Professor Kamila Hawthorne is the newly appointed Interim Lead of the Graduate Entry Medicine Programme at Swansea University.
How do you balance work and home responsibilities?
I always have found this difficult! I’ve tried all sorts of permutations, but there never seem to be enough hours in the day. Over the years, I’ve found what works best is to do whatever seems to be the most important thing, and not try to compartmentalise work and home. I am often multi-tasking. Sometimes the number of burnt offerings to the family gets too much, and I have to concentrate more on what I’m doing!
Do women in your profession have a hard time getting promoted?
Yes, I think they do, but the barriers are often subtle and difficult to define. The best way to see it is in the numbers of meetings I attend where I may be the only woman in the room. I have also found that in competition with men, for leadership roles, selection panels are conditioned by their own expectations of what a ‘leader’ should look and sound like.
How has organisational culture changed for women in the last 10 years?
In medicine, it has changed significantly, with many more opportunities for part-time working during training grades, and longer maternity leaves becoming more acceptable (in my day, we were expected to take six weeks off for having a baby!). There are far more women in medicine too, with almost 60-70% of medical school intakes being female (when I started in the late 1970s, it was 10% in my medical school).
There is still a way to go, with stereotypical behaviour from some senior medics still making women feel undermined by expectations that they should behave like a man.
What makes a good leader?
Good leaders are good listeners, thoughtful, compassionate and able to help people find solutions to problems. They help their team members to achieve their potential. Sometimes, the real test of a good leader is how they react and manage things in a crisis. I think Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister, is a great example for us all.
As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?
I reached a ‘glass ceiling’ about five years ago, and no amount of pressure seemed to shift it. Then I attended a meeting where a role model talking about his career said, “If you reach a barrier, think about going around it instead of through it.” As a result, I applied for a post elsewhere and moved on.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organisations?
- Take time to think, don’t go rushing in with half-thought-through concepts.
- Listen actively to what people say and take time to get to know them as people.
- Give and take - don’t upset people unless you have to – nearly everyone prefers someone who can make a team work. Be nice!
- Build your networks and support groups.