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WIO Luncheon Speaker Addresses Women in Leadership


Christine M. Surawicz, MD, shares lessons she's learned as a woman in leadership with members of the Women in Otolaryngology Section Monday.

Christine M. Surawicz, MD, shares lessons she’s learned as a woman in leadership with members of the Women in Otolaryngology Section Monday.

Traits often shared by women, like empathy, interpersonal skills, flexibility, inclusive team builders, and the ability to take risks under pressure, are valuable role in the workplace.

“I think our traits as women do give us the potential to be really great leaders,” she said. “We’ve basically been training for this all of our lives.”

During the event, Dr. Surawicz interacted with the large gathering of mostly women, asking them questions, listening to them share experiences of their own, and giving them time to discuss certain topics among their tables.

At one point, she asked the women to describe a time when they felt that they were judged unfairly based on their gender.

An audience member shared that she once applied for a position in a military residency program. During an interview, the program director asked her if she knit or sewed to maintain her manual dexterity.

“I was really surprised with that question,” she said. “It caught me off guard. When I got out of the interview I asked my male colleague how his interview went and I discovered that he’d not been asked anything about how he maintained his manual dexterity, so it was clearly a bias based on my gender.”

Dr. Surawicz said she does see the situation improving, and in fact believes men increasingly want to see women in leadership roles.

“I do think the bias against women leaders is decreasing, but I do think it’s still there,” she said. “Traditional gender roles are changing and I think men who elect to stay at home are experiencing a tremendous amount of bias as well.”

Dr. Surawicz left the audience with three leadership lessons she’s learned in her own career.

“If you’re going to ask other people to do things you should do them yourself,” she said. “If you’re going to ask somebody to do a little more on-call during the summer, you should do some more summer on-call. Make sure things are fair.”

Another bit of wisdom she shared is to listen more.

“As someone who hates conflict, I’ve had to learn how to embrace it and I’ve had to learn how to listen,” she said. “I believe every story has three sides: my side, your side and the truth. I’ve had to learn that. I’ve also had to learn to listen more than I talk. As they say, we have two ears and one mouth so we should be listening twice as much as we speak.”

The third lesson she shared is found in a quote by poet Maya Angelou. Dr. Surawicz found the quote about 15 years ago and adopted it as her own golden rule.

“People will forget what you tell them, they may remember what you show them what to do, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel,” she said. “That really has resonated with me.”

During the Women in Otolaryngology Section General Assembly following the luncheon, the organization elected two new officers. Christine B. Franzese, MD, was selected as chair-elect, and Dale Amanda Tylor, MD, was elected member-at-large.