During the 2000’s, the Student ACA (SACA) launched a Women’s Forum as part of its annual meeting. The event focused on the challenges and opportunities for women in chiropractic and provided guidance for those who aspired to positions of leadership. I recall one year Dr. Heidi Henson, an early-career mentor of mine, leaned over to me during the event and said, “Won’t it be nice one day when we are just recognized for being leaders (and not female leaders)”?
Twenty years later, there has certainly been progress. There are more female DCs joining the profession every year, and ACA’s own House of Delegates features more women than ever before in its history. As ACA’s first woman president, I am acutely aware that I have benefited from the pioneering careers of female chiropractors and leaders who paved the way before me. I have had incredible professional mentors of all genders who valued my contributions and created space for me “at the table.”
I also recognize that even today talented women are sometimes not afforded the same support and run into resistance — be it direct or indirect, intentional or not — as they try to advance their careers. That’s why it’s important we continue to talk about issues surrounding gender equity, listen to others share their experiences (no matter how different they may be from our own), and be informed by those discussions as we move forward.
Granted, addressing gender bias and inequity is challenging and these are often uncomfortable discussions. For some, it can mean reliving negative experiences, feeling vulnerable, defensive, or frustrated. These talks can also highlight the intersectionality between gender and biases around age, race, or experience.
Recognizing, discussing, and addressing gender inequity is important not only to the growth of ourselves as individuals, but also for the advancement of the chiropractic profession. As noted in the ACA Code of Ethics, personal and professional development is expected of us as healthcare providers and leaders in our communities.
We are all standard bearers within the chiropractic profession. We each have a role to play in creating a culture of gender equity and inclusion. This plays out in numerous ways and is reflected, among other things, in the language we choose and how we create community. It’s not about women vs. men or unconstructive generalizations. Above all, our interactions with one another should be grounded in mutual respect and with an eye toward treating others as they would like to be treated.
Dr. Maiers is president of the American Chiropractic Association.