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Six women leaders share their perspective on leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic
13 minute read

Six women leaders share their perspective on leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic

Summary:

On the United Nations’ International Women’s Day, we shine a spotlight on six women leaders making a difference every day at SickKids.

On the United Nations’ (UN) International Women’s Day, and every day, we celebrate all of the women making a difference at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).

The UN has declared this year’s theme “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” highlighting the tremendous efforts by women and girls involved in the pandemic response and recovery to shape a better and more inclusive future.

To mark this important day, female leaders at SickKids share their perspectives on what it means to be a leader. These six women work in various areas across SickKids and make tremendous contributions in clinical care, research and education.

Dr. Rulan Parekh, Associate Chief, Clinical Research, and Senior Scientist, Child Health Evaluative Sciences, Research Institute; and Staff Physician, Nephrology

What does it mean to be a  SickKids leader?

At SickKids, I have the privilege to work with other leaders to connect, engage and collaborate with an incredible group of individuals with the goal of improving clinical outcomes in children. As a leader, I advocate for clinical research throughout the organization and am honoured to have a voice at the table with other leaders to effect meaningful change in child health.

How has your leadership approach pivoted during COVID-19?

At the beginning last March, we wanted to ensure decisions were compassionate and empathic to worries of the first lockdown. As the pandemic continued, we created forums for stakeholders to listen to concerns on the potential impact of COVID-19 on their research and productivity. We continue to advocate for research and have committees addressing issues in this ever-evolving pandemic.

Throughout the year, we advocated and highlighted opportunities for research on COVID-19. Across the entire Research Institute leadership and operations, we pivoted to support teams to study key questions with COVID-19. There is lots of exciting SickKids studies ranging from mental health to vaccine development that are contributing to health of Canadians.

Sandra Moro, Deputy Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Director, Office of the CIO, Information Management & Technology

What does it mean to be a SickKids leader?

I could probably write an entire essay on what it means to be a SickKids leader and it would include many of the conventional traits of good leadership, such as inspiring people, strategic thinking, flexibility and effective communication. All are very important qualities of leadership.  For me, being a leader at SickKids means not really thinking too much about myself as a leader, but rather seeing myself as an integral part of the team. My actions and decisions are motivated by wanting to achieve the best possible outcomes for SickKids. So, for me, the most important qualities of leadership are integrity and authenticity.

How has your leadership approach pivoted during COVID-19?

Since the start of COVID-19, I have spent more time speaking openly with team members about the challenges we all face with the pandemic. Especially now, a year from the start of the pandemic, and with many of us still working remotely, finding opportunities to stay connected and check in with the team has become more important.

Karen Sappleton, Senior Manager, Child and Family-Centred Care and Health Equity

What does it mean to be a  SickKids leader?

The privilege of being a SickKids leader means recognizing and appreciating those with whom I work while trying to advance institutional changes that embrace the diversity and uniqueness of each of our patients, families and colleagues. As a manager of various programs, initiatives, education and consultations, I feel honoured to experience working with every corner of the organization. It is impossible to do anything I do without my incredible teams or collaboration with colleagues throughout the hospital. And I certainly would not be as successful guiding our work to fruition without the support of my leaders.

As a leader, a part of my job is to ensure that each person’s differences are celebrated so that they can be the best they can be in the work they do. These differences are so diverse and beautiful, and we must strive to be more inclusive of these differences among our peers, patients and families. We should build more capacity to understand, rather than fear or avoid these differences. As a leader I am not always successful, and I make plenty of my own mistakes (not big ones, thankfully), but I hope I model for others how I keep myself accountable and continue to learn and do better.

How has your leadership approach pivoted during COVID-19?

During this unprecedented time my leadership approach hasn’t changed much. Recognizing that everyone is experiencing various levels of stressors and fears, ensuring that each person feels supported for their own needs was and continues to be important to me. Thinking about each person not just as a colleague but as a parent, child, partner, grandparent, friend, neighbour, for example, is especially important during this time. Being flexible and recognizing various external factors impacting their lives as a result of COVID-19 has made it critical to see the person in their environment to truly support the balancing act required of so many of us.

Lisa Goos, Director, Clinical Research Services, Research Institute

What does it mean to be a  SickKids leader?

Being a SickKids leader means being part of a talented, motivated team striving for excellence. It means knowing you work with the best in the world, all serving the humblest among us.

Being a SickKids leader means having a bird’s eye view to the transformational change that research can bring to sick children and their families; It means hoping and praying and working and striving to make that transformational change happen for as many kids as possible. 

How has your leadership approach pivoted during COVID-19?

The pandemic not only required the Clinical Research Services (CRS) team to adapt to working remotely, we also needed to provide support and guidance to help the SickKids clinical research community adapt their research to the realities of COVID-19.

I am incredibly proud of the ingenuity, adaptability, commitment and quality CRS has displayed from the initial shutdown in 2020 to this very day. As a high-energy, fast-moving, big-ideas kind of person, I was a bit unsure how that would translate over video calls. But COVID-19 has meant we all bring a little more of ourselves (and our children, and our pets, and our bad hair days…) to work. In such a state, I’ve seen that dedicated, hardworking people still give traction to good ideas, as long as they are cushioned by kindness, empathy and a generous sprinkling of humour.

Janet Ma, Director, Facilities & Infrastructure and Space Management, Research Institute

What does it mean to be a  SickKids  leader?

It is absolutely a privilege to be a leader at SickKids, working with so many wonderful leaders so dedicated in the work they do – whether it is advancing paediatric research, educating the next generation of health-care professionals or improving child health. To see so many female leaders and executives across the organization is truly encouraging to women, especially those who fear taking the next step in their career.

How has your leadership approach pivoted during COVID-19?

Overall, it hasn’t changed a whole lot except maybe more compassion, empathy and flexibility given all the stressors that everyone is experiencing during COVID. However, I do think these are core values that most leaders at SickKids demonstrate already.

Dr. Karen Leslie, Staff Physician, Adolescent Medicine

What does it mean to be a SickKids leader?

Being a leader at SickKids means constantly scanning what is going on within the hospital and in the local, national and international academic health-care communities to position new and existing initiatives to make strong contributions. It also means being able to engage with such a vast diversity of experiences, expertise and perspectives of those who work here.

How has your leadership approach pivoted during COVID-19?

I would say the biggest thing I’ve done differently as a result of the pandemic is to be more intentional about checking in with people at the beginning of meetings, acknowledging that we all have lot more going on and being able to bring that into how we approach whatever the project or activity on which we are collaborating.

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