I’m an emergency physician, a researcher, an educator, a spouse, a mom of two amazing young girls and associate residency director to 30 of EM residents…and now a candidate for the ACEP Board. I have spent the last 12 years serving as a leader in residency education and organized medicine within EMRA and ACEP. This is the perfect time for me, personally and professionally, to take the next step and represent our membership on a national level. I think it is so important for women to get involved in organized medicine, to run for leadership positions, and to put ourselves out there.
It’s not easy. Here’s some things I’ve learned along the way….
Lesson #1 – You can’t win if you don’t try.
It’s tough to put yourself out there, I think more so for women than for men. More often than not, we hold ourselves back. Sheryl Sandberg asks us in her book, Lean In, “What would you do if you were not afraid of failure?” My mom used to tell me that if you’re not failing every now and then, you’re not doing anything very innovative. Write down what your short and long terms goals are and go for it. Challenge yourself and push yourself beyond your comfort zone.
Lesson #2 – Remember you frequently more qualified for a role than realize.
When aspiring for a leadership position or asking for a promotion, most women lack confidence, despite being qualified for the job. I know this. I’ve read all about it. And yet, my first instinct when someone nominated me for the Board, was fear and a sense that I was not as ready or qualified as I should be.
In reality, I’ve had the following ACEP roles:
- served as the President of the Government Services Chapter
- served as the Chair of the Young Physician’s Section
- served on the EMRA Board of Directors
- served a number of leadership roles in other ACEP committees and task forces.
I am ready. I am very qualified. But there’s an innate sense of “I’m not worthy” when it comes time to advocate for ourselves. They say that women can feel 50% confident when they are 100% prepared and most men can feel 100% confident..even when they are only 50% qualified. I’m not sure if that is exactly true, but it makes me laugh and helped me find some strength. So you’re not alone if you feel intimidated. Recognizing that fact is what gave me the strength to go for it anyway.
Lesson #3 – Part of leadership is understanding politics and learning how to advocate for yourself.
I am not a politician. It does not feel natural for me to work a room and ask people to vote for me. It’s the same reason many women have a hard time asking for a raise or a promotion. It feels weird to tell people how great you are. But you are amazing and you deserve the promotion! So work on your elevator speech. Have a clear concise message. Watch your body language, don’t play with your hair or look at the floor. When someone praises your work, accept the recognition and say thank you. Many of us are quick to credit someone else. “I had a good team, I couldn’t have done it without XYZ. I got lucky.” No you didn’t. You did a good job and you deserve the credit. Own it.
Lesson #4- Women with young children can be leaders!
I’ve been slightly dismayed with the reaction that parents of young children, particularly women, can’t be on the ACEP Board or run for a leadership position. Ridiculous! What works for me may not work for you. It’s a personal decision how you choose to balance your time. I’ll point out that many ACEP leaders and Board members, both men and women, have young children and do just fine. Our current President, Becky Parker, had a baby while serving on the Board. You go, girl! I am lucky in that I have a very supportive spouse and a live-in nanny. My husband, who is also a physician, is cutting back on his responsibilities to allow me to pursue my career goals. I have done the same for him in the past and our balance and compromises are what make our relationship such a blessing. For me, I wanted to be home when the girls were babies and later when they become teenagers. (That was when I needed my mom the most.) Now that they are both in grade school and busy with their own activities, I have more time to focus on other aspirations but I will always be there for the important things. I cherish my family and the time I get to spend with them, I’m sure my male colleagues feel the same way. But I am a firm believer that women can be both leaders and mothers. We should advocate for each other, not judge, and encourage our colleagues to pursue their ambitions on whatever time frame works for them.
Lesson #5- Find great mentors and return the favor for people behind you.
I have had some amazing role models and mentors and would not be running for a national position without their guidance and inspiration. I have always said that some of my best mentors and sponsors have actually been men. They have a different perspective and I value the insights they share with me. I am a better leader because of them. Female mentors are few and far between because there are not as many in leadership roles, but I know I would not be here without them and I continue to be amazed at the roads they have paved to make things better for the women who come behind them. I would like to encourage more young women to get involved. Your perspective and your ideas matter and make a difference. It is one of many reasons I am running for the ACEP Board.