We launched the GEMS Alliance because we believe that we are stronger together than individually. Together, we are able to share and innovate around our lived experiences and align our efforts. Many women’s organizations exist in medicine, and the GEMS Alliance is an opportunity to leverage our efforts and resources.
This organization of organizations is non-governmental and is focused on advancing gender equity through actions that address one of the four major gaps for women in medicine and science. The GEMS Alliance will prioritize those issues that will help women enter and thrive in medicine and science and pursue the career they desire in an environment that is equitable for all.
The initial founding organizations of the GEMS Alliance are the following: American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA); American College of Physicians (ACP); Center for Women in Academic Medicine and Science (CWAMS); Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS); Executive Leadership for Academic Medicine (ELAM); and National Medical Association (NMA). Together, these organizations represent the majority of all physicians in academia. Several additional organizations have joined and there are many more groups that we hope will join us.
The GEMS Alliance will focus on these barriers to achieving equity within our structures of medicine and science: a) THE PIPELINE: women admitted to graduate and professional schools are now 50% of students; yet they do not represent our diverse communities. Without a more representative student population, we will not reach equity in the future workforce; b) THE GENDER IMBALANCE in specialties and disciplines: women have entered some fields more or less frequently for a number of reasons. We must find ways to address the equitable distribution of women in specialties if we are to reach equity for us, our patients, and in leadership c) the LEADERSHIP GAP: women have not equitably advanced to leadership where the policies, resources, and culture are set and modelled. At a time when assistant professors are 50% women, we must assure they thrive in academia, reaching leadership roles in order to change the culture of academic medicine; d) THE EXTRA BURDEN ON WOMEN: finally, the gendered differential burden of caregiving is well documented and evident throughout women’s careers. The intensive requirements of education and training compel us to consider systematic and accessible support for women in academic medicine and science from students to trainees to faculty.
As physicians and scientists, we care deeply about equity for all who work in healthcare and science, recognizing that the issues that plague academia also exist in other healthcare environments and scientific companies. We are initially focused in academic medicine because the culture is experienced early as students, passed down, and propagated by choices women make or the barriers they experience in that environment.
The GEMS Alliance is an organization of organizations. As an individual, you can ask your organization to join; you can represent your organization in the GEMS Alliance, or you can look toward participating in one of our targeted initiatives. If your organization is not aware of the GEMS Alliance, please help us engage them.
There is strength in numbers. If we are all aligned to achieve the goal of gender equity, we can mutually support and enhance our opportunities to be successful. We anticipate organizations will benefit by access to communication about programs (their own and others), sharing of resources, and participation in creating or implementing solutions identified through the GEMS Alliance.
The pandemic has made clear that women in academia, already facing known documented barriers, have experienced a greater impact on their careers than their male colleagues. While we have finally reached 50% women in our junior faculty ranks, their loss from our academic communities will lead to even a greater delay in achieving equity for women within medicine and science. More importantly, the loss of women during this time will rob future patients of the diverse talent needed to improve health and care for our populations.
The GEMS Alliance will work to change the culture of medicine by tackling the four areas previously identified. In particular, culture is set by leadership. Thus, it is imperative that women achieve equity in leadership roles in order to thoughtfully challenge the culture that has existed for the hundreds of years that the profession has been dominated by men.
Men are critical to all of our successes, and for generations we have depended upon their support during our journeys in medicine. Three of our six founding organizations have more men than women members. However, understanding the lived experiences of women over generations is critical in setting our priorities and in creating networks and support that have traditionally been available to men. We will always rely on our male colleagues to work with us in this agenda, that we and they believe will benefit all.
Recognizing the potential impact of a significant gender imbalance in medical specialties is an initial step. It is also crucial to connect students with mentors and role models, comprehend the financial and home/other support required for women to make their own specialty choices (including during early stages of medical school and residency), and systematically address the cultural norms that give rise to barriers in some specialties.
Salary equity is but one externally evident measure of the continued disparate treatment that women experience in our culture. Thus, it is most visible and easily measured. The GEMS Alliance, through the strength of its members, has the ability to engage in campaigns to assure transparency and regular review; to support women in attaining leadership roles where policies and salaries are set; and most importantly, to address the issues created by the imbalance of genders in certain fields, a phenomenon that results in lower salaries for women in specialties where they predominate.
Medicine and science require many years of expensive education and regulated intensive training, both of which occur at a time when women may begin to bear children. (Age 24 is the average age of admission to medical school, the earliest age of completion of all training is 31). Further, early career success and decisions often influence future academic success. Repeated studies show that women with or without children spend more time in caregiving than their male partners. Whether women choose to have children or not, the goal of the GEMS Alliance is to create systems that support the known gender differences between men and women physicians throughout the professional continuum.
We will look to the organizations that have joined the Alliance to help us determine the necessary support for operational needs and the sources of those dollars. We will seek funding for pilot projects or organizations willing to support creative initiatives. Direction and projects will be determined by a steering committee for each of the four areas of focus. To date, we have been operating with volunteers.