I had the pleasure of working on a historical project for Georgetown Women in Medicine (GWIM), a professional group of women, who in my opinion, are doing the damn thing. Though women have been instrumental to the advancement of medicine as a whole, it became apparent, especially at the historical institution, that a slow healing wound had formed, deep within the confines of tradition. With manifestations in policy and attitude, it was at that time that leadership was starting to sprout within the walls of the medical school, growing from a space where equity and inclusion were desperately needed.
Starting to organize in grassroots efforts, GWIM, formerly known as Society for Medical Women Faculty, started as a task force in 1992, under the recommendation of Dr. John Eisenberg, when a need for equity in hiring, promotion, and compensation for faculty had been seen to have gone unmet. Assessing existing barriers to the advancement for medical women faculty was the main goal of the task force and the collective identified salary differentials between male and female faculty, which was rapidly corrected. Due to this outcome, the Task Force became a standing Committee on Medical Women Faculty in the Department of Medicine. It did not take long for other women faculty from other departments to express an interest in becoming involved in the gender equity endeavor, and by 1994, they were official. During this time, the conversation on social justice was in full swing in the US. With a framework for reproductive rights and justice just being introduced and the universal health care movement gaining momentum, GWIM was forging its way in social justice history. In its first decade, GWIM’s accomplishments were attributable to the hard work of a small group of women volunteers, and as GWIM evolved as an organization in the resulting decades, many important benchmarks were created and met. One such achievement was the receipt of the AAMC GWIMS award twice!
As an organization, GWIM continuously strives to ensure equal representation in various positions of leadership. The fierce feminists on the block, GWIM has tackled the problem of underrepresentation of women in GUSOM/MGUH leadership positions. By identifying promising individuals ready to serve in these positions, a strong leadership pipeline was developed, with a focus on mentorship and support for female faculty. By the time of the 10th anniversary of GWIM, the organization set the goal of reaching representation of 40% women on each of these major committees, reflecting the 40% of medical center faculty who were women. At that time, two out of the seven committees reached that benchmark, which compared to an earlier assessment in 1995, was a huge success, considering that no committees reached the benchmark at that time.
Even though GWIM has had a long track record of advocating for the development of faculty, focusing on areas of importance to women faculty, equity for all has always been a main goal. All offered events and programs have always been open to both men and women, which is just one example of why GWIM is the epitome of a model organization. In parallel with one of Georgetown’s novel approach to education, GWIM shares the idea that learning and growing within one’s field should never end.
For many years, GWIM was the primary organization providing faculty development programming. GWIM regularly sponsors speakers who can address issues that directly affect women in academic medicine. These programs address not only the career development of junior faculty, but also the ongoing needs of faculty across GUSOM/MGUH. These programs are open to all faculty and many of these programs are co-sponsored with other groups on campus, such as the Office for Faculty and Academic Affairs. They have been so impactful, that they received the AAMC GWIMS Award, not once, but twice!
Because of their tenacious efforts, and along with the Committee on Faculty Development, the Medical Center established the position of Associate Dean for Faculty Development in 2006. The first person to hold this position was a GWIM past president who had begun leading the Faculty Development Committee in 2004. GWIM has also regularly assisted in the nomination of senior women faculty to the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) training program, an effort that has resulted in six female faculty attending this training over the past ten years, a doubling over the previous decade.
Since its inception, one of GWIM’s major priorities has equitable salary compensation based on nothing but professional accomplishments. For decades, they have fought hard to ensure no gender bias in salaries exist. Historically, supporting salary equity has been a very challenging task, however, GWIM’s journey began by obtaining anonymous salary data to perform a series of equity studies. In 1997, several GU basic science women faculty took it upon themselves to perform their own informal salary equity survey, in which salary inequities were indeed uncovered.
Although these inequities were brought to the attention of the administration, legal action on the part of the women faculty was required at one point to obtain the recommended salary corrections. Using that as a teachable moment, great strides have been made over the processes and outcomes of salary equity review and since that time GUSOM has conducted three equity reviews to identify individuals who are outside of parity within their tracks and departments. Encouragingly, due to the steadfast leadership of GWIM and its members, such reviews have become regular processes within the Medical Center and have resulted in salary adjustments across all faculty tracks.
Playing many necessary roles throughout its time, GWIM has also assumed the role of the cool big sister that you get all your life advice from. It has been central to the mentorship of medical women faculty across all ranks, a unique aspect they bring to the table. GWIM assists junior faculty members in knowing when and how to plan for career advancement, offering a helping and supportive hand to promising women professionals. Due to the observation that many women at the Assistant and Associate level were not going up for promotion in a timely way, one of GWIM’s major goals is to identify women eligible for promotion and encourage and support them to prepare their promotion packages, while offering logistical support.
An annual reception to honor women faculty who have been recently appointed, promoted or tenured is held. At this reception, three awards are given: 1) the Estelle Ramey Mentorship Award, given to the faculty member who is chosen as being the most outstanding mentor of women faculty members, 2) the GWIM Outstanding Achievement Award, given to a female faculty member within GUSOM/GUH who has demonstrated outstanding achievement through her research, education or service and recognized at a national or international level and 3) the John Eisenberg Memorial Career Development Award. This last award is paired with GWIM’s nomination and financial support to attend the AAMC’s career development seminars.
Career Flexibility and Career Development Programming
But wait! There’s more! GWIM, focused in inclusion for all, wanted to be the voice for all women, and not just a select few. A task force was formed focusing on Part-Time Medical Women Faculty to explore the different issues of women who are employed less than full-time, including tenure and promotion, representation on committees, and participation in university functions. Through GWIM leadership, a Faculty Senate Committee was formed to examine issues associated with the Part-Time option, with key representation from GWIM serving on this Committee. These efforts resulted in the Georgetown University Board of Directors approving changes to two of the primary faculty tracks making them more available to women working part-time, providing the opportunity for faculty to maintain their active clinical, research and teaching duties while incorporating life roles outside the academic enterprise. GWIM represents all women faculty at GUSOM/MGUH. Constantly striving to include a greater proportion of women faculty in our activities.
Key Collaborations and Partnerships
GWIM regularly collaborates with the Office of Faculty and Academic Affairs by co-sponsoring
faculty development programs. Encouraging bi-directional relationships within organizations and the ability of groups to conceptualize a program with co-sponsorship. The idea that a group has more impact than the singular runs deep within their approach to issues. The Associate Deans for Faculty Development regularly attends GWIM Board meetings.
Today, GWIM members are forging into senior positions in academic medicine and these pioneers are making it easier for other women to follow behind. The Women on the Walls, a recent campaign launched by GWIM, aims to make a difference in the recognition and visibility of women leaders at Georgetown University School of Medicine. Representation matters: making it possible for prominent women to be represented in portraits inspires and motivates other women to aspire to leadership roles and positions of authority.
GWIM’S 25 years of ambitious research, data gathering, constituency building, policy reform, advocacy and education are gradually enabling environmental and institutional change. GWIM has organized collective efforts into one unified voice for the advancement of women in medicine. GWIM has shown commitment to the advancement of women in medicine and carried out ambitious advocacy efforts including research, constituency building, mentoring, leadership development, and policy reform to enable environmental and institutional transformation enabling it the epitome of individuals organizing and seeking change that matters. Let us all look to them as a perfect model of dedication, perseverance and grace, and looking fabulous while at it. Thank you GWIM, for 25 amazing years.
You can find the project here: https://adobe.ly/2GCtQY3
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Until Next Time,