April 6, 2018 | Women today must strive for equity and avoid complacency to honor all those who came before them, said Trenda Ray, Ph.D., A.P.R.N., associate vice chancellor for patients and families.
Ray was part of a four-woman panel held March 30 in conjunction with the UAMS celebration of national Women’s History Month. The UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs sponsored the event, “UAMS Phenomenal Women: Shattering the Glass Ceiling.” Conversation encompassed the challenges women face in the workplace, including sexism and inequity, and ways to make advances.
Sherie Brown, director of UAMS Operational Support Services, moderated.
Sustained dialogue, Ray said, makes progress easier by keeping the issues at the forefront.
“When complacency happens, that’s where the gap will not only speed up but stretch out over time,” she said. “We have to be comfortable in questioning situations and honor ourselves.”
Mildred Randolph, D.V.M., professor in the UAMS College of Medicine and director of the Division of Laboratory Animal Medicine, said women in positions of influence have an added responsibility of mentoring the next generation.
“It is our responsibility to try to educate other people, other women,” said Randolph. “They do not have to stump their toe every place we stumped ours.”
Adding to Randolph’s point, Ronda Henry-Tillman, M.D., chief of Breast Surgical Oncology in the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Surgery, mentioned a statement shared with her at a previous conference.
“It is great to be the first, but shame on you for being the only,” she said. “That’s very powerful. When you become the first, it is up to you to mentor to bring others up.”
The panel agreed there is much more to the topic of gender equity than the often-mentioned pay gap.
“It is a general appreciation and recognition for what women bring to the table,” said Ray.
Susan Bell León, assistant dean for administration in the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, said improvement comes when people speak up about any issue, whether it be sexism, harassment or an inappropriate joke.
“In those moments, it is really important to speak up or you become complicit with it,” she said.
Henry-Tillman challenged young, professional women, or others looking for career advancement, to get out of their comfort zone and find a mentor.
“Work with people and try to get to know them,” she said. “There is someone out there like you. Do not be in your own shadow and not find support to get to your next step and next level.”
The panel expressed optimism for the future and next generation, citing its involvement in recent movements and discussions across the country.
“Our daughters are going to be far more outspoken than us,” said Ray. “They’ve not only watched our struggles, but they’re learning from them.”
In its ninth year, the UAMS Phenomenal Women event has traditionally recognized a group of UAMS employees nominated by colleagues and reviewed by a committee. However, interim UAMS Chancellor Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., said this year’s honorees extended to every woman at UAMS, totaling 7,346 women.
“The diversity of our learners, faculty, staff, patients and families includes gender,” said Gardner. “By marking the contributions made by women throughout history, including UAMS’s history, we’re honoring our diversity and the strength it gives us daily in our mission of health care and health improvement in Arkansas.”