Fifty-two. The number of men who spoke before a single woman leader took the stage at this year’s opening session of the United Nations General Assembly. It’s been 75 years since the founding of the United Nations, yet only 11 of the 196 speakers were women. Let that sink in. It’s 2020, and this is why I’m so committed to the conversations we’re having at the upcoming Women Leaders in Global Health Conference, happening this week, from October 13th-15th. Gender equality at the highest levels has moved at a snail’s pace. And yet women-led governments have shown demonstrable results time and again, including steering the most effective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In countries like Denmark, Ethiopia, and New Zealand, these leaders have not only been celebrated for their success in flattening the curve, but also recognized for rewriting the rules of what good leadership looks like. COVID-19 is a reminder of how decision-making in global health affects us all. According to a recent study published in BMJ Global Health, less than 4% of 115 identified COVID-19 task forces have gender parity in their membership. This unequal representation risks women’s needs being overlooked or poorly addressed. This reality should make us all stop and think – and consider the actions we can each take to ensure more talented women have a seat at the decision-making table in global health. We know diverse leadership results in better outcomes, so when we fail to include talented women to design health policies and solutions, we not only disadvantage women, we fail our communities. Women Leaders in Global Health Conference Beginning on Tuesday, extraordinary leaders from around the world will gather virtually at the 4th annual Women Leaders in Global Health Conference to discuss the critical need for more women in leadership roles in global health. The virtual format of this year’s conference has created a special opportunity for thousands of men and women to listen to and engage with these speakers – without flights, hotels or jetlag. Against the backdrop of COVID-19 and growing calls for social change and equity, the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference is more important than ever. Over three days, some of the world’s most respected and accomplished leaders will share their perspectives and experiences to help us design solutions that advance our collective mission toward a future where diverse leadership is the norm. A sample of conference sessions include:
- Conversations about the journeys women leaders have taken to reach extraordinary positions and how they have navigated systemic sexism along the way.
- Discussions on decolonizing global health that explore intersectional disparities in health and highlight efforts to ensure that global health leadership meaningfully reflects and represents the communities it serves.
- A provocative conversation on the journey of men to become male allies and the role they can play in supporting cultural and institutional changes to create the space for more women to advance and excel.
- Conversations with leading activists and media personalities on how to bring taboos on gender, sex, and health into the light, and why continuing these conversations is essential to both women’s health and women’s leadership in health.
- A panel discussion with high-level leaders working to address COVID through a gender lens.