Recognition matters: only one in ten awards given to women
Receiving an award is an accolade. Awards validate and bring visibility, help attract funding, hasten career advancement, and can consolidate career accomplishments. Yet, in the fields of public health and medicine, few women receive them. Between seven public health and medicine awards from diverse countries, the chances of a woman receiving a prize was nine out of 100 since their inception.
If women encompass the majority of the clinical and public health workforce, why do so few receive awards? The answers reflect gender biases in the health field and beyond. One element is the extent to which women are underrepresented in decision making in health. Only 24% of directors of global health centres at the top 50 US medical schools are women. In the policy arena, women constitute only a quarter of health ministers globally, and only two of the six agency heads of the health-related UN agencies are women.
Although striving for gender equality requires long-term efforts across society, it does not preclude immediate and targeted action for women, men, and other genders. Our focus on awards within the wider context of gender discrimination is to call attention to one area that is highly visible yet largely uncontested. Some might think that as more women enter the workforce, we should eventually see the demographic profile of awardees change. Yet during the past 10 years, only 19% of the awards from these seven awards bodies were presented to women. The Women in Focus awards announced at the Neglected Tropical Disease Summit and the Royal Society Africa Prize are a good start, but more must be done. We call on awards bodies and academic institutions to introduce four measures to redress gender bias.