Manbassadors: Why We Need More of Them in Healthcare, and How to Find Them

On university ivy league campuses and specifically MBA programs around the world, something revolutionary is happening: men are joining the conversations on gender parity. Men at business schools are daring to step up and talk about the gender disparities.

I applaud this effort. Especially considering that some feel that by having a gender equity discussion leads to men feeling alienated, or worse yet, discriminated against themselves. At the end of the day, we’re all human, and frankly, we should include everyone in the conversation on how to become equal in the workplace.

What about in healthcare? As I’ve written about before, while we have more women than ever entering the healthcare workforce, very few, if any, make it to the top of healthcare organizations. Our numbers at the top, ladies, are dismal.

How might we fix this in healthcare? One way that I firmly believe we need more attention on is for women to find sponsors inside their respective organizations. Sponsors I’ve also written about before…they are people high up in your respective organization who will fight for you when you’re not in the room.

Likely, a sponsor is going to be an older white male (not always, but based upon my research of leadership in healthcare organizations, the odds make this true). Furthermore, I had a chat with one of my personal sponsors in healthcare this week on The Pharmacy Podcast, Dr. Harlan Weisman, who bravely took on this issue with me. Previously, another mentor of mine, Dr. David Borst and I tackled this issue a little in our podcast on our new book, The S(He) Says Guide to Mentoring.

We plan on having even more conversations around this topic in the months to come, but in the interim, here are some suggestions I heard from the Manbassadors in my world to seek out and attain more Manbassadors for women in healthcare:

How Women Can Find More Manbassadors:

  1. Do amazing work — You were hired to do something — how well are you doing it? Are you taking on crappy assignments and making everyone upset that they didn’t take on the gig, because you’re making it look easy and doing a great job with it? If you do amazing work and solve problems for upper management, that’s key to starting the conversation around finding manbassadors.
  2. Stop hiding — get out there and meet others in your organization — the larger the organization, the more critical this is to do. Show off your work! Does your company have a share fair or some place where you can share your awesome work in step 1 and put your work out there for a broader audience? If so, take advantage of that! As Dr. Weisman shared in his podcast, he met with hundreds of employees across his organization on a regular basis. You should be able to reach out and talk to upper management. (If you can’t — maybe you should re-think the organization you’re working for…). Also, be careful that you’re walking the talk on the first bullet in this article too — if you just get out and start connecting, talk a big game, but have no actual results, you’ll get branded as a “Big hat, no cattle” person. That means you can talk a good game, but you can’t get things done. That is NOT a good brand to have with senior management, and this could backfire when you do try to secure male sponsors in your organization.
  3. Make sure your voice is heard — Even Supreme Court Justices who are women suffer from this one — we get interrupted more than men. While I’m personally a little intimidated by the fact that if the notorious RBG can’t even stop being interrupted, I need to get over this, and you should too. Raise your voice if you’re interrupted, and don’t stop. If you’re a senior leader in the room, it’s YOUR job to ensure that everyone is being heard and there aren’t interruptions. Solicit for feedback AFTER the meeting in writing too if you can as a leader. It’s typically the quietest person in the room who has the best ideas, but if you as a leader don’t provide an environment in which to share them, your organization is doomed. Conversely, if you’re the introvert with the great ideas, follow up after the meeting in writing with them if you can’t get heard. Create a long tail conversation with senior management.
  4. Sponsor others — Ladies — you may feel powerless, but you have more power than you think. Go out and help the next generation of women (and men) leaders in your organization by sponsoring THEM, and next thing you know, you have a tribe of backers and supporters. It works both ways. If we’re all playing on the same team, shouldn’t we be helping each other? Part of being a leader is being a great talent spotter too — so if you can identify potential awesome talent in your organization and help develop them, you naturally become a leader as well.
  5. Be your own best advocate — When you ask for something at a company, if you’ve been performing all of the previous 4 steps, the worst thing that can happen is what? Right — they’ll say no to whatever it is that you want. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never get. Ask. Get. And a no today just means a no today — tomorrow is a whole new game.

There. As I have mentioned repeatedly, we can’t as ladies just keep talking to ourselves about gender parity, equal pay and fair treatment in workplaces. We must include men in the conversation. Luckily, a few have already stepped up at top business schools around the world to start their own conversations around this topic — yay for the manbassador pioneers! The question then becomes — will the top healthcare organizations on the planet also follow suit?

I hope so.


Erin Albert is co-author of the book, The S(He) Says Guide to Mentoring, inter alia.