Calling all RAD Women (and Men!) : Let’s Bring More Diversity to Informatics Leadership

It’s our favorite time of the year, Thanksgiving  the RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) conference season! Each year we look forward to meeting with the latest and greatest in radiology from physicians, researchers, vendors, and thought leaders in the informatics space. This year, we are especially excited to launch a new initiative, RAD Women (#RADxx), that is focused on fostering networking and mentorship opportunities for women involved in radiology, informatics and IT management of radiology systems.

The conversation around RADxx first began between myself and Dr. Geraldine McGinty, a practicing radiologist and thought leader in the imaging and informatics space, at RSNA just about a year ago at a dinner event where we were the only two women in the room. When I commented on this fact, Dr. McGinty shared that she has been at many radiology events with very few women in attendance, and sometimes with no women at all as speakers. My experience in the technology sector followed a similar path, where women are underrepresented in executive leadership roles and corporate board seats.

With a shared passion to change the status-quo, we both committed to do something to effect industry change, especially when Dr. McGinty’s observations were confirmed in the American College of Radiology’s most recent annual Commission on Human Resources Workforce Survey, in which women were found to be less likely to pursue a career in radiology than men, with just 21% of practicing radiologists being women. While we can’t pinpoint one factor alone to account for these findings, studies have shown that across all medical specialities, students are more likely to be influenced by a strong mentor in that field. Mentorship, career sponsors and networking opportunities are lacking for women in radiology and informatics, and the primary goal of RADxx is to make these opportunities available.

RADxx will not be the first time I’ve had the privilege of being a founding member of a women’s leadership initiative. While at NetSuite, the tech industry’s leading provider of cloud ERP software suites, I was one of the founding Steering Committee members of WIN, NetSuite’s women leaders initiative, and designed and launched their mentor program. We began with each participant – mentor and mentee – completing a questionnaire on what they were hoping to get out of their role. Then we paired them up based on common goals and the mentor being at least two levels of seniority above the mentee. We also gave each a framework for success in terms of how often to connect and how to make the most of the time together, with suggestions for the mentee on how to maximize the interaction with their mentor – just saying “mentor me please” doesn’t really work for anyone. RADxx will look to adopt a similar framework but with a stronger emphasis on sponsorship and with adjustments for the healthcare sector and specifically, radiology and informatics. More on this to come in the near future from Dr. McGinty.

A final parting thought: I’ve been fortunate to experience first hand the difference strong sponsors can make in your career path, and this certainly does not always have to be a woman. I’ve had many people over the years who have served as great mentors and role models, starting with my mother who juggled raising a family and a career as a zoology teacher in an asian society that frowned on women working outside the home, to my aunt who immigrated to the US on her own in 1970 to begin practicing as a pediatrician– both fierce women in their own right. But later in my career, it was men in the C-suite who helped open doors to the Director and Vice President level promotions and acted as champions behind closed door discussions. With their sponsorship, these individuals helped pave the path of career success. Just as diversity in leadership is a good thing all around, so is diversity in mentor and sponsor programs.

So with the launch of RADxx, I would challenge male leaders in the field of radiology and informatics to reach out if they are interested in acting as a sponsor and supporting diversity in radiology leadership. And of course, all women involved in radiology, informatics and IT management of radiology systems are invited to join the RADxx group via LinkedIn, plus join the conversation on Twitter with #RADxx.

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