March 8 is recognized as International Women’s Day, and the theme for 2021 is, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world."
Taking our cue on that theme, we are profiling women in leadership at the College of Medicine, selecting from a variety of positions, including learners, staff, faculty, and senior administration.
What is your current position and/or leadership role/title?
- Vice Dean Faculty Engagement
- Professor of Psychiatry
- Former Provincial Dept Head in Psychiatry for 9 yrs
Describe one barrier you experienced, and something that helped you overcome that (or another) barrier, in your journey to leadership?
My biggest move to leadership came with the department head role. Leadership wasn’t my thoughtful career path, but sort of behind my back there was a groundswell of support saying, “we need to convince Marilyn to apply for dept head." I was very concerned at that time for my family issues – I had children who were still in school, a spouse that was working full time, I wasn’t sure how much time I wanted to take away from them.
Other women in the department supported me and actually helped me find practical home support which really convinced me that, “ok, I can do this." I recognize that type of support isn’t the answer, or even possible, for everyone, but the point here is that I had other women supporting me in a very practical way.
How do you think COVID19 has affected women's progress in your field or the workplace in general?
I think COVID19 has exposed what’s already existed. It’s actually elevated the issue of gender discrepancies so that we’re talking about it and much more aware of it. We are not having to keep it underground anymore and we’re more open for discussion.
What advice would you have for people (of any gender) in leadership who wish to be allies in advancing women in the workplace?
I have seen and experienced women who have had to really struggle – myself, I only had 3 months of mat leave. So sometimes women will think “I had to struggle so you have to too." It’s so important that we are not hard on each other and that just because I suffered doesn’t mean you have to.
For all leaders, have that conversation and ask, “what is it you might need, what is a barrier?" Sometimes it’s very practical things. Sometimes just having that discussion can relieve any guilt or shame that someone might be having. Try not to put someone on the spot as it can be more shame-inducing, rather, just normalize the conversation.