ACC WIC Virtual Happy Hour Recap

Sarah Rosanel, MD

ACC's New York Women in Cardiology (WIC) Chapter threw quite "a party" for our second virtual happy hour of the year. It was titled, "Building up Yourself and the Women Around You: Sponsoring and Supporting Women." Bottles of wine were delivered to our homes, courtesy of our Chapter – what a treat! We were also treated to eye-opening, inspiring words by Kat Niewiadomska, PhD, certified coach, trainer and facilitator with ACC's Member Leadership Development Team.

We spoke about gender equity, mentorship and sponsorship. The harsh reality is that women today make up only 3% of "Fortune 500" CEOs; hold only 24% of senior-management roles; and only one in 18 women earn a six-figure salary vs. one in seven men, with wage and leadership gaps wider than that for women of color.

Let's introspect: we tend to underestimate our value in the workplace and unintentionally hold ourselves back. We do not get enough specific and constructive feedback focused on specific ways we can improve and progress toward greater leadership and increased responsibility. We adjust our self-concept based on feedback and reactions we receive, whereas men place more importance on self-views and social comparisons and women tend to focus more on how others see them.

Cardiology Magazine

Gender equity is a humanity problem. People tend to assume that gender equity is a woman's problem. It is not. Both men and women suffer from the assumptions that women are and want to be responsible for family responsibilities. To skirt around the issue, money is being thrown in the wrong direction. Examples include launching and running gender-equity programs and mentoring programs rather than addressing core issues. "Over-mentoring" and lack of formalized, structured programs that educate, train, and encourage sponsorship and support in medicine is also an issue. 

What is the difference between mentorship and sponsorship? A mentor is an experienced person at any level and a sponsor is a senior leader in the organization who has influence. A mentor provides guidance for career choices and decisions, while a sponsor uses his or her influence to help an employee or subordinate to obtain high-visibility assignments. A sponsor chooses to advocate for the "sponsoree," including behind closed doors with other leaders to push for your advancement, while a mentor helps his or her mentee determine paths to meet specific career goals.

Why is mentorship not enough? Compared with their male peers, high-potential women are over-mentored, under-sponsored and not advancing in their organizations. Mentorship does not translate into promotions. Women have more mentors but are still paid less, hold more lower-level positions and feel less career satisfaction. Only sponsorship involves advocacy for advancement.

Cardiology Magazine

Sponsors are advocates who actively work to advance the career of their "sponsoree," touting their accomplishments and potential, connecting them to others in their network, and recommending them for bigger or more visible roles. A sponsor pushes a "sponsoree" to take on challenging assignments and actively advances their career progression – including in off-the-record or closed-door meetings with other leaders.

So, what do we do about it? Be authentic. Grow your performance currency. Be great at what you do and know, and communicate your value. Understand senior leadership. Put relationships above all else and create relationship currency. Support other women. When you help another woman rise, we all shine a bit brighter. 

Communicate your ambitions and goals. Start a girls club. (Women with close connections to other women who can share experiences are more likely to advance and succeed.) Find a mentor and/or sponsor based on your needs. Ask for what you want from your trusted person. Remember that career advancement is not 100% up to you. Ask for better feedback that is specific, technical and helps you grow. Encourage and find men to mentor and sponsor you and other women. Do not seek role models, rather focus on powerfully positioned sponsors. Be intentional in identifying potential sponsors and look beyond your immediate circle.

"The way to grow your power is to give it away, and your voice is at the heart of your power!" – Carla Harris

Sarah Rosanel, MD

This article was authored by Sarah Rosanel, MD, Fellow in Training (FIT) at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. Twitter: @DrRosanel