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WHO’s report on Gender Equity in Global Health and Care workforce gaps and strategies

Published: 07.07.2021
Suzanne S Gilbert Member of Gender Equity WorkGroup and Director, Center for Innovation in Eye Care at Seva Foundation
Seva Foundation

Aligned with IAPB’s own Gender Equity Work Group (GEWG) agenda, this important WHO report energetically documents gaps and strategic steps all organizations can take to close the gender gap across the global health work force.

Closing the Leadership Gap: Gender Equity and Leadership in the Global Health and Care Workforce is a joint effort of World Health Organization, Global Health Workforce Network, and Women in Global Health.

Key findings:

  • 70% of the global health workforce but it is estimated that they hold only 25% of senior positions.
  • Health employment is highly segregated by gender. Globally, women are 90% of the nursing and midwifery workforce by a minority in surgery.
  • Majority female sectors, such as the health and care sectors, are often given lower social value, status and pay.
  • Gender bias is a significant factor in recruitment and promotion. Women may be discouraged from opting for higher status specialties in medicine, such as surgery, due to bias, stereotyping and discriminatory attitudes during training.
  • Leadership matters at all levels – Underrepresented voices, particularly women from the Global South and marginalized social groups and occupations with high patient contact, are critical to informed global health decision making.
  • Percentage of national delegations to the World Health Assembly headed by women dropped to 23% in 2020 from a high of 31% in 2017.

This up to the minute report includes questions regarding women having an equal say during the COVID pandemic: Women provided much of the health and care in the pandemic but have not had an equal say in decision-making. Could COVID-19 reverse the progress women have made in health and care leadership?

Looking ahead to practical solutions the report cites that beyond gender parity, leaders of all genders must promote gender-transformative policies to realize better global health.

Practical action checklists are provided so that everyone can play their part

  • Organization leaders
  • Publishers/Media/social media
  • Men who are allies
  • Women

Checklist for organisation leaders and publishers

checklist for male allies and women

Visit the IAPB GEWG webpage and our GEWG Toolkit for updates as to what our own groups are doing and how you can join in. This WHO report findings and strategies actively support our work and refine its focus, I urge you to read it in full.

Image on top: Women looking at the camera by Yogita Rajgandhi for #MakeVisionCount Photo Competition

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