The Network of Women in Emergency Medicine (NoWEM) began in 2018 as a collection of likeminded individuals seeking a space outside of work and training to connect.
‘When we began to look at the statistics on gender equity it became increasingly clear that women and gender diverse people were really under-represented in emergency medicine leadership, both in departments and at the College,’ FACEM Rhiannon Browne says.
‘We took the chance to shine a spotlight on some of the amazing things women and under-represented people in emergency medicine have done and have achieved.’
NoWEM is one of two group winners of the inaugural ACEM Diversity Award. It was nominated for its range of activities and initiatives promoting diversity, including its active blog, regular series of networking evenings and its advocacy at events across the globe – its ‘voice against exclusion’.
Since its inception the voice of NoWEM has grown from a group of three friends based at Campbelltown Hospital to more than 400 members across Australasia.
‘The original idea was developed over a shared sense of purpose and many cups of coffee. It resonated with many others in Sydney so we very rapidly developed a local community.
‘With social media and our website we were able to connect with others from far and wide.’
Those groups are now led in local networks, with the website and social media continuing to provide a centralised platform.
‘There are local branches across Australia and New Zealand, with regular events in south-east Queensland, Perth and at major conferences (such as the ACEM ASM, FeminEM’s FIX in New York, and SMACC).’
Rhiannon says diversity makes sense at an organisational level.
‘Having a range of perspectives and ideas is so valuable for an organisation, especially when we are caring for communities with each unique identities and needs.
‘Creating a genuinely inclusive culture in healthcare allows each of us to lead more fulfilling and productive professional lives and to provide the best care for our patients.’
In 2020 NoWEM began to expand its view to consider inclusion practices more broadly.
‘Our focus on equity led us to consider other dimensions of inclusion and representation, beyond gender. We’re exploring race, as well as social determinants such as class, poverty and disadvantage and how these factors affect the lives of our patients and of our current and future colleagues in healthcare.
‘COVID-19 interrupted our ability to host local, in-person events last year but gave us the impetus to innovate about how we do things. We hosted a few webinars in 2020, one on anti-racism, and another on “levelling the pandemic playing field”, which covered some of these other topics.’
Resources from their events are hosted on the NoWEM website, which is also home to a blog featuring a range of contributing authors.
‘We publish a blog to share perspectives, stories and ideas from our community and highlight achievements of our members through an electronic newsletter. We want our website to be a useful resource for anyone interested in exploring and promoting diversity in emergency medicine.’
Rhiannon says NoWEM being a recipient of the inaugural ACEM Diversity Award is an honour.
‘It means a lot to know that our work is making a difference to our members, our workplaces and the community.
‘It takes time and energy to launch and maintain an organisation like NoWEM. The connections and relationships we have been able to create and the joy of seeing the work have impact keeps us coming back for more.
‘We’re delighted ACEM created this award to promote and celebrate a more inclusive and equitable future and hope the College’s leadership will set the tone for other organisations and institutions in healthcare.’
Details about the ACEM Wellbeing Award and ACEM Diversity Award are available here. Nominations for both awards will open again later in 2021.