Following a year embattled with sexual misconduct allegations against Yale School of Medicine faculty members, the Committee on the Status of Women in Medicine published a report calling for more women in leadership positions earlier this fall.
According to the report, the number of female chairs at the School of Medicine increased from 11 percent to 14 percent in the past 30 years. In an interview with the News, SWIM co-chair and Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences professor Nina Stachenfeld said the report was published shortly before Nancy Brown was named the next School of Medicine dean. Though SWIM circulated it among School of Medicine department chairs, not much has been done to address the issue to date, Stachenfeld said.
“We consider this paper to be extremely important and also very timely. SWIM has been working on these issues for quite some time now,” Stachenfeld said. “We have come to the conclusion that the best way to prevent sexual and gender-based harassment as well as to improve organization culture is by increasing diversity and women in leadership,” she added.
In the past year, revelations about past sexual misconduct cases shook the medical school campus. In August, former medical school professor Eugene Redmond was found to have sexually assaulted five students and harassed at least eight others. Last year, School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern was widely criticized for honoring cardiologist Michael Simons with an endowed professorship after he had been found responsible for sexual misconduct in 2013.
In the report, SWIM proposed barring individuals found responsible for sexual misconduct from leadership position or academic honor. In an interview with the News, Stachenfeld said while this policy seems obvious, this hasn’t been the case at the School of Medicine in the past.
In addition, the report underscored the need for a monitoring system that holds individuals who’ve committed sexual misconduct in the past accountable. When the number of women in leadership roles reaches 30 percent, workplace culture changes and women are more likely to call out sexism in the workplace, the report stated. It added that promoting more women to senior faculty positions may increase retention overall. Many women have left Yale School of Medicine because another institution offered them a more senior position, Stachenfeld said.
The report also suggested instituting term limits for departmental chairs to offer leadership opportunities to a greater variety of people.
“We have had some people occupying these roles for over 40 years now,” Stachenfeld said. “You’re not going to see much change if you have the same people making the same decisions over and over again.”
According to Margaret Bia, who is a co-author of the report and emeritus professor at the School of Medicine, creating an associate deanship for gender equity and including that person in the chair recruitment process would make the school a more welcoming place for all.
In an interview with the News, Stachenfeld said replacing Alpern with the first female dean in the medical school’s 209-year history is a step in the right direction.
“We were unable to make much progress with the previous dean and are very excited to see what the new dean will do to address this issue,” Stachenfeld said.
SWIM was founded in 1979 to address issues related to gender equality at the Yale School of Medicine.
Ishana Aggarwal | firstname.lastname@example.org