Why did you form the GEMS Alliance?
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.
How is this organization different from the other organizations that want to advance gender equity in medicine?
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.
What organizations came together to form the Alliance?
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. There are many more groups that we hope will join us.
What are the critical areas that the GEMS Alliance will focus its work on, and why?
The GEMS Alliance will focus on these barriers to achieving equity within our structures of medicine and science: a) the PIPELINE: while women are admitted to the profession in equal numbers, they do not represent our diverse communities; without reaching equity upon admission, we will not reach equity in the future workforce; b) GENDER SEGREGATION: women have entered some specialties more 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 and our patients; c) the LEADERSHIP gap: women have not equitably advanced to leadership where the policies, resources, and culture are set and seen; at a time when assistant professors are 50% women, we must assure they reach leadership to realize these changes; d) the TIME CRUNCH: finally, the gendered burden of caregiving is well documented and seen 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.
Why is the GEMS Alliance focused on academic medicine and science?
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.
How can I engage with the GEMS Alliance?
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.
Why should my organization engage with the GEMS Alliance?
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.
Why is now a critical time to form a group like 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.
How does the GEMS Alliance plan to change the culture of medicine?
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 making it 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.
What is the role of male allies or leaders in the GEMS Alliance?
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.
How will you tackle the occupational gender segregation in medicine?
Understanding that it exists and its potential impact are the first steps. However, aligning students with mentors/role models, understanding the financial and home/other support that is necessary for women to make their own personal specialty choices (including early in medical school and residency), and systematically tackling cultural norms that create barriers are critical.
What role can GEMS Alliance play in tackling salary equity?
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 tackle the issues of occupational segregation, which results in lower salaries for women in specialties where they predominate.
Why should the problem of childcare/home obligations be specifically addressed?
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 have additional responsibilities of caregiving. (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.
How do you plan to fund the GEMS Alliance and proposed pilot projects?
We will look to the leadership group (a group of 12 proposed organizations, of which we hope to identify an additional six) to determine the required support for operational needs beyond our seed funding. We will seek funding for pilot projects or organizations willing to take on 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.