will change in the future, it points out that you have to promote more women from within so that they don’t have to change their lives to accept leadership roles.”

Increasing institutional awareness

Preparing women for high-profile jobs requires time as well as effort, according to Barbara Fivush, director of the Office of Women in Science and Medicine. “It often takes 15 years before an assistant professor obtains the necessary credentials to be promoted to full professor,” she says. And retaining faculty members for that long requires opportunities for leadership along the way, as well as institutional support.

That’s where the new leadership training program comes in. Intended for assistant and associate professors, the program selects its participants from nominations submitted by department directors, division chiefs and women full professors. The first cohort of 40 women represented 16 clinical and basic sciences departments.

Participants attended sessions on such topics as Crucial Conversations, On Being Influential, Facilitating Group Decision Making, and Decision Making and Risk-Taking Strategies, held at TMOD’s office at 2024 E. Monument St.

“It’s great for identifying women who want to become leaders,” Fivush says. “We’ve let division chiefs and chairs know about the women who have finished the course and have the desire and skills for leadership roles.”

Creating an interdepartmental cohort of leadership candidates has increased cross-disciplinary awareness. For instance, participants Susan Lehmann, who directs Hopkins’ geriatric psychiatry clinic, and Suzanne Jan de Beur, director of endocrinology at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, will embark on a project to look at the incidence of certain metabolic disorders in elderly patients treated with lithium.

Like many program participants, Jan de Beur is grateful for her expanded network of colleagues. “Now when I’m asked to suggest leaders for committees that might be career-advancing, I’ll have a whole list of wonderful people I know—and hope to know better,” she says.

—Linell Smith