Alma Scott on how businesses can support women leaders in global health


Despite the important role played by women in the everyday management of health care, their voices are still under-represented in global health decision making. Alma Scott, Vice President of Operations & Partnerships at Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health, spoke about her commitment to supporting women leaders in global health.


Why should we focus on women leaders in global health?

I think we need to focus on women in positions of power and roles that really matter full stop. In Africa, women are being empowered more and more every day and careers in global health allow them to blend their passion with the ability to have a direct impact to their communities and their families. Many of the women I meet who want to work with J&J Global Public Health are interested in doing so because they want to help tackle major health issues like HIV and TB – issues that they have seen have a significant impact on their local communities. They want to do work with a purpose in the communities that matter most to them and working in global health is a great way to do this.

What are these challenges?

Africa is a relatively young continent with a steadily growing population, which means there are limited job opportunities. We need to take an entrepreneurial approach to empowering women and girls and offer them opportunities to help solve our global health problems. Through my work with the Forbes mentoring program, I realized that in the Western world you normally focus on building your career first and then once you’ve reached a certain point it’s a luxury to be able to step back to give back to the community. But what we’re seeing for these women is that it’s not just about the career. They want to also build that on the ground community impact – and there are lots of opportunities to do so.

Did you face any challenges in your career because you were a woman?

Thinking back, I haven’t faced any specific challenges because of my gender. I’ve been really lucky that during my 25 years at Johnson and Johnson – working in positions across consumer marketing, strategy and business development and even field sales for a brief time –  I’ve had some wonderful mentors and sponsors who have really looked out for me and given me opportunities to pivot and grow. One of these people is Dr Paul Stoffels who actually asked me if I would take on my current role within the newly formed Global Public Health enterprise back in 2015. Our company does a fantastic job at advancing women and promoting women in leadership, and I really feel lucky to have experienced that support first hand.

What would you say to women working in global health?

First and foremost, THANK YOU. Thank you for your hard work, your commitment and your passion. Frontline health workers are in some of the most challenging environments. Working in global health is a labor of love, and we really do need to celebrate the people on the frontlines who are making a difference down to the last mile.

I would also tell them to never give up on your dreams and to recognize the importance of networking – with women and men. My favorite saying is “each one, teach one,” which is really just a reminder that while you’re on the way up – it is crucial to be reaching both up and down to support the next generation of talent in global health. If we don’t do this along the way, we’re never going to get anywhere!

What is Johnson & Johnson currently doing about women in global health?

At Johnson & Johnson, we have been championing women and providing the tools, resources and opportunities to succeed since our founding more than 130 years ago. Today, we are more committed than ever. Since our founding, we’ve always recognized that women are not only caregivers and mothers; they are also scientists, technologists, innovators, mentors, business leaders, community champions and the driving force behind the health of our future world.

We remain focused on growing, nurturing and propelling groundbreaking women leaders as they transform healthcare today and the future of healthcare tomorrow. We also support and champion people on the frontlines of delivering care and promote the role of women and girls as leaders in their communities. We believe that by caring for women in our global community, we will continue to fuel innovation in human health.

Why are you involved in the Women Leaders in Global Health conference?

I’m involved in WLGH because it’s a fantastic way to find top talent in the global health space. I’m always looking to grow our organisation on the African continent in particular. At J&J, we attract the world’s best talent into our organization then provide employees with the opportunity to continually refine their skills and pursue their passions to create real impact that touches the lives of more than a billion people every day. Diversity and inclusion is our way of doing business. Our culture encourages all employees to use their unique experiences and backgrounds, together – to spark solutions that create a better, healthier world. The programs we have in place for the thousands of women who work for our company are among the best in the world.

It is also a fantastic way to expose my existing top talent to other inspirational female leaders in global health. I will be there with two young leaders from my team who are doing great things to further our goal of changing the trajectory of health for humanity.  Events like this help them stay inspired, motivated and adds validation to their choice in picking a career in the global health industry.

Alma Scott will be speaking at the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference 2018 in London. For more information visit our 2018 Conference page and join the conversation on Twitter using #WLGH18.

Sarah Cowen-Rivers