BY SUZANNE MAYNARD
As a woman, it can be a precarious climb up the ladder. Along the way there are many things that can make us slip and falter. Those missteps shape us, it is part of what makes reaching the top such an incredible reward. But there is something so much more than our own challenges teaching us lessons. We learn, it isn’t just the view from the top, but it’s what we see when we look behind us. We rise by reaching down to bring others with us.
Successful women don’t do it alone (1). It’s about resisting the urge to protect what we’ve worked so hard for, ensuring we don’t deny other women the opportunity to reach for their own potential and leadership goals. It takes courage and heart to lower the ladder so others can reach their own potential and embark on their own leadership journey. It’s about redefining a culture of sisterhood. As EMS professionals we can mentor and support each other providing a safe and inclusive culture to leave as our legacy.
I didn’t recognize it as it was happening in my own career, but I see it clearly now. There have been exceptional leaders, throughout my journey, who were brave enough to not be threatened by my success but to celebrate it. They are fierce females. They never invited competition, instead they shared their own wisdom and knowledge with me, while still allowing me to discover my own strengths. It gave me the chance to set my own bar, and strive to exceed my own expectations, not theirs. It was an empowering lesson, which I want to emulate. I’m grateful for their encouragement and unfiltered conversations that encouraged me to self-reflect. They made me realize my own flaws and inspired me to use them to my advantage, taking the time and patience to showcase my traits as treasures.
Women continue to be under represented in leadership roles across EMS. There is a disparity between men and women (2). When women are strong there can be a perception, we are aggressive. When men are assertive they can be seen as confident. Women’s emotions can be viewed as a barrier to leadership (3). It has resulted in women being more inclined to doubt themselves or underestimate their own competence. Are we good enough? Will we succeed? Society needs to see those perspectives evolve. Tenacity is an asset to a career. Empathy is a valued characteristic of a leader (3). There is no shame in those qualities, no guilt in belief of our own abilities. We as women need to stop apologizing for it and take ownership of our own success.
I believe it’s possible to cultivate an environment within EMS where we all succeed. There needs to be a space for inclusive mentoring relationships. Even the hardest of glass ceilings have cracks from all the women who have overcome barriers 9 (4). We are stronger together. The question shouldn’t be who’s going to let us, but rather, who’s going to stop us.
- Eagly A, Carli L. The female leadership advantage: an evaluation of the evidence. The Leadership Quarterly. 2003; 14(6):807-834.
- Emmerik H, Wendt H, Martin E. Gender ratio, societal culture, and male and female leadership. BPS. 2015; 83(4):895-914
- Fischbach A, Lichtenthaler P, Horstmann N. Leadership and gender stereotyping of emotions. Journal of Personnel Psychology. 2015; 14(3):153-162.
- Dreher G. Breaking the glass ceiling: the effects of sex ratios and work-life programs on female leadership at the top. Sage Journals. 2003; 56(5):541-562.