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Health

Just 5% of Global Health Leaders Are Women From Low or Middle-Income Countries

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Achieving gender equality is essential for eradicating global poverty, as is empowering individuals from low- and middle-income countries to play a larger role in shaping the fight for global health. You can join us in taking action on this and other issues here.

Men hold over 70% of the leadership positions in 200 global health organizations, a disparity that reflects overwhelming gender inequality worldwide, according to a new report from Global Health 50/50.

The report urges health organizations to recruit, hire, and promote women to achieve gender parity. At the current rate of change, however, gender parity will not be achieved at the senior management level until 2074, the organization said.

This inequality can affect how organizations approach women’s health issues, the report said.

“A lot of the programmes we’ve looked at, they’re not looking at women’s health in general, they’re looking at women’s reproduction,” Sarah Hawkes, a Professor of Global Public Health at University College London and Co-Director of Global Health 50/50, told the Guardian.

The institutions studied also have regional and economic disparities. More than 80% of the leaders from these 200 organizations come from high-income countries, and only 5% of the leaders are women from low- and middle-income countries. Two-thirds of these organizations are based in one of three wealthy countries: the UK, US, and Switzerland. Meanwhile, 85% of these organizations are based in Europe and North America.

However, many of these organizations do work in low- and middle-income countries.

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“We find evidence of a system in need of urgent change,” the report said. “Its failings have profound consequences measured in early deaths, unnecessary disabilities, and enduring injustices and inequalities."

“With having only the most privileged . . . set the agenda, get resources, and make decisions, we lose out on talent and expertise,” Roopa Dhatt, Executive Director of Women in Global Health, said in Forbes.

Many areas of public health, such as non-communicable diseases, which cause the most premature deaths globally, are not receiving enough attention from global health organizations, Global Health 50/50 said. Oftentimes, these neglected areas of health cause disproportionate harm to women.

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Some progress on gender equality has been made in recent years. The number of organizations with public policies to improve gender equality in the workforce has increased by 25% in the past two years, and the number of organizations with women on at least one-third of its board seats’ has increased by 10%, the study said.

The UN addresses both good health and well-being, and gender equality through its Global Goals for Sustainable Development — 17 goals that work together in the aim to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Dhatt added: “Imagine if the leadership in global health reflected the communities global health aims to reach, how much more in tune and effective we could be?”