The Women In Cardiology (WIC) community has grown in recent years and has represented professional women in many ways. Tangible accomplishments include advocacy for more women on panels (#NoManels), curbing harassment (#MeToo), opening leadership opportunities and much more. Many have recruited men into the campaign for women (#HeForShe). Guidance into what men can do has also been emphasized, for example, speaking up when a committee lacks diversity and lending an early career woman a research opportunity. But, have we given women enough guidance? I fear not. Allow me to display examples where women have failed other women. It’s a collection that I’ve discussed over the course of the last several months in WIC workshops across the globe.
Time: 2:00 am
Setting: STEMI & shock
Woman interventional cardiologist (IC) calls the on-call anesthetist (a fellow woman) to provide deep anesthesia because “I need to cardiovert this patient who had primary PCI and now in AF with RVR and is hemodynamically unstable”.
Anesthetist: Okay the patient is asleep, but does he really need cardioversion?
IC calls to technician: 200 Joules.
Anesthetist: No. It should be 100 Joules according to the AHA algorithm.
With an unstable patient on the table, is this the time to be questioning a colleague’s judgment in front of her staff? I fear using “patient advocacy” as an excuse to lecture a qualified cardiologist on the management of arrhythmias is inappropriate. Many electrophysiologists have reservations about the very conservative algorithm. 2:00 am in the cathlab is hardly the time or place for such a discourse. Perhaps at a more suitable time, a scientific discussion can educate everyone on the indications of cardioversion for AF. Why is this incident reckless and detrimental on many levels?
- It undermines a colleague in front of her staff to whom she has to prove herself every day.
- It doesn’t help a patient who is unstable. Every failed shock reduces the chance for the next shock to work.
- It portrays an image of two professional women “bickering” over a crashing patient.
Time: 2:00 am
Setting: Clinic Schedule
Cardiologist (a woman) fires off an email to the Chief of Staff expressing disillusion with the “disruptive” clinic schedule that was planned by her immediate section head (a woman). Why is this incident reckless and detrimental on many levels?
- It undermines the leadership of the section head, a woman nonetheless.
- It negatively impacts the relationship between colleagues (2 women).
Wouldn’t it have been more constructive if she spoke to her head first and made her recommendations? The worst part of this whole story is that the immediate section head did not design the clinic schedule. It was the Chief of Staff. The “backstabbing” backfired and the notion was that this cardiologist is not a team player. It would have been wiser and more respectable to go through the appropriate channels with suggestions for improvements. Why is this incident reckless and detrimental on so many levels?
- It doesn’t build team spirit or trust. It does the exact opposite.
- It damages future prospects for both women in the workplace. It leaves the impression that the head cannot inspire or lead and the other woman is not a trustworthy team player (late night backstabbing email).
- On a larger scale, it suggests men can be more professional even when competitive.
Time: 2:00 am
Place: International Teleconference
Setting: Planning of a Scientific Activity
A woman participant claims ownership of an idea that belongs to the chair of one of the subcommittees (a woman) and bypasses her. The worst part of this story is the director of this scientific activity (also a woman) allows her to do so. She does not empower the head of the subcommittee by channeling all projects/decisions through her. She does not acknowledge the other participants. Instead, this woman’s name is placed first in all communications. Why is this incident reckless and detrimental on so many levels?
- It proves that women can do other women more injustice by stripping them of credit and authority.
- It projects an image that women leaders lack fair leadership suggesting that it’s no better (perhaps worse) than men’s leadership.
- It casts doubt on the efficiency of the various WIC programs in providing leadership training and addressing such inconsistencies.
The purpose of this month’s blog is not to be critical of women. To the contrary, there have been many women exhibiting true leadership and effecting concrete changes. Now we find lactation areas at major meetings, opportunities for women to serve as proctors and live transmission operators, and emphasis on diversity in training programs and the workplace. I do believe we have to build on that momentum. The purpose of this blog is to allow for some self-reflection on our part as women in the field. Whether we like it or not we are held to higher standards. Any deviation by one woman is considered a setback for all and any success story of one woman is a stride forward for all. It is not a fair world and prejudice/inconsistencies are noted on all fronts. I am a catheterization laboratory director and have been for a couple of years now. Every single day I have to prove I’m capable and reliable. Every single day, and no matter how much time has passed, I still need to assert my authority and earn respect from men and women. I know that when men are given leadership opportunities, the respect and authority are automatic until proven otherwise. For a woman, it gets exhausting after a while…and that’s why we have more work to do & more self-reflection can only help.
Not references for this blog, but worthwhile data for WIC:
- O’Sullivan S. Women in medicine: deeds not words. Lancet. 2018;392(10152)1002-1003.
- Mehran R. Women’s Voices in Cardiology: An Uncomfortable Silence. JAMA Cardiol.2018;3(8):676–677. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2018.1289
- Breaking the Catheterization Laboratory Ceiling. JACC 2017;69(21)2668-2271.
- Lautenberger DM, Dandar VM, Raezer CL, Sloane RA. 2013–2014 The State of Women in Academic Medicine: The Pipeline and Pathways to Leadership. Washington, DC: Association of American Medical Colleges, 2014.
- Prasad M. Gender in cardiology: work yet to be done. J Am Coll Cardiol 2016;67:3016–9.
- Wang TY, Grines C, Ortega R, et al. Women in interventional cardiology: update in percutaneous coronary intervention practice patterns and outcomes of female operators from the National Cardiovascular Data Registry. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv 2016;87:663–8.
- Carr PL, Gunn CM, Kaplan SA, Raj A, Freund KM. Inadequate progress for women in academic medicine: findings from the National Faculty Study. J Womens Health 2015;24:190–9.
- Lewis SJ, Mehta LS, Douglas PS, et al., for the American College of Cardiology Women in Cardiology Leadership Council. Changes in the professional lives of cardiologists over 2 decades. J Am Coll Cardiol 2017;69:452–62.
- Bates C, Gordon L, Travis E, et al. Striving for gender equity in academic medicine careers. Acad Med 2016;91:1050–2.
- Marchant A, Bhattacharya A, Carnes M. Can the language of tenure criteria influence women’s academic advancement? J Womens Health (Larchmt) 2007;16:998–1003.
- Hlatky MA, Shaw LJ. Women in cardiology: very few, different work, different pay. J Am Coll Cardiol 2016;67:542–4.
Mirvat Alasnag, MD is the first female interventional cardiologist in the Gulf region. She is a Woman’s champion in the Middle East & serves in numerous committees representing women professionals. She is the Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at King Fahd Armed Forces Hospital, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (currently the only director in the Gulf Region). She is passionate about CHIP & Peripheral Vascular interventions. @mirvatalasnag