No one could have failed to notice the rise of women in the collective consciousness over the past year: their under-representation at the highest levels in the workplace, their discrimination in terms of pay, and their ongoing subjection to power-related assaults in the form of physical, psychological, and sexual violence and harassment. The #MeToo movement has perhaps captured the lion's share of recent attention, triggered by revelations from women who were themselves viewed as being in positions of power. Yet the women who are lucky enough to benefit from enabling environments that value girl children as much as boys, provide ready access to contraception and safe abortion, offer high quality maternal health services, and legally mandate support structures for working parents are, of course, not the women who suffer most.
The World Economic Forum's latest Gender Gap Report shows a chasm between the countries with the greatest gender parity (Iceland, Norway, Finland, Rwanda) and those with the least (Chad, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen). Yet these rifts are driven not by national differences in educational attainment or health and survival, although there clearly remain pockets of alarming imbalances there too (eg, adolescent girls and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa), but by the dimensions of economic opportunity and participation and of political empowerment.
The global health community has taken a welcome lead on spotlighting this inequity within its own ranks. The Women in Global Health movement successfully lobbied WHO to include a set of gender equality recommendations in its 13th General Programme of Work. The first Women Leaders in Global Health conference last year galvanised a groundswell of support and excitement, culminating in a practical call to action. And The Lancet has committed to publishing a special issue on “the representation, experience, and promotion of women in science, medicine, and global health”.