WOMEN hold a quarter of senior positions in health care globally despite accounting for about 70% of the total health work force, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported.
In partnership with the Global Health Workforce Network and Women in Global Health, WHO launched the ”Delivered by Women, Led by Men: A Gender and Equity Analysis of the Global Health and Social Workforce” report on March 20. The study found that 234 million people were health care and social services workers worldwide, most of them women, though few of the latter hold senior positions.
“The health and social care sector is the fastest growing employment sector for women, with women comprising seven out of 10 health and social care workers,” the study said.
“Women are 70% of the global health workforce but hold only 25% of the senior roles.”
Some 69% of global health organizations are led by men while 80% of the board chairs are also men. Only 20% of global health organizations have gender parity in their boards while 25% have gender parity at the senior management level.
“In general, women deliver global health and men lead it. Progress on gender parity in leadership varies by country and sector, but generally men hold the majority of senior roles in health from global to community level. Global health is predominantly led by men,” the study reported.
The study said women provide health care to 5 billion people and account for $3 trillion annually generated by the industry, equivalent to 5% of global GDP. The WHO said more than 50% of this value was from unpaid care work. Female health workers also do not equally contribute to the design and delivery of health systems.
“The unadjusted gender pay gap appears to be even higher in the health and social care sector, estimated at 26% in high-income countries and 29% in upper middle-income countries,” the WHO said.
WHO also noted that despite the dominant representation of women in the global health workforce, women earn on average 28% less than men. They added, “Occupational segregation (10%) and working hours (7%) can explain most of this gap, but even when considering ‘equal work’ an ‘equal pay’ gap of 11% remains.”
Occupational segregation is another issue faced by women in the health workforce, with women usually in the nursing sector while surgeons are dominated by men. WHO said, “One reason for this is the perception that surgical specialisms are a male domain where toxic masculinity is common, creating a hostile work environment for women.”
The Gender Equity Hub (Co-chaired by Women in Global Health and World Health Organization) will seek to create solutions in addressing these findings.
“(T)he GEH will develop advocacy and policy toolkits to target key stakeholders, including WHO Member States, to integrate gender-transformative health and social workforce policies into their national health workforce plans,” the WHO said. — Gillian M. Cortez