A diverse health care workforce, across a variety of factors that include gender, is needed to meet the needs of the diverse US population. Yet, even as more women physicians enter the workforce, they face persistent challenges, including pay scale inequities, discrimination, and an imbalance between responsibilities at work and home.1–3 These inequities are often reflected in measured pay gaps, disparities in advanced leadership roles, and higher rates of burnout for women physicians when compared with their colleagues who are men.2–4 Furthermore, women physicians experience gender bias and discrimination in the workplace and report higher rates of imposter phenomenon compared with physicians who are men.5,6 These experiences are even more significant for women physicians who are Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC). Although progress has been made in getting more women into fields of medicine, the remaining equity issues are deeply rooted in organizational and societal culture, calling for an intentional and systemic approach to fostering change in the medical community.7
To address these issues, in 2018, 6 leading US medical organizations formed an ambitious partnership around the inaugural Women’s Wellness through Equity and Leadership project (WEL).8 Led by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and in collaboration with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American College of Physicians (ACP), American Hospital Association (AHA), and American Psychiatric Association (APA), WEL brought together a diverse group of 18 early- to midcareer women physicians for networking, leadership training, and mentorship. Capitalizing on the collective knowledge of this broad group of medical specialties, the WEL consortium empowered women physicians to build cross-specialty relationships critical to address the myriad of issues facing physicians in the evolving US health care system.
The WEL consortium continues to actively examine the culture of medicine and the complex interplay between physicians and their institutions and environments. As stewards of medicine, the WEL partner organizations have substantial opportunities to foster important change. Leveraging their collective memberships of >400 000 physicians, they can advance an agenda for equitable leadership opportunities, advocate with one voice, and forge an inclusive health care workforce. Furthermore, additional organizations are being recruited to the WEL consortium to broaden reach and enhance intersectionality of specialties.
The following call to action targets the organizational and advocacy opportunities reflected from within this consortium and implores health care organizations and medical institutions to reflect on their own practices and potential.
Call to Action
As a collective group, we believe that the profession of medicine should collaboratively and intentionally address the numerous, multifaceted issues that hinder women physicians from reaching their full potential and ability to positively influence the profession of medicine, including by the following:
Equipping physicians with know-ledge and skills to address equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Expanding opportunities to access the resources needed to participate in leadership and career development programs grounded in equity, for all physicians and physicians-in-training.
Training leaders on effective mentorship and sponsorship strategies.
Building mentorship, sponsor-ship, coaching, and peer-support programs and opportunities.
Implementing organizational cha-nge necessary to eliminate bias and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Actively opposing harassment, discrimination, and retaliation of any form based on characteristics of personal identity, including gender and race, in the medical profession.
Committing to adopting flexible promotion and advancement criteria including promotion tracks within organizations.
Advocating for and providing resources that enable flexible career paths, including promotion and advancement criteria in academic medicine, health systems, and private practice that reflect the wide range of responsibilities and unique contributions of women physicians.
Identifying and implementing strategies to strengthen and diversify the health care workforce.
Collaboratively developing a standardized set of metrics to drive meaningful advancement of women in medicine.
Ensuring diversity, including gender and racial diversity, on all committees, councils, and boards through policy and procedure development and mechanisms for accountability.
Working together to ensure that all organizations that employ physicians conduct regular and recurring environmental assessments and equity trainings, such as implicit bias training.
Advocating for policies and programs that advance equity and diversify the physician workforce.
Collectively advocating for universal access to family and medical leave policies that ensure that all employees have increased flexibility to care for family members, including children, spouses, partners, parents, parents-in-law, and grandparents.
Collectively advocating for transparent, equitable physician compensation based on comparable work at each stage of physicians' professional careers in accordance with their skills, knowledge, competencies, and expertise, and not based on characteristics of personal identity.
We look forward to continuing to engage in this important work together and in joining with our colleagues from other specialties to continue building more equitable and inclusive work environments for all physicians. Individually, our voices are strong; together, our voices can create authentic, sustainable change.
All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.
FUNDING: This supplement was funded with support from the Physicians Foundation.
POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors have indicated they have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.
FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES: The authors have indicated they have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.