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Let the Glass Ceiling be the Lowest Rung on the Ladder: Making 2019 the Year of the Woman in Global Health

Framing the Issue

  • Women comprise at least 70 percent of the global health workforce, but hold only 25 percent of the leadership positions.
  • Among the top 50 universities in the United States, women hold just over a third of global health faculty positions and a quarter of directorships in global health centers.
  • Women's work in global health contributes nearly $3 trillion to the field. Yet their work - often in fragile and conflict-ridden contexts - goes underpaid and underrecognized. By World Economic Forum estimates, women’s unpaid contributions equate to 2.35 percent of the global GDP, with a large variation around this depending on wage rates and other factors.

‚ÄčThe statistics speak for themselves: global health needs more women leaders. And that requires organizations to celebrate how women lead differently as well as the different dimensions of their lives – as parents, community organizers, church leaders, mentors, and so much more.

"Organizations still value directive leadership, rather than inspirational or participatory leadership styles," said Athalia Christie, senior science advisor at the CDC Center for Global Health, during a December panel discussion titled, Leadership in Global Health: Making 2019 the Year of the Woman.

With women being 70 percent of the global health workforce, it arguably already is the “year of the woman” in global health and has been for quite some time. But that’s not the case when it comes to leadership - a key reason why improving gender parity in global health is a key focus area for Sustaining Technical and Analytic Resources (STAR).

During the panel, hosted by the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, it wasn’t lost on attendees that most discussions on this topic are happening in rooms full of...other women. In order to advance women’s leadership in the sector, they agreed we need men at the table, and we need more intersectional approaches. Panelists shared three ways to make 2019 the year of the woman at all levels of leadership in global health.