Power Reimagined: Advancing Women into Emerging Leadership Positions

Document Type


Publication Date



Medical Education

Journal Title

Academic medicine : journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges


Academic medicine is evolving from the traditional model of a medical school and teaching hospital owned by the same entity to one with complex academic medical centers and health systems. This increased complexity is evident not only in the funding streams and organizational priorities of these growing health systems but also in the evolution of leadership roles toward more matrixed positions and more individuals who hold both medical school and health system roles. Given this changing landscape, the authors of this commentary raise the following questions: Will the levers of power remain in the hands of those in traditional academic roles? Or are they moving toward those in roles that are more aligned with the clinical enterprise and health system? Then, if this shift is occurring, what is needed to prepare women to be competitive candidates for these new roles? Because of the long history of and current gender imbalance in academic leadership roles, professional development programs have traditionally focused on preparing women to advance through the faculty ranks and for department chair and decanal roles. With the shift to more complicated health systems, the definitions, responsibilities, and types of leadership roles in academic medicine are also evolving to include non-traditional academic positions in the health system, such as c-suite and other senior executive roles. In parallel to the gender inequities in traditional roles, women are also underrepresented in health system leadership roles. Therefore, it is critical to explicitly identify emerging roles in health care leadership, address systemic barriers, and actively train and prepare women with the knowledge, skills, and experience required for these positions. Only with consistent attention to outcomes and the implementation of intentional systems to engage, prepare, and advance women will the gender gap be closed.