This guest blog was cross-posted from Global Health Fellows Program II, and written by Stacy Terrell.
The Global Health Fellows Program (GHFP) II recently participated in the Global Health Landscape Symposium where the Global Health Council (GHC) launched the Women Leaders in Global Health Initiative (WLGHI). This event brought together thought leaders in global health from around the globe to discuss the theme “Achieving Universality in Global Health: An Imperative for Change.” This year’s theme focused on the need for collaboration in order to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As leaders explored this topic, one key question rose to the surface: Why is gender equity in global health leadership important for the achievement of the SDGs?
The all-female panel attempted to answer this question during “Promoting Women as Leaders: Are Good Intentions Enough?” which took stock of the abundance of women in the field of global health, but the absence of women in global health decision making. Moderator Susan Papp, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Women Deliver, led us through an exercise to list in thirty seconds top global health leaders that were women. Most could not come up with more than a handful, and even less existed when she asked how many came from underrepresented backgrounds or from the global south, the term the UN uses to describe developing countries located primarily the Southern Hemisphere. It struck me that a room full of global health practitioners from around the globe could not name more than five influential global health leaders from diverse backgrounds, if any. Imagine what creative interventions and unique approaches could exist in the global health field if those perspectives were brought to the table. As each panelist discussed their unique experience representing a variety of ages, educational backgrounds, and geographic origins, I thought about all the opportunities we miss when we are not inclusive. In listening to their experiences, I gained a sense of how their personal journey equipped them with the tools needed for a career in Global Health and allowed them to be advocates in their current positions. Through GHFP-II, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is contributing meaningfully to identifying and training diverse future global health professionals, and engaging academia to strengthen non-technical competencies that are essential for a successful global health career. Many GHFP-II participants possess a very important competency already, which is the ability to work effectively in diverse cultural settings. I was encouraged to see the panelists underscoring the need for this skillset and the need for more mentorship and professional development opportunities to help close this global health leadership gap.
This lively panel led into the launch of the Women Leaders in Global Health Initiative (WLGHI) by the Director of Global Health Council, Christine Sow who discussed the need for equity and accountability in global health. The virtual initiative formed in response to the question “Why aren’t there more women represented in the highest levels of global health and what can we do about it?” focuses on the priority areas of advocacy, capacity building, research, policy, networking and mentorship in order to create a more gender balanced health leadership. GHFP-II is committed to identifying, training and supporting diverse future leaders to enrich the current global health workforce. The launch of the Women Leaders in Global Health initiative is a valuable step to improve the visibility and meaningful presence of women in global health decision-making. As more women have a seat at the decision making, their diverse perspectives can only enhance our ability to achieve SDGs.
As we continue the crucial conversation started by WLGHI #iLeadGH can be a powerful spark to promote inclusion in Global Health. You can stay engaged in this important work by following us @GHFPII and sharing your own experiences to help build a more inclusive global health workforce.
View GHFP-II’s photo album: Global Health Landscape Symposium