Nearly 70% of the global healthcare workforce is comprised of women. From nursing to doctorate specialities, women dominate the healthcare industry. However, why are men still considered the leaders of global healthcare? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only 25% of global leadership positions are held by women. In an interview with Global Citizen, Marnie Davidson, the head of healthcare for CARE Canada, stated, “There really is a gendered way in which health services are designed and delivered when you have so many men making the decisions, and all of the women doing the work”. Although women play such a large role in global healthcare, they are often underpaid and underrepresented. The gender pay gap in healthcare hovers around 28%. Women in healthcare also experience workplace harassment. Verbal and physical harassment plagues many healthcare facilities, and women face violent threats while on the job. Let’s take a deeper look into each of these pressing problems.
The Leadership Gap
Globally, women face health hardships and inequality. Studies have shown that female healthcare leaders introduce policies that provide greater aid to women and children than policies enacted by male leaders. This, coupled with the large amount of women healthcare workers, poses an important question: Why are female healthcare leaders relatively uncommon? A survey by Korn Ferry revealed that 55% of nearly 200 hospitals and healthcare systems overlook women workers simply because of their gender. The survey also revealed that 76% of healthcare industries do not offer sponsorship opportunities for women to advance through. All of these hindrances contribute to the low number of women in global healthcare leadership positions. Ways to combat these inequalities include encouraging women to self-promote (as studies show that women self-promote less often than men) and pressuring healthcare leaders to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender.
The Pay Gap
The difference between the starting compensation for male physicians and female physicians is staggering. According to a report by Health Affairs, men received $235,044 on average, whereas women received only $198,462. The $36,582 difference is astonishing, and has only worsened since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a large number of female doctors leaving the workforce during the pandemic, the gap increased to about $116,289. This gap may be explained by differences in hours worked and/or specialties, but a study shows that, even after accounting for such variables, the gap remains a concerning 10%. In Brazil, a study showed that 80% of female doctors are in the lowest three wage categories, whereas 51% of male doctors are in the highest three wage categories. The gender pay gap is an urgent issue around the globe, and solutions must be found to address it and prevent more women from being underpaid and underrepresented in healthcare.
Women from countries across the world experience gender-based harassment and discrimination in their careers. Many countries do not have laws or policies in place to protect female healthcare workers, nor are there as many trade unions for women as there are for men. Out of 970 female nurses surveyed in the Republic of Korea, 64% reported experiencing verbal abuse. 42% experienced violent threats. In Nepal, 190 female healthcare workers were surveyed, and 67% reported harassment by senior male colleagues. Rooted in the gender discrimination across society, workplace harassment proves to be a disturbing issue for women across the globe and may prevent future women from pursuing healthcare careers.
Gender equality in healthcare is a pressing issue, whether it be leadership inequality, pay gaps, or discrimination. According to WHO, if workplace gender inequality is not addressed specifically and purposefully, it could take nearly 202 years to achieve equality. That’s why action must be taken now, in order to honor all female healthcare workers who work tirelessly to provide medical care. Organizations such as the World Health Organization and Women in Global Health are working towards eliminating gender inequality in healthcare- consider donating to them through the following links!
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