Intersectionality and global health leadership: parity is not enough

27 Apr 2019
Zeinali Z, Muraya K, Govender V, Molyneux S, Morgan R

There has been a welcome emphasis on gender issues in global health in recent years in the discourse around human resources for health. Although it is estimated that up to 75% of health workers are female, this gender ratio is not reflected in the top levels of leadership in international or national health systems and global health organizations.

This imbalance has led to a deeper exploration of the role of women in leadership and the barriers they face through initiatives such as the WHO Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030, the UN High Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, the Global Health 50/50 Reports, Women in Global Health, and #LancetWomen. These movements focus on advocating for increasing women's participation in leadership.

While efforts to reduce gender imbalance in global health leadership are critical and gaining momentum, it is imperative that we look beyond parity and recognize that women are a heterogeneous group and that the privileges and disadvantages that hinder and enable women's career progression cannot be reduced to a shared universal experience, explained only by gender. Hence, we must take into account the ways in which gender intersects with other social identities and stratifiers to create unique experiences of marginalization and disadvantage.