Building Back Better: Through a Gender Equitable Leadership in the Global Health Workforce
The Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) set the goal to achieve ‘women’s full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power.’ Similarly, the Cairo UfM Ministerial Declaration on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society (2017) reflects UfM’s countries commitment to creating tailored conditions to get equal positions of responsibility in all public and economic spheres. These goals are particularly significant in the health care sector, where 164 million women worldwide work.
But when analysing the data, it is clear that little has been done to ensure that women’s voices are reflected at the decision-making table. Likely as a result, gender is often ignored when it comes to health emergency responses. In short, women deliver global health and men lead it. A 2019 WHO report highlighted a gender leadership gap in the health and social workforce. While women comprise 70% of the global health workforce, they only hold 25% of senior roles, making participation in the decision-making process and access to power a pervasive challenge.
During the COVID-19 health crisis, women were and still are on the frontline of the fight against the pandemic. With rising cases, the stakes are too high to disregard women’s voices. Health systems will be stronger when the women who deliver health have an equal say in the design of national health plans, policies and systems.
To maximize women’s participation and leadership as well as address gender biases, we need to adopt gender transformative policies that challenge the underlying causes of the leadership gap in the health workforce, including in the response to COVID-19. Policies need to address the underlying inequities in the system to create decent work conditions where women achieve their full leadership potential.
· How can large-scale gender-transformative progress be accelerated to address the gender leadership gap in the health and social care workforce?
· How can a policy toolkit with feasible policy options be built to increase women’s’ leadership in the health workforce?
· What actions can be taken at the regional level to redress the gaps?