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Organizational Change: Ten Steps Towards Creating Your Gender Mentoring Program for Women Physicians

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Work-Life Integration

Even without a guidebook or step-by-step plan, our program emerged first from a perceived, and then, from a real need.  Using the monthly themes from our discussions, surveying the group about their interests, and then reading the literature for concordance, I saw patterns for “curriculum” development.

Our goals sounded simple but were in fact quite ambitious.  We wanted to arm each woman with the skills, support, and resources to manage her unique situations.  As we grew into our own rhythms for sharing knowledge and experiences, I began to realize that no one blueprint can be created for mentoring programs.  Said plainly, all programs are developed by interested persons in response to local needs and driven by available resources.


Having said that, with our experience in mind, I want to offer 10 steps, in no particular order, which I think can help any group of women who are interested in gender mentoring get started.

  1. Identify a need—are there women who are interested in investing themselves in this process of sharing “women specific” concerns with other women?
  2. Make time and find resources—the time and emotional investments are not small, so be aware and make it happen if you want to invest the time in such a process.
  3. Recognize the emotional commitment you have to make to those who have a difficult path in front of them.  While some things might be purely academic, people who share their personal challenges need to have an emotional commitment in return.
  4. Develop your own program from the needs of your group. Each specialty, each region, each institution or organization has its own quirks and its own challenges.  If your specialty doesn’t have enough women, then combine forces with other women who might share some of your specific challenges.
  5. Find your direction from your group by listening carefully and being open to new ideas—monthly meetings in coffee shops or homes worked for us, some other venue may work for you.
  6. Create a safe and welcoming environment for sharing.  And be careful that you don’t scare the men. “I am women, hear me roar!” is probably not the best way to present your group.
  7. Be prepared to step in and help to solve problems of residents, students and faculty—sometimes bold action will be needed to help your mentees navigate challenges.
  8. Get “buy-in” from leadership.  Articulating the benefits clearly and regularly help to build important and useful alliances. Funding, space, and approval can go a long way to creating and sustaining momentum and positive change
  9. Study and then share your successes and failures.  Organizational change as an academic pursuit is not only viable but vital to creating organizational change.
  10. Build alliances with other such groups.  Start local but go regional or national.  Shared energy is both self-sustaining and invigorating.

The time commitment was much more than I had initially anticipated.  But now our group has taken on a life of its own, and my academic career has been impacted positively through my interest in this new area, gender-mentoring.  Accepting that mentoring has different flavors, different purposes and different forms has made a huge difference.

Hope you will share your comments and your experiences with us at Expediting the Inevitable!

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