While many women are at the helm of shaping and influencing research agendas in Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR), in other health and science fields and many national and global institutions, women are prevented from reaching their full potential and remain small players in the big stakes of global health.
Unconscious gender biases impede objective and fair judgement of women in the workplace and keeps them pigeon-holed within traditionally ‘feminine’ characterised sectors (including HPSR).
As gender stereotypes and implicit biases continue to prevent women from reaching their full potential in society, this is not solely damaging for women, it holds us all back. This is why we welcome the UN International Day of Women in Girls in Science – but this goes far beyond one day. It needs concerted and ongoing action from us all.
To promote the roles and contributions of women in HPSR and to demand more actions to tackle the structural barriers facing women in the field and beyond, Health Systems Global (HSG) has been planning the campaign: ‘Getting the balance right: Addressing gender power relations in and beyond health systems research.
Members call for #TheRightBalance
At the end of 2019 we asked our members to tell us their priorities for the campaign. Over 200 members from all regions of the world responded to our survey highlighting the key issues and actions that they felt were most critical. These members also named over 90 women that work within HPSR, in different organisations, levels and contexts, that we want to celebrate and profile as part of the campaign.
While the barriers facing women are many, we wanted to prioritise the areas that were reported as most important to members who responded. We asked two questions – to which the clear responses have determined the calls to action we will make in the initial period of the campaign and moving forward:
What are the main structural barriers facing women in the field?
Unconscious or implicit gender bias impedes objective and fair judgement of women in the workplace.
Slow progress in women holding research and senior positions in research and higher education institutions.
What actions should HSG be calling for from governments, academic and research institutions, funders and other key actors?
Address organizational culture and work-life balance to help create an enabling environment for both women and men to have fulfilling careers.
Institutional leadership and decision-making need to be gender-balanced and sensitive.
Launching the campaign on International Women’s Day
With these responses shaping our messaging, we will launch the first part of the campaign on International Women’s Day on 8 March and during the 12 days of the 64th Commission of the Status of Women (CSW64) (9-20 March). The CSW64 is also a key event to mark the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
This first phase is to mobilise people to explore and challenge the structural issues and solutions in different places. We see this as great opportunity to stimulate wider member and stakeholder engagement and dialogue at global, regional and national levels to interpret and apply the issues and actions in different contexts. We will also be looking for other ways to explore the priorities identified in the survey and shape the future of the campaign.
There is no quick fix. This will be a campaign to highlight what and how governments and organizations can take action to change the pervasive culture that prevents women from progressing within the research sector. It will also focus on celebrating women across the board for their contributions and experience within HPSR.
Moving forward, we want to build on your support and priorities and work with members, partners and key influencers to generate tangible and meaningful actions that will put us on the path to gender equality within HPSR and beyond.
Image credit: Toby Phillips Photography