Society of Biological Psychiatry’s Women’s Leadership Group: History and 2017 update
Our Mission. The Women’s Leadership Group (WLG) was formed in 2015 at the 70th annual meeting of the Society in response to the need to provide a platform for change that recognizes the problems faced by women, raises awareness of implicit gender biases, and offers women opportunities and tools for advancement and leadership. The focus of the WLG is twofold: 1. to provide such training and peer group support to senior women in our field, and, 2., in so doing, to support and nurture, and be role models for, junior female colleagues.
The Facts. In 2016, we developed and sent out a survey to all female attendees (members and non-members of the Society) to identify the needs of women in science, and possible facilities that could be provided by the Society to meet these needs. 418 women across the range of faculty levels responded to the survey. Key themes in the responses were: the need for training on collaborative skills, leadership style, and mentorship; strategies to cope with gender bias; and requests for expansion of activities at the annual meeting for women in biological psychiatry at all faculty levels. In parallel, while SOBP has made impressive progress in increasing the representation of women at all levels of the society, a review of the collated statistics on female roles as journal editorial board members, committee members, and plenary and symposium speakers at the SOBP annual meeting highlighted a disparity, with more male than female representation generally across the board.
Progress to date. Between 2016 and 2017, we began to develop programs to meet the needs of female scientists at all career stages. We provided an update of these activities, along with a review of the results from the above survey and collated statistics, during a “Lunch and Learn” session at the 2017 annual meeting in San Diego. This luncheon session also provided a forum for more informal discussion regarding the needs of female scientists in our field. This discussion confirmed the need for more mentorship of female scientists at all career stages and identified barriers preventing female scientists from participating in the annual meeting and becoming members of the Society.
Future actions. Moving forward, a major development of the WLG will be the initiation of a session at each annual meeting to facilitate self-promotion and leadership skills for all female participants at the meeting, and to provide a forum for discussion of other unmet needs of women in science. We are also working with the Mentorship Committee to provide a structured mentorship program for female scientists attending the annual meeting. Provision of childcare facilities is another new development that we are aiming to implement at future meetings.
The goal of the WLG is to ensure that all women in our field have access to the necessary facilities, skills trainings, and peer group support to allow us all to fulfil our potential as scientists and leaders in academia. We are therefore working to ensure that the SOBP’s tradition in promoting excellence in scientific research and education within psychiatry is enriched and enhanced by the equal participation of women at all levels of the society.
Mary L. Phillips (Chair)
Present WLG Steering Committee:
Katherine Aitchison, Huda Akil, Victoria Arango, Carrie Bearden, Karen Berman, Hilary Blumberg, Linda Carpenter, Barbara Cornblatt, Melissa DelBello, Naomi Fineberg, Judy Ford, Sophia Frangou, Raquel Gur, Amanda Law, Ellen Leibenluft, Helen S. Mayberg, Maria Oquendo, Mary L. Phillips (Chair), Uma Rao, Yvette Sheline, Helen B. Simpson, Trisha Suppes, Sophia Vinogradov, Myrna Weissman, Leanne Williams, Kristina Deligiannidis (ex officio)