SLU Students Launch ‘Women in Leadership’ Group to Tackle Big Issues

Health management and policy graduate students develop skills and attitudes to support a positive gender environment in health care.

The three co-chairs of the Women In Leadership group stand together.

Left to right: Danielle Young, M.H.A. '17, stands next to co-chairs Poonam Sheevam, M.H.A. '17, and Aarohi Rastogi, M.P.H. '17.

“Gender discrimination is more subtle and harder to identify than it used to be, but it’s still there,” says Poonam Sheevam, M.H.A. ‘17, co-chair of the Women In Leadership group launched last year as a support, learning and networking group for female students in the health management and policy program at the College for Public Health and Social Justice.

Founded in 2015 by alumnae Tara Dhiman, M.H.A. ‘16, and Tracy Sexton, M.P.H. ‘16, the group meets to discuss barriers they might, one day, face at work; it’s one part educational space–with speakers, videos and podcasts–and one part open discussion.

“The world of healthcare, especially at the executive level, is a very male-dominated world,” says Sheevam. “At these meetings, we learn how to have productive conversations about issues such as wage discrimination and sexual harassment; which is an extremely valuable tool since gender issues can be so polarizing.”

Sheevam, along with co-chairs Danielle Young, M.H.A. ‘17, and Aarohi Rastogi, M.P.H. ‘17, took on leadership roles this year because they experienced firsthand how valuable the discussions were; all three have already earned spots at healthcare organizations post-graduation.

“Women often hold themselves back because they’re afraid of being seen as ‘too’ aggressive or not aggressive enough. That’s not helpful!” says Young.

The group meets once a month with about 20 regular attendees to develop positive approaches to supporting women in health care; the “potluck-style” meetings are open to anyone that wants to attend but, with the exception of one, it’s mostly women.

The guest speakers range from women in the health care work force to department faculty such as Kristin Wilson, Ph.D., and Kathleen Gillespie, Ph.D., who serve as faculty advisors.

“I have the right to –and should–negotiate my salary. That’s something that women often don’t do out of fear the offer will be rescinded. That’s ridiculous. Men do it; women should too,” says Rastogi. An introvert, Rastogi credits her newfound confidence in wage negotiations with what she learned from last year’s speaker Brooke Timmons, associate general counsel for World Wide Technology and adjunct faculty with the health management and policy department.

For their next event, the group will host a panel discussion with five alumnae on how to network at a large conference, in preparation for the American College of Healthcare Executives’ 2017 Congress on Healthcare Leadership in March.

The real value of the group, however, is the lifelong network they are forming with each other and in the community, all three co-chairs agree.

Upcoming Event Details:
Women In Leadership/SAHMP Alumni Networking Panel
Tuesday, February 28, 2017 from 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Salus Center Auditorium
Why? Improve upon your networking skills with SLU M.H.A. alumni
Panel Participants: Amanda Hunt, Tracy Omer, Erin Roesemeier, Marquisha Johns, Sarah (Doherty) Gray

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CPHSJ Communications
Published: February 21, 2017

About the College for Public Health and Social Justice

The Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice is the only academic unit of its kind, studying social, environmental and physical influences that together determine the health and wellbeing of people and communities. 

It also is the only accredited school or college of public health among nearly 250 Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States. Guided by a mission of social justice and focus on finding innovative and collaborative solutions for complex health problems, the College offers nationally recognized programs in public health, social work, health administration, applied behavior analysis, and criminology and criminal justice.