I had the absolute honor to serve as faculty for the American Psychological Association’s Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology, held April 10-12 in Washington DC. The attendees were all highly accomplished women in universities, academic medical centers, government leadership, private practice, and consulting.
The fantastic Shari Miles-Cohen, PhD, led the program with support from the wonderful APA Office of Women’s Programs. The agenda covered leadership values, diversity, ethics, goal setting, social justice, and organizational competencies. Presenters included Sandra Schulman, PhD (APA President-Elect); Natalie Porter, PhD; Janis Sanchez-Hucles, PhD; Geeta Rao Gupta, PhD, and me. My workshop was on how to assess your organization and use that information to be most successful in your environment.
A few conversations stick in my head that I think hold lessons for all of us. One woman was frustrated and sad about an ongoing harassment situation at her university. She told our small group: “I feel like I’m complicit for not speaking up sooner.” Wow. So much love to her while she is clearly in pain. Important lesson here: we have to respect our coping strategies. I can only imagine how painful it was for her to be in the situation itself and to have to make decisions every day about protecting herself, her staff, other women, and her career from this harasser. She did speak up, and the wheels are slowly turning, imperfectly. I heard over and over at the program, that you have to put your own oxygen mask on first. You have to take care of yourself.
A second conversation was with an enormously talented leader who was asked to work on a very large, multi-year project at her academic medical center that would ultimately have benefit for patients, psychologists, and the medical center’s financial bottom line. Her questions at the program were about how to most effectively complete the task, which was good strategic thinking on her part. One of my questions to her, though, was, “How much are you getting paid to complete this enormous extra project ?” She looked perplexed and said she was not getting paid any extra and was not even getting release time from her regular duties. She said she wanted the opportunity. She said the bosses really valued her and the work, but she was concerned that if she asked for funding and resources to do the job that she wouldn’t get them. This is a big red flag! If bosses value something, they will ensure there are adequate resources to do the work. Sometimes as psychologists (and as women!), we undervalue our worth. It’s not about grabbing for money, it’s about setting limits on how much we’re willing to work for free, and ultimately, it’s about getting paid fairly for our work.
Leadership programs for women have been enormously successful in giving women skills and opportunities to serve effectively in positions of power and to have a greater platform to do good. It’s important to take care of ourselves and to know our value to be at our most successful.