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In anticipation of International Women's Day on March 8, Catherine Wang is reflecting on her role as a woman in leadership. It's top of mind for UHN's Vice-President of Clinical Operations & Diagnostic Partnerships.
"I feel responsible for demonstrating authenticity," she says. "I think it's important to share the challenges of being a woman in leadership, work-life balance, motherhood and beyond."
That responsibility is increasing with her new role as Executive Co-sponsor of
UHNWomen, a program designed to support two-way learning and mentorship of women at UHN.
UHNWomen's inaugural event is June 3.
Read more about the event and complete free registration.
"I was coached to never show vulnerability or competing priorities as a mother or wife," Catherine says. "It's only in the last couple of years where I realized that was a disservice to not only myself, but my colleagues as well.
"We cannot try to fit into something that's not authentically us. We don't bring our best selves to work that way."
Introducing UHNWomen – built by members of TeamUHN
Women face unique gender-based challenges at work that span across a wide spectrum. It can be difficult to openly discuss those experiences which can, in turn, negatively impact individual well-being and organizational outcomes.
In response, UHNWomen was initiated by three passionate members of TeamUHN. Ingrid Yu, Communications, Office of the President & CEO, Marianne D'souza, Consulting, Commercial Strategy Office, UHN, and Silva Karagoz, Corporate Partnerships, The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, saw an opportunity to help empower a diverse TeamUHN and advance UHN's vision of A Healthier World.
"We're fortunate enough to have great mentors and people we look up to in our lives," Ingrid says. "Catherine is a prime example because she is smart, charismatic, and openly acknowledges the challenges of being a woman.
"Her vulnerability gives us space to acknowledge our own experiences instead of feeling the need to hide them. UHN is full of great people and the goal of UHNWomen is to create a space where women are able to share their experiences so everyone can learn and build a stronger TeamUHN."
The three UHNWomen co-founders are self-identified women of colour and committed to inclusivity in the creation of the program. In addition to acknowledging the intersection of accessibility, race, gender and other forms of identity, the program uses "women" as a term that welcomes everyone who identifies as such.
The program is taking its first steps with an inaugural event on June 3., which is described as a series of "speed mentoring" sessions. Mentors who have already signed on include Darlene Dasent, UHN's Chief Financial Officer and named one of Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women by Women's Executive Network, Mary Kay McCarthy, Senior Clinical Director of Complex Continuing Care at Toronto Rehab, Dr. Joy Richards, Chief Health Professions at UHN, Dr. Lisa Richardson, General Internal Medicine Physician at UHN, and Dr. Gelareh Zadeh, Program Medical Director of Krembil Brain Institute and Head of Surgical Oncology. Read the full list of mentors.
In a less traditional move, the program is also involving men for its launch. Read more about the agenda and format of the June 3 event.
"After consulting with our peers, we feel it would be a missed opportunity to not include men in the conversation – starting with male leaders who express a willingness to listen and learn," says Ingrid. "We're thrilled to share many leaders sought us out after hearing about our plan to launch and asked to be involved. I know more will come forward as awareness of UHNWomen grows."
The co-founders do plan on hosting future events exclusively for women to create safe spaces for important and sensitive topics.
The importance of involving men upfront in the conversation is also reflected by the selection of UHNWomen's other Executive Co-sponsor, Dr. Brian Hodges, UHN's EVP Education and Chief Medical Officer.
"Fifty-six per cent of UHN's Executive Leadership Forum and 52 per cent of UHN's Senior Management Forum are women, which means we've made some good progress at the organization's highest decision-making tables," says Dr. Hodges. "But we know there is much more work to be done.
"We are committed to better serving the women of UHN and addressing the unique challenges faced by the different professions across care, research and education."