The global health sector will continue to lose out unless measures are taken to accelerate towards equal representation of women in senior leadership positions, new research from The Fred Hollows Foundation reveals.
The Australian-registered charity released the ‘Women deliver eye health: Let’s reframe who leads it’ report – at the Women Deliver 2023 conference in Kigali, Rwanda. The project has explored and tested the foundation’s own hypothesis around the potential of parity for women in leadership positions and what this would unlock for eye health services and outcomes.
The foundation’s global advocacy executive director Ms Jennifer Gersbeck said World Health Organization data – showing that women comprised 70% of the global healthcare workforce but occupied less than 25% of the most influential leadership positions – underlined the need for immediate action.
“It’s clear that women are being excluded from leadership positions in global health – having more women in positions of power will generate better public health outcomes for women and girls,” she said.
The Fred Hollows report shows that an estimated US$12 trillion (AU$18 t) could be added to global output by 2025 if the gender gap was closed in both the workforce and leadership.
Key barriers to overcome include: less investment in women’s mentoring, workplace bullying and sexual harassment, perpetuating norms and gender stereotypes, gender pay gap and discrimination.
“Global health is losing out on the talent, skills and perspectives of women,” Gersbeck said.
“If these barriers are removed, women leaders can significantly expand the global health agenda and give greater priority to issues that affect women and girls. Enabling equal representation supports diverse decision-making and services that better reflect the needs of the entire population.”
Gersbeck said women and girls accounted for 55% of the world’s blind and vision impaired.“The Fred Hollows Foundation believes that achieving gender parity in eye health leadership will help reduce inequities in eye health,” she said.