They want to be in the room where things happen, and they want other women there with them.
That was the overarching message from a four-person panel of female health professionals at Harvard. “Women in the Global Health Workforce” focused on the need to keep pushing for gender equity and empowering female leaders —and data from bodies like the World Health Organization and Women in Global Health show there is a ways to go on that road. Women currently account for around 70 percent of the global health workforce but hold only about 25 percent of its leadership positions, they found.
“The bottom line is that women play an incredibly important role in the health care workforce and in the health system, but very often their contributions represent an invisible subsidy to the health system because they are not fully recognized, they are underpaid, they are not paid at all, and they are not represented in decision-making bodies,” said Ana Langer, professor of the practice of public health and coordinator of the Dean’s Special Initiative on Women and Health, during her opening remarks.
Langer said that in response, the Global Health Institute and the Women and Health Initiative this year created the Jane Jie Sun Women in Global Health LEAD Fellowship —named after its leading supporter, the CEO of international travel agency Ctrip.com —for rising female leaders from low- and middle-income countries. Four fellows were chosen for the two-year leadership program from among more than 300 applicants from 29 nations.
Panelist Shabnum Sarfraz, a former chief executive for a public health agency from Pakistan, told how in her 15-year-career male bosses would often took credit for her work. “It happened once, it happened twice, it happened until I decided, ‘No more,’ ” she said. “That was a defining moment for me because it pushed me to take up leadership roles, roles that I had been actively supporting or doing behind closed doors.”