Miss America comes with several things by association: tiaras, sashes, fake eyelashes, and pretty heels. The contest, which started off as a verifiable beauty pageant, grew into a foundation where young women who are interested in making a difference and having a platform. Gone were the days that women were expected to flaunt across a stage and look pretty. Granted, I have never done any such thing like participate in beauty pageants to know the kind of pressure it can cause, but I can say for sure that very few young women that participate have a science background.
Camille Schrier, newly-crowned as Miss America in December, is a rising pharmacy student at VCU School of Pharmacy and wowed the judges with her talent of mixing hydrogen peroxide to create a colorful mess. A step away from singing, piano playing, or other artistic pursuits, Camille chose to show the world what kinds of things that girls are capable of doing. Her efforts completely paid off. Equally impressive is her impact initiative called "Mind Your Meds: Drug Safety and Abuse Prevention from Pediatrics to Geriatrics," which is geared towards helping people understand what medication safety is.
Women in STEM careers have been a contentious issue for a number of years. Several studies have pointed out that social constructs skew boys at a young age to go into careers related to science and technology while girls are encouraged to pick "softer" subjects like teaching. Whether it is from parents encouragement or greater exposure to the sciences from teachers, boys seemed to just be more inclined to go into the sciences. Girls, by the time middle school rolls around, are less interested in scientific pursuits and are turned away from it. Societally, there still exists a gender disparity in STEM subjects between men and women.
Pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences are where the numbers don't match up, however. There are approximately 61.8% of women who get a first professional pharmacy degree and 74% of the healthcare workforce comprise of women. While there are very few women in a leadership position in pharmacy, there are an overwhelming amount of women who are passionate and committed to providing good care to patients.
Camille proved to the world that girls can literally do and become anything. Nothing should come in the way of that for anyone. As a pharmacist, I'm proud that someone is taking issues such as medication safety and educating the public about it and as a woman, I'm proud that she could be the future leader in pharmacy. We do not have enough women in the C-suite or in healthcare leadership and, honestly, we have so much more work to do to help. Many young people coming out of pharmacy school are taking on residences and fellowships, paving the way to be leaders in the field. My hope is that Camille strives for the same.
While I still believe that the Miss America contest still has an image of beauty and grace from an era ago, I believe Camille changes things and gives the pageant more of a relatable feeling. It may not be enough to get girls to be interested in STEM careers but it is a shot. It is an opportunity to follow a beautiful woman into a world dominated by men and see what happens and if good things come out of it, all the better.
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