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Health leadership roles are missing one thing: women

Smiling attractive young woman doctor with stethoscope and tablet
Posted at 4:47 PM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 06:21:43-04

The oldest educational institute for girls and women in the country is on a mission to change its coursework and change the health leadership gap.

Salem College wants to propel women towards influential roles in healthcare and beyond.

RoyseAnn Day says it didn't take long for her to fall in love with Salem College.

"I love the campus. It's such a beautiful campus," Day said. "Everyone is so welcoming and excited for you to be there."

Day said, as a kid, science didn't interest her, but by the time she finished high school though, she was hooked.

"I had two amazing women science teachers, and they really pushed me to work on those subjects, and I realized I loved them, so that started my interest in science, and then from there I started to look more at health care, and I fell in love."

Now a junior with plans to major in Biochemistry, she wants to be a doctor.

"I think it's crazy that we don't have more women in health leadership I think it should be about equal.. and seeing that it's not.. and that Salem is working to push women more to make it equal, I'm excited we're doing that."

Researchers with Oliver Wyman say women are working in healthcare, but the problem is, only a third of them are in leadership roles.

"We believe the world does need changing," says Lucy Rose, vice-chair of the Salem Academy and college board of trustees. She has a unique perspective as an alumnus of the school. "I chose Salem specifically because I wanted to go to a women's college so I would have the opportunities to speak up and be heard."

In the 1960s, there were more than 280 women's colleges.

Now, there are less than 40.

Rose says some of those schools merged, and some became co-ed. Some have different names, among other reasons.

But Salem Academy stayed.

"We're getting ready to celebrate our birthday in the coming academic year," Rose said. "That's 250 years of educating women leaders, and we believe we have a particular purpose of fulfilling in this country. That is to create a pipeline of women with a purpose who are united and ready to lead the change in health that we need to see in our world."

As the school looks toward the future, Rose says they realized there are gaps where women can not only make an impact, but there's a need.
"What do women want? What do employers need and where might we go and as we began to look data," Rose said. "Health just jumped out at us in terms of a need to change, and it matched perfectly with the needs of women who are high schoolers right now."

Starting this fall, students will see a change in what's being offered, with curriculum around health sciences, health humanities, advocacy, and humanitarian systems.

Classes will feature critical thinking and problem-solving in this field and others, like law and public policy, business, and the environment.

As for Day, this is just the beginning of what's next for her and her cohorts.

"I am super excited for this health leadership initiative," Day said. "It's a great way for Salem to expand on our liberal arts education and make students well rounded and to push women to succeed in a field that doesn't have a ton of women in it."