Women Leaders in Global Health: perspectives from emerging leaders
Tanvi Jayaraman is a current Program Associate at Stanford Global Health and a previous Fulbright Scholar in Italy.
Held at Stanford University, CA, USA, on Oct 12, the WLGH conference was established as an avenue for women to obtain the opportunity to better understand the issues relating to women in global health leadership, develop leadership skills applicable to health, expand networks, and identify suitable mentors. The conference allowed us to see role models succeeding at doing what everyone is eager to accomplish in their own fields, with the ultimate aim of improving the health of our communities.
The conference directly confronted issues of gender within the field of global health, including unequal access to economic security, threats to bodily autonomy, and violence in the home. We heard from successful academics, health practitioners, policy makers, advocates, writers, and more. With experiences ranging from refugee camps to slums, from under-resourced hospitals to boardrooms, these women had been remarkably resilient throughout their careers.
As part of the WLGH Leadership Workshop, conducted in partnership with Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Michelle R Clayman Institute for Gender Research, we engaged in a full day of skills-based leadership training with 55 other emerging and established women leaders. We learned that it is essential to identify gender bias and make efforts to mitigate it at our places of work by vouching for the accomplishments, skills, and contributions of other women, and that building effective networks enables us to have greater impact. Finding a role model and mentor can empower and sustain us. We saw how the body language of power and negotiation strategies can expand our influence in the workplace. Recognising that isolation may limit our confidence and effectiveness, we each committed to building a stronger community of women in our respective fields and communities.
Throughout the event, organisers encouraged and facilitated networking and mentorship between delegates. Established leaders were not only accessible, but also easily approachable to share stories of their experiences and provide sound advice for advancing the careers of the attendees. Those of us fortunate enough to have effective mentors and influencers in our personal and professional lives have experienced how these mentors have not only counselled us, but have led by example. The willingness of mentors to guide and share their experiences over decades creates the opportunity for us to learn and be better able to overcome the obstacles we face.
The opportunity to embrace networks, become exposed to new perspectives, and search for new mentors and potential partnerships was invaluable to those not only wishing to pursue roles in global health leadership, but also for established leaders. To all involved, building effective networks enables greater impact.
As the WLGH conference concluded, we left empowered and invigorated, confident in not only taking charge of our own futures as global health leaders, but also in nurturing and guiding the next generation, despite the many social norms that make women feel utterly powerless. Our role as leaders in global health is to open the door to other women leaders: to pull up more chairs at the table for women to be involved.
This is a joint post with Ama Pokuaa Fenny, Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research, University of Ghana; Annette Bongiwe Moyo, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences; Anita Raj, University of California San Diego Center on Gender Equity and Health; Dhekra Annuzaili, Imperial College London; and Mariam Parwaiz, New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine. We thank Michele Barry, Jerome Kassirer, Katherine Burke, and Rachel Leslie for their commentary and encouragement.