Health leadership skills training on offer for women to recognise IWD


By Mardi Chapman

1 Mar 2024

Colleges such as the RACP and Australasian College of Dermatologists, health departments, health services and medical organisations including the AMA are supporting gender equity in healthcare leadership to recognise International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8.

The health and medical organisations are partners in the Advancing Women in Healthcare Leadership initiative, which is offering 15 part-scholarships to attend the three-day Monash University Women in Leadership Program either in person or online during 2024.

The program covers topics including leadership approaches, emotional intelligence, mentoring essentials, work-life integration, influencing policy and practice, strategic stakeholder relationships, and more.

It aims to help women achieve their full career potential while also improving organisational culture, gender equity and outcomes via their ability to implement change in the workplace.

Course facilitators include a number of clinicians – endocrinologists Professor Helena Teede and Dr Anju Joham, head and neck cancer surgeon Associate Professor Elizabeth Sigston, and paediatrician Dr Jenny Proimos.

The scholarship offer is being made available to recognise the IWD theme of Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress.

Backlash against women as leaders

Equity in healthcare leadership is also the focus of a new commentary in the MJA (link here), which says there is already a backlash against women being appointed to leadership positions in healthcare despite not yet achieving parity with men.

A recent survey of medical professionals showed an unwillingness to support gender equity initiatives due to the misbelief that women are already well represented in medicine, the authors note.

“If the majority believe there is no problem, there will be no support for women and leadership in the health care sector. This misbelief may be a symptom of diversity, equity, and inclusion fatigue, and we might expect continued backlash in the form of people tuning out or even lashing out,” said Melissa Wheeler and Laksmi Govindasamy.

Women in healthcare leadership roles are also being “set up to fail”, the article asserts, citing the “glass cliff phenomenon”, which refers to the tendency for women and other minoritised people to be appointed to leadership positions in times of crisis, compared with periods of stability.

“This is because, when circumstances are bad, change is both desired and needed, and women and other minoritised people are often pushed forward as visible signals of change.”

“While this may be a golden opportunity, it is often an example of a poisoned chalice, as these appointed leaders are expected to perform a miracle to turn the crisis around — anything less is perceived as failure.”

The authors call for “a renewed focus on institutional changes that facilitate work–life integration and organisational inclusivity may better support current and aspiring leaders, which in turn can deliver the benefits of diverse leadership back to our health system.”

Empowering women

According to UN Women, global challenges can only be addressed by solutions that empower women.

“By investing in women, we can spark change and speed the transition towards a healthier, safer, and more equal world for all,” it says.

The Women in Leadership Program scholarships are aimed in particular at supporting women working with and/or from underserved communities to enhance leadership skills and encourage career-changing development.

Priority populations are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culturally and linguistically diverse people, people experiencing homelessness, people with a disability and people living in regional and remote areas.

Applicants must work in an Australian health service or health/medical research education institution and be an Australian citizen.

The scholarship reduces the registration fee from $1500 to $500.

Applicants are invited to write a short 150-word explanation of why they would like to attend the Women in Leadership Program, and what the opportunity would mean to them. Submissions close at 5pm AEDT this Friday, 8 March.

Apply here.

The focus on advancing health leadership skills is timely following the release of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency report [link here] on gender pay gaps in private sector employers with 100 or more employees.

It found the median total remuneration gender pay gap was 19% in favour of men with every industry recording a gender pay gap. The construction industry (31.8%), financial and insurance services (26.1%) and professional, scientific and technical services (26.1%) had the highest gender pay gaps.

The report found that there was a clear link between more women in leadership positions – as CEOs, board members and in key management roles – and a lower, more neutral gender pay gap.

“Employer gender pay gaps decrease as the proportion of women in management increases. The goal for employers should be gender-balance in management, that is at least 40% women and men,” it said.

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