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Advocating for women faculty

This piece first appeared on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion website

The workgroup Women in Health, Medicine, & Science, better known as WiHMS, is a group within University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion (UHEDI). Led by two Co-Directors and a Steering Committee made up of members representing all U of U Health academic units, WiHMS advocates for women faculty at all stages of their career. Our current co-directors, Amanda Bakian, PhD, and Holly Sharp, DDS, lead the charge to support and mentor women in healthcare professions, provide opportunities for networking and collaboration, and advocate for gender equity and inclusivity.

“Over the past few years, it has felt to me like our work environment has faced constant change,” says Dr. Bakian. “WiHMS aims to be a group that provides consistent support and networking opportunities to women faculty while offering informative discussion on the topics that are most pressing. Our hope is to connect women faculty with the people and resources they need to thrive at the University of Utah.”

Because we know we cannot do this work alone, WiHMS focuses on collaborative partnerships. We actively participate in annual Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) events, including MEDiversity Week and Women’s Week. We also partner with presenters from around the region and the nation to speak to our University of Utah community on intersectional gender equity issues, and host events for students and faculty to grow their networks and increase opportunity.

When COVID-19 shut down in-person events, WiHMS moved to a webinar platform to discuss and navigate some of the issues women, particularly in health professions, were facing. Some of the past topics discussed are Work-Life Integration in the Time of COVID-19, Stress Management & Resilience for Working Professionals, and Librarian Tips & Tricks to Help with Your Research. We continue to host our series of webinars, with our most recent one on Connecting Reproductive Rights & Justice to Health Equity as part of the 2022 MEDiversity Week: Securing Health Equity for All events.

Starting back slowly and cautiously, we’ve recently resumed in-person events so we can be in community and safely share space again. Some of the events we are hosting include outreach and networking opportunities for students pursuing health professions. For example, recognizing that only 4% of dentists in Utah are women, we coordinated a night at the dental school. We invited the Health Sciences LEAP cohort to chat with admissions and faculty representatives as well as tour the clinic and simulation lab spaces. We plan to continue these outreach evenings with our next focus on the College of Pharmacy.

We are also excited to announce that WiHMS will hold a Winter Social and Town Hall on Thursday, January 26th from 4-6 p.m. MT. A panel of women leaders from across University of Utah Health will speak on their experiences and the current state of gender equity work at U of U Health, followed by a networking social. More details and a registration link are forthcoming, so please stay tuned by subscribing to UHEDI’s MEDiversity Newsletter and visiting the WiHMS website.