Women in healthcare

Women in healthcare

< Back to Articles | Topics: Spotlight | Contributors: Sara Ericsson | Published: April 1, 2024

Left: Signature Health CEO, co-founder, and co-owner Monique Fares says increased health awareness has also resulted in more advances in women’s healthcare. (Image Credit: TBC) Right: Granville Biomedical Co-Founder and CEO Christine Goudie says “there has never been a better time” for women to lead change in the health sector. (Image Credit: Corey Isenor)

Nova Scotia’s current healthcare sector challenges are not the first time that some groups have faced challenges in accessing healthcare and healthcare services. Those groups include women* and gender-diverse people, who have long faced gaps in healthcare.

This is both a historical fact and a present-day problem, with the pandemic, for example, putting pressure on existing healthcare system challenges like screenings, procedures and treatments for breast, cervical and ovarian cancers.

Yet as women face these gaps in care, Statistics Canada data shows that year over year, women make up around three-quarters of people working in care positions. More women than ever are now moving into leadership positions within hospitals and health-sector companies. So when are such gaps in healthcare for women set to change?

Two women within the healthcare and health tech sectors in Atlantic Canada say that despite current challenges, the sector is experiencing a massive shift as more women step into leadership roles. These women include Granville Biomedical Co-Founder and CEO Christine Goudie and Signature Health CEO, co-founder, and co-owner Monique Fares, who are leading their companies with innovative approaches to health care. Both say that while many inequities remain, the main factor that is set to make healthcare more accessible to these communities is, of course, women.

“We have to be leading the charge when it comes to innovation. Let’s now take that another step further and be the change. It’s our time—there’s never been a better time,” says Goudie.

Gaps and opportunities

As healthcare delivery is under a microscope, and as the sector faces challenges around healthcare access, worker recruitment and retention across Canada, Goudie says the focus this has created has also served to highlight ongoing inequities in women’s health, and in the education around women’s health.

“It’s a common problem around the world, and a gap in the system internationally that spans all continents,” she says. “That opportunity makes us excited, but at the same time very disappointed because women’s health should be so much more advanced.”

Fares also feels these gaps present a unique opportunity. She says that of her many years being involved in the health sector, the last seven have shown her that health awareness is top of mind for many in Nova Scotia. This awareness has also, according to Fares, simultaneously revealed more advances in women’s healthcare.

“I am seeing women’s health clinics pop up across our region to address the many health concerns and questions that women have,” says Fares. “I am also seeing new technology advancements to help shape certain areas like breast cancer treatment.”

There are many advances that both Fares and Goudie are leading within their respective roles. Fares oversees the delivery of preventative health care at Signature Health, a private health clinic in Halifax that helps patients access and understand early detection, regular screenings, and knowledge of their disease risk factors.

Goudie launched the health tech company Granville Biomedical in 2019 with her Co-Founder, Crystal Northcott. The company designs anatomical pelvic health models, which in turn address the lack of educational tools within women’s health. They first targeted medical schools and were met with huge interest from private practitioners. They now sell products in 18 countries around the world, which Goudie says illustrates a demand for better educational tools.

“I think being a woman, leading a women’s health company is almost a non-negotiable in my mind. We have to be responsible to find problems, to address them, and be brave enough to take them on, to join leadership and have our voices heard at a meaningful level,” she says. “Lived experience is what brings change.”

‘So much more to tackle’

Certain specific advances within women’s health excite both Fares and Goudie, many of which are increasing access to care. Goudie, for example, says a recent major win has been the delivery of at-home HPV testing kits across Canada, which create incredible potential for earlier diagnoses and improved access to care. She and Fares also both note that within private healthcare and health tech companies, more women are becoming founders or are newly working in leadership roles.

Goudie says this has also led to women finding and revealing more issues within women’s health that need solving. “The more you learn, the more you realize you’re only addressing the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to tackle.”

It could (and likely does) feel daunting to many that there remain so many issues to be addressed within the delivery of healthcare to women. But Fares says while sharing in that concern, she feels a sense of optimism alongside it, as the attention these issues are attracting means more is simultaneously paid to innovative work that is helping to address them.

She says much of this work is being led by women, and that much of it is the result of them working in those leadership roles. And as more women enter the sector, and its leadership roles, they will bring more change with them.

“We have incredible women entrepreneurs, health professionals, and researchers in our region that are creating and making advances in women’s health every day,” says Fares.

Leading the way

As more women work at the helm of women’s health companies, Fares says it should follow that more women become leaders in the delivery of healthcare to other women. As healthcare is such a personal experience, this representation goes a long way to ensuring increased comfort levels around receiving care, according to Fares. She says that many women practitioners also approach healthcare from a unique perspective and holistic approach, leading with empathy, inclusivity, and strong communication.

As this approach is one Fares and her team practice at Signature Health, she says she encourages other women to consider using such an approach themselves in their delivery of care. She says this not only ensures higher levels of patient comfort but also acts as a preventative approach to health, rather than a reactive one.

“This type of leadership is what is transforming the healthcare space today, and I encourage all women to join the sector,” she says. “Having more resources to assist individuals in having a proactive approach to their health will only benefit our healthcare system. I encourage everyone to take a proactive health approach. It is not just for you, but also for all who depend on you.”

This proactive approach has also been a game changer to those who now use Granville Biomedical’s educational models, according to Goudie. And as these education models help practitioners all over the world, she remains excited to see their local impact within Atlantic Canada, as they are used to help women of all ages get educated about their bodies, practice informed consent to medical procedures, and overall sound decision making and safer choices.

Goudie feels confident that advances such as these will continue as more women take on leadership roles, and continue spurring the next wave of solutions that will benefit women in healthcare and health tech sectors.

“Now that healthcare is starting to shift, I don’t know that clinicians will ever want to go back,” she says. “Now we know better, so let’s do better. Let’s keep this fire burning—let’s keep innovation progressing and happening.”

*Please note that our reference to women in this article applies to all folks who identify as women, within and beyond the gender identity of ‘woman,’ and includes gender-diverse and other identities.”

< Back to Articles | Topics: Spotlight

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