Women Leaders of UCSF Share Tips for Success

Monday, March 16, 2020

Student. Postdoc. Scientist. Clinician. Professor. Mentor. Women at UCSF hold many titles. But, developing and advancing one’s career in healthcare isn’t easy for women.

On March 6, UCSF women leaders discussed positive and negative influences during their career and advice they would give to a younger self during “UCSF Women Leaders Tell Their Stories,” which was hosted in honor of International Women’s Day celebration.

Here are key advice and takeaways:

Know what you’re worth, and advocate for it.

The quote “If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu,” applies to any kind of organizational leadership. If you are not being represented at the decision-making table, you will likely get left out.

“When you don’t get what you want, ask your boss what do I need to do to get it — maybe there’s something you don’t know that you need to improve. But, if it’s clear you are not going to get it, it’s time to leave,” said Aimee Alden, Director of Local & State Government Relations.

Because “no one’s going to look out for your career except for you,” you have to be proactive about what you want to achieve.

“Look for those places and people who will support you and pay what you are worth and take advantage of whatever leadership opportunities that you want to take. Those people are out there,” she added.

Invest in relationships.

Creating meaningful connections and building strong professional relationships is key to a successful career.

Even though UCSF is a large institution, the key players you will interact with as you move up in your career will be the same.

“[It] doesn’t matter if you are in dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, or nursing. If you are coming to the table, there will be a lot of familiar faces. The sooner that people can understand and embrace that, it will be easier to move up and feel comfortable reaching out,” said Stephanie Louie, Department Manager for the Department of Cell and Tissue Biology, Anatomy, Immunology and Microbiology.

She also advised the audience to “start connecting with role models and examples, so they can share their story for you to figure out what your next steps should be.”

Keep a positive perspective!

Everyone has some level of insecurity; it’s not just you. When you face times of failure, it’s important to demonstrate self-compassion rather than being your harshest critic.

“Act like your best-friend: if your best friend was coming to you with these issues, what would you tell them? Be kind to yourself,” said Kate Shumate, Chief of Staff and Director of Administration and Planning in the Helen Diller Cancer Center.

And, remember that there will always be peaks and valleys.

“If you’re in the valley, you’re not going to be there forever, and you’re likely at the bottom, so all that’s left is for you to go back up. Don’t let [being in the valley] cripple you in what your next steps will be; that’s not going to define you; it’s what you’re going to do to get yourself out of there,” said Louie.

Finally, Eunice Stephens, Chief of Staff for the School of Dentistry, emphasized everyone to be “your biggest fan. You have to be your biggest cheerleader.”