Walk into any nursing home or medical office, and initially it seems like the industry is run by women. After all, a majority of nurses, aides, and administrates tend to be female. But in reality, the field is dominated by men who are mostly the ones that own and operate major healthcare facilities. According to statistics aggregated by Zippia, an online employment database which compiles industry facts, figures, and demographics, there are over 4,826 nursing home administrators in the U.S. with over half being women. But this data is misleading since even though women make up the vast majority of healthcare workers, fewer than 20% hold key leadership positions with 66% making up entry-level positions. According to Modern Healthcare, the industry’s leading source of healthcare business, policy, research and trends, women make up 30% of executive level positions, and when we’re talking about CEOs, that number drops to 13%.
I interviewed several women who are nursing home admins in the Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Lakewood areas and all expressed frustration in this gender setup. They complained that problems arise when owners are more business minded and lack the healthcare background needed to properly run a nursing home. Respect, glass ceilings, and pay disparity were the key issues continuously brought up by these nursing home admins who wished to remain anonymous.
This pressing need is what prompted Shira (Yonit) Lasry, an operations manager for Mobile Care, a company that sends dentists to nursing homes, to found WEEH (Woman Empower Each other in Healthcare) with her friends and colleagues Rivka Brodsky and Zahava Perlstein who also work in healthcare.
Lasry observed that all the healthcare conferences she attended were mostly male, making her feel out of place and underrepresented. When speaking to other women in the healthcare field, she sensed their feelings of being unsure how to navigate the system where women are the minority. “I started WEEH because I wanted a group of like-minded driven professionals that I felt comfortable with,” she says.
WEEH is relatively new, with only four core members (ironically, one being male), but Lasry reports that many have reached out expressing an interest enrolling and wanting to get involved. Word is spreading about their objective and the movement is getting much momentum.
I recently sat down with Lasry to learn more about WEEH and its mission.
What is the objective of WEEH?
WEEH is there to empower and support women in healthcare. Men are doing amazing things in the field, but there are lots of women who also want to grow professionally and make their mark in the healthcare world. WEEH allows a platform where women can gain and learn from each other while receiving valuable advice.
Our goal is trifold:
- Networking 2. Support: Learn and grow from each other helping other women move up in their careers. 3. Empower.
We want to create a network where we don’t just create events that are catered to women, but we can help each other with everything from asking for a raise, moving up in your career, as well as the mundane-like how to make quick recipes when you work full time.
How has being a part of WEEH changed you?
I attended a conference recently that was run and made up of hundreds and hundreds of men. A year ago, I would have felt uncomfortable walking up to a bunch of guys and market my company, but because of WEEH, the few women that were there stuck together and we helped each other with networking.
It also changed me because not only do I feel more confident knowing that I have the support of other women in the field, but I also know that I am part of something greater. A group of others that want to gain and grow in similar ways and it has taught me so much. I’ve learned from top women in the field and I’ve also felt that I now have not just acquaintances but also new friends.
Why do you think the nursing home industry is so male dominated?
Many women have lots of responsibilities aside from work while men are more able to hyper-focus on their careers. But as times are changing and more and more women are entering the field, this is something that women can do as well. As their kids get older and as they can afford more household help, women can also devote many hours to running companies and facilities alike. Truthfully, most nursing homes staff many women, they are just not always in the administrative positions; WEEH is looking to change that.
What are the challenges women face in this field?
Women face a variety of different challenges, one being the juggling of responsibilities: family life and work life can be a hard to balance to achieve sometimes. Additionally, many women may not have as much experience or as much confidence due to their lack of support in this area. They are not aggressive in asking for raises or promotions. If women see that others can do it they can be inspired as well.
WEEH exposes women to other strong women and it becomes contagious. We just had a speaker at one of our events who owns a healthcare company while also starting a real estate company on the side. She does all this while raising ten children. That really inspired all of us, showing us that we can make anything happen.
Do Jewish women face more obstacles than non-Jewish professionals in this field?
Yes and no. Jewish women definitely have lots of responsibilities. Making Shabbos every week is challenging with a full time job. Plus, the frum lifestyle can be costly, and we need to earn more money to accommodate our lifestyle. On the other hand, we have it easier because we are all connected to each other and can help each other and that gets us far in a field that is dominated by so many religious Jews.
We do want to expand WEEH to all women, Jewish or not. The challenges may be different, but we are all facing similar issues.
In your opinion, what makes women good candidates to fill C-suite (CEO, CFO, etc.) healthcare roles? Women are by nature nurturing, which helps them understand the needs of the elderly as well as the staff. They can also multi-taskers, which is a very important quality when running a company or organization of different people. Lastly, women are often givers. They are willing to work hard and give of themselves to get the job done, even if it means they give up on their personal benefits, like meals or sleep, etc. This doesn’t mean men don’t have these qualities, but this comes naturally to women.
I want to make it clear that WEEH is not about creating an environment where it’s men vs. women. Each are great, but we are different and we bring different skills to the table. It’s a matter of becoming the best people we can be and feeling comfortable in our own skin. You can do it and WEEH can help.
How many events do you do a year?
We are still in the early stages of launching. We are aiming to do a big event at the end of November and a few networking events throughout the year. We are also considering doing a membership. We really want to build on this and perhaps do some events via Zoom, etc.
How do you reach out and publicize your mission to other professionals?
LinkedIn, Instagram, and basically word of mouth. We initially launched our organization with a kickoff event last March, which got everyone talking. Since then, we’ve hosted two smaller events and we partnered with JWE to do a Zoom networking event. I’m proud to say that at this point most people in the healthcare world have heard of WEEH.
What changes have you seen in the last few years for women in healthcare?
There are a lot more women in healthcare now as well as women in higher level positions. It’s a great field to go into and more and more women are getting involved. There’s some great companies that cater to women but women need to feel that they can move up in their field and they can become supervisors, managers, CEOs, owners, etc.
What’s next for WEEH?
Right now, we are planning a big event with CEU credits, vendors, networking, and more. Stay tuned.