Q&A with Kate Sommers, Deputy Director, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

We spoke with Kate Somers, Deputy Director, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and one of the members of our 2021 U.S. Leadership Journey. Read our Q&A to learn about what has surprised her about the Journey and who is inspiring her.


Why did you choose to apply for the WomenLift Leadership Journey?

My manager brought the program to my attention and asked me to consider applying.  I read the materials and thought that the experience would help me be a better leader both inside and outside my organization. 


What has been a highlight of your Journey experience so far?

Connecting with other women in the cohort has been incredible.  I am inspired after every session.   


What is your Leadership Journey Project and why did you choose it?

The focus of my Leadership Journey Project is to work on the adoption of the foundation’s new DEI Framework and Gender Integration Tools by three program teams – Family Planning, Nutrition, and Maternal Newborn and Child Health.  The foundation has spent the past year developing the DEI Framework; however, the adoption by teams has not yet taken root.  I will be working with a small team to develop a ‘road map’ for how our teams will integrate the DEI Framework into our day-to-day work.  This will require building trust and facilitating a change management process to go beyond a ‘tick-box’ exercise and instill DEI and GE as core ways of doing our work and having greater impact.

I chose this project because DEI and GE have become increasingly important in how we work in global health.  I believe that DEI and GE are fundamentally about fairness and social justice.  As both a public health professional and lawyer, I believe that public health and social justice go together and one without the other leaves impact on the table.


What has surprised you about the WomenLift Health Leadership Journey experience?

What has surprised me most is how much I have learned from my coach, mentor and especially my peers.   I only wish I had more time to devote to the program. 


How can we ensure that we are centering women and girls in health?

I think we need more male champions, particularly fathers, to listen to their daughters and champion ideas and opportunities that provide girls and women with chances for a healthier, fuller life. 


Who inspires you?  

I keep a mental picture of a girl in front of her mud house in Malawi.  If what I’m working on isn’t going to make life better for her, then I’m not doing my best.