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Senior women faculty members join forces to promote common interests

The group has established and seeded the new Fund for the Advancement of Women’s Leadership

Labyrinth MovementSenior women faculty members in the School of Medicine have come together to establish the “Labyrinth Movement.” The name was inspired by the ground-breaking article in the September 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review titled “Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership.” The article explored the idea that the popular glass-ceiling metaphor in which advancement of women is stopped when they crash into this invisible barrier at the highest levels was not actually applicable to the myriad challenges facing professional women. They posited a labyrinth as a more accurate metaphor because of its maze-like symbolism in which there are frequent ways to be diverted as well as many opportunities to navigate a unique path to leadership.
“The labyrinth as a symbol conveys the idea that for women who aspire to top leadership, there is not necessarily one clear and definite path,” said Patrice Eiff, MD, Assistant Dean for Faculty Development. Dr. Eiff elaborated that the labyrinth that typically confronts women in academic medicine relates, for example, to leadership expectations based on male role models and the persistent social/cultural requirement that women are the ones asked to balance family and work life.
Broadly, the senior women faculty group’s goal is to help transform the culture of OHSU by reducing obstacles that impede the progress of women leaders and create an environment where men and women share leadership equally. Sixty-six women participate in the group which has met three times and is comprised of faculty members with the academic rank of professor, with defined leadership positions with the School of Medicine or have a role in women’s advancement issues.

“When this group came together, we were all surprised by the number of experiences we shared as we have progressed through academic medicine over the years, as well by the uniqueness of each individual path,” said Patricia Hurn, PhD, Associate Dean for Faculty Development, and Professor of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine. “We were also taken aback by how few of us there are. Nevertheless, there is a lot of wisdom in this group that OHSU can tap to help change our culture.”

The faculty group represents 21 departments in the School of Medicine with 28 MDs, 31 PhDs, and three MD/PhDs. Fifty-four are full professors, three are clinical professors and one is a research professor. Thirteen have VAMC appointments.
The group has established – and provided an initial contribution to – a Fund for the Advancement of Women’s Leadership that will directly support the Labyrinth Movement, providing programs and resources for women faculty on their journey to become transformative leaders. Initially, the Fund will be used to support a publication that tells the stories of senior women faculty in the School of Medicine. Over time, it will be used to fund women faculty to attend professional development conferences and courses, to establish an awards program for outstanding women faculty, to provide financial support for junior faculty at pivotal times in their careers, and to establish endowed professorships for women faculty leaders.

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