1:27 "How I Became an Ally of Powerful Women"
Today I am delighted to hand over the blog post reigns to my guest colleague Dr. Scott Paviol. Dr. Paviol practices dermatology in North Carolina as part of Piedmont Healthcare and co-founded the Physician Innovation and Resiliency Group (PHIRE) to promote physician wellness and leadership. He received his MD from Penn State College of Medicine with residency training at the University of Michigan. After completing leadership and training courses through the North Carolina Medical Society, he was invited to serve on the NCMS Nominating and Leadership Development Committee. In addition, Dr. Paviol is an executive coach to medical professionals. His mission is to support physician-led healthcare change through thought, word, and action. You can find him on LinkedIn and his co-authored blog PracticehealthRx.com which is dedicated to shifting the healthcare experience.
I am the only man in a practice with 27 women. I am one male physician, who co-owns a practice with one female physician, overseeing a staff of 3 physician assistants, 2 nurses, 8 front desk members, 8 medical assistants and an office manager - all women. My intention is to share my experience and what has opened up for me over the past five years.
This topic spawned from discussions I had with my wife over the past few years on women's empowerment. She deserves much of the credit for opening my eyes to new ways of being in this space which I was blind to early in my career. I will call this past paradigm my default mode, and my current paradigm my possibilities mode.
When I joined the practice, I was operating from my default mode. Fresh out of residency, I was functioning from a place of learned behavior from my upbringing and education. In this mode, I was a leader by title, by assumed authority, by monetary status, and by default. I made low risk, low empowerment, and low opportunity thoughts, decisions, and actions. It is very easy to have a friend, patient, and even female co-workers make comments that “women are emotional, women are difficult to work with, women are territorial, women are unstable” and to believe them, agree with them, and place myself as a victim of that environment.
This has the effect of empowering a paradigm of weakness, lesser than, and sexism. I would use this paradigm to make excuses for why my work environment was “hard” and our culture was “toxic” at times. If a “negative” event happened at work, the immediate commentary in my head was a global list of assumptions and judgements about how women “are”: how they act, how they always “will be.” It is a self-propagating cycle that not only myself, but a majority of my staff operated within. And, I’d like to point out, that I was very open to women achieving great things in life and in business and in medicine! I was just unaware of how the background noise in my head was affecting my thoughts and the thoughts and actions of all those around me.
Somewhere in time and space, I began to shift my views, likely because of my opportunity to bear witness to the powerful women in my life. My wife and I would discuss how women, in good faith, would frequently preach the virtues of women's power, but often at the expense or in opposition to men. Ultimately, we felt that this was an equal and opposite offense to male sexism. This shifted my view that my role wasn’t to ENDURE the women I worked with, but to be the example of support and serve to constantly empower their greatness. This meant both encouraging pursuit of their aspirations but also calling them out on self-limiting behaviors and thoughts which were ultimately detrimental to them achieving their highest potential. I saw my new role to create a place for men and women to work in synergy to create things that neither could create alone...to be the example of what can be when men and women stay open to working together for a higher purpose of possibility.
The infection point in shifting my view of my role led to a new mode of thoughtful leadership. Instead of taking the easy path, the one well-worn in assumptions, judgement, and self fulfilling prophecies about the opposite sex, I now choose to stay open to possibility of joint venture and opportunity. I now challenge myself to make the difficult, anti-paradigm view that it’s an incredible opportunity to work in a 27:1 ratio office. I don’t endure it, I value it, and I’m grateful for it. I challenge myself to stay open as long as I can without labeling. I notice and erase thoughts about women being “moody, irrational, territorial” etc. These thoughts came from an upbringing with inaccurate beliefs and assumptions that are toxic to healthy relationships between men and women in the workplace and beyond. And because thoughts and beliefs like these were repeated in all aspects of my early life as if they were accurate and true, it has required conscious intention to catch them, question them, and actively shift them in order to be a more effective leader of exceptional talent, regardless of the gender of that talent.
A NEW WAY
Now, I see my strength as a member of 28 as a human being, set in time and place to provide the space for growth, collaboration, support and development, to chop down, at every opportunity, dogma and stereotypes which hinder our growth, and to hold up the virtues that every member is equally important, infinitely creative, and individually whole. To create a space to work together in a collaborative way to create an environment that is supportive, challenges internal and explicit comments that serve to perpetuate unhealthy stereotypes, and that acknowledges the contributions and talents of all members of the practice, regardless of gender, age, and role in the company. In doing so, stereotypes begin to dissolve, strengths and weaknesses are embraces, and we break through the walls which we have created in our own minds.