Should we change women to become leaders or should we change leadership for everyone?

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This editorial, written by authors from the Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Management at Perth Children’s Hospital, describes various initiatives such as the Woman’s Empowerment and Leadership Initiative (WELI) and ANZCA’s Panel Pledge. It reflects on the failure to achieve gender equity in academic medicine despite these efforts. A possible rationale for this failure is offered which argues that change may require not only empowering women but also challenging the current paradigms of leadership to provide more attractive leadership options. Examples of how this might work include changing the traditional pyramidical vertical leadership model to collective or shared leadership models which would be more appropriate for not just for women but all, in an environment where there is demand for better work life balance together with the ability to commit to other responsibilities such as childcare.

Another example is separating academic and clinical leadership roles within a department. Spreading leadership to more than one individual has advantages in enabling better continuity and retention of corporate knowledge while allowing for improved diversity and the ability to allow more junior members of a department to participate in leadership roles while having support from more experienced colleagues.

Reviewed by Susan Hale