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The role of mentors for women in radiology

As a kid, many people say that they want to go into a certain career, because they admire someone who works in that profession, either someone they know personally or someone that they see on TV. Little kids may want to be part of the police or fire department. They may want to follow in the footsteps of their parents. As they grow up, that desire to join a certain field may stick around. Students may want to become teachers because of a connection they made with their teachers. College students may choose a major based on a class they find interesting, something that often is influenced by the teacher and their experiences in the field. Many kids, both younger and older, want to work in the healthcare, and end up doing so, as it's one of the largest industries. 

Women made up roughly 23.1% of radiology professionals in 2018, though about 70% of the healthcare workforce is female.1 Traditionally, not many women make it into healthcare leadership positions and even fewer become CEOs. This could, in part, be due to the fact that its unclear whether women who are still in school or are new to their careers in radiology have as many mentors in this field as those in other industries.2

What role do mentors play?

Mentors play a guiding role for their mentee. Mentees often make valuable connections through their mentor. These connections could help in the future when the radiologist is looking to apply for a new position or an advancement within their department. Additionally, mentorship provides an excellent way to expand the perspectives and insights within a department.2

Diversity enables a well-rounded approach to radiology, because it brings issues to light that could be missed with different perspectives. For example, a portion of the female population dreads having their mammogram screenings. However, many men may not realize this, as it's not part of their life experience. If only men are on a research or department board that could make a difference in the comfort level of this test, it could lead to a lack of initiative to make a change. If the board is more diverse, women have the opportunity to weigh in and push for a change.

People who have worked in a diverse environment or who have had diversity in their mentorships may believe that diversity is often important. Some believe that mentorship is impactful to increasing diversity throughout radiology.2 Not only do minorities, including women, add value and insight to the workplace, but they can also add value and insight within relationships. Mentorship enables a collaboration in clinical, academic and professional radiology that can take a multi-generational approach, since mentors are often more experienced in their fields.

Anyone who has multiple mentors may notice that each of their mentors can provide a unique purpose and demonstration of skill sets. This can be especially important if they have one or more cross discipline mentors. In cross-discipline mentorship, both the mentor and mentee can provide valuable insight into a problem. If a radiologists is looking at a scan of a pediatric patient and isn’t sure if a change between scans is part of the normal growth process, a mentor who specializes in pediatrics could potentially help to inform their decision, as could their coworkers in the radiology department.

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How are women addressing the diversity gap?

Because of the low number of women in radiology, many women may struggle to find a local mentor that can help them. However, many agree that mentoring enhances the road to success and improves personal and professional advancement for women, making it desirable.2 So, how do women form relationships with possible mentors?

Some women have begun to network with possible mentors and mentees in a new forum: social media. Within the age of social media, people from around the country and the world can connect with each other. Because of the level of connection available through the use of social media websites, people may find connections to mentors who do not live nearby.2 In fact, women have been using websites that allow for scheduled conversations about topics important to them.3 These conversations work like events, with the participant logging on and joining the conversation on the website. Websites that host these conversations help to improve access to mentorship and promote a culture of inclusivity and community.

Another approach to providing accessible mentorship is done through academic and industry partnerships and programming. It can be difficult to find, but many organizations are attempting to help bridge the mentorship gap.

Dr. Cheri Canon, medical doctor and Professor and Chair of Radiology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, believes that mentorship is key in the radiology field.1 Dr. Canon has since shared her personal mission to elevate women radiologists into leadership roles through mentorship and sponsorship, as well as championing causes critically important to women, by creating a year-long professional development program for women in radiology.

With the addition of social media and mentoring and professional development programs, more women have the opportunity to find mentors among those who are already occupying leadership positions. In many cases, this can be done using the internet or through phone calls and emails.

These mentorships may lead to an increase in the number of women who are attempting to fill roles among the leadership at health care companies. The perspectives these women can provide, as well as their connections, may help to widen the scope of the radiology world.

References

1. "How two women are partnering to rewrite the script on women leaders in radiology: Women from industry and academia are collaborating to build the pipeline of future female radiology leaders." The Pulse. 12 April 2019. Web. 16 May 2019. <http://newsroom.gehealthcare.com/how-two-women-are-partnering-to-rewrite-the-script-on-women-leaders-in-radiology/>.

2. Jennifer Allyn. "Mentors Play Critical Role for Female, Minority Radiologists: Mentoring can help female and minority radiologists prepare for radiologic leadership." RSNA News. 29 June 2018. Web. 21 May 2019. <https://www.rsna.org/news/2018/june/mentors-critical-to-radiologists>.

3. Michele Retrouvey, et al. "Women in Radiology: Creating a Global Mentorship Network Through Social Media." JACR. January 2018; 15(1): Part B, 229-232. Web. 16 May 2019. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2017.09.029.