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How Global Health 50/50 Data Help Us Live Our Values

By Traci L. Baird

This article originally appeared on the Global Health 50/50 blog.

Global Health 50/50

Photo credit: Global Health 50/50

Crises often underscore and exacerbate existing inequalities. As the world works to contain COVID-19, it’s important that we don’t lose focus on addressing structural issues that create those inequalities. Global Health 50/50’s third report—Power, Privilege and Priorities—was published a few weeks ago, when coronavirus was a rising concern and before it was declared a pandemic. The report, as with previous GH5050 reports, continues to challenge global health and international development organizations to advance gender equality and diversity from the inside out. In its mission statement, GH5050 says that it “informs, inspires, and incites action and accountability for gender equality and health equity.” For me and my colleagues at EngenderHealth, I can say GH5050’s annual auditing process and reports have done, and continue to do, just that. The coronavirus will almost certainly increase systemic inequalities. In the face of that reality, the global health sector must be vigilant about learning from the GH5050 report and index.

When I joined EngenderHealth as President and CEO on October 1, 2018, there was an email waiting in my brand-new inbox from the GH5050 team about their inaugural report, sharing their assessment of EngenderHealth. It was perfect timing. I was joining an organization in multiple transitions: the US head office had just moved; I was new, as were several members of the senior staff; and we were designing a new strategy to guide us for the next several years. GH5050’s audit of our internal gender equality showed me there was room for improvement, and we could make changes as part of the transitions we were undergoing.

EngenderHealth’s mission is to implement high-quality, gender-equitable programs that advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, and our vision is of a gender-equal world where all people achieve their sexual and reproductive health and rights. To implement that mission, we are inspired and guided by a detailed strategic plan that addresses both what we do and how we do it. One of the outputs in that plan calls for EngenderHealth to be “an effective, gender-equitable organization.” We are deeply committed to gender equality within our own operations, and we are living into that commitment. We are in the process of providing intensive gender training for all employees. We work to ensure that all of our programming incorporates issues of gender and that we are measuring and moving programs to be more gender transformative. We have reviewed and improved parental leave benefits to ensure we are supporting our staff. We are updating hiring practices so we no longer ask job candidates about salary history (which disadvantages women, people of color, and other minorities), and we consider gender balance in our representation at meetings and conferences.

GH5050’s reporting has informed, inspired, and incited us to action as we work to live our values, especially reminding us to share our policies and data publicly. GH5050 reports have helped inspire EngenderHealth to undertake and publicly post our first-ever Gender Pay Gap Analysis, and to accelerate publishing of our commitment to Gender, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (GEDI), as well as our Global Strategy for Gender-Transformative Programs. GH5050 data have spurred important internal discussions about the ideal of gender parity in leadership, our goals in that regard, and what our processes should be for maintaining the right balance. Given the underrepresentation of women in global health leadership roles, and with our strategic focus on the intersection of gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights, we have decided that at this point we are comfortable having more women than men in leadership roles, as is the case on our Board of Directors.

We also live our values by seeking and promoting diversity across dimensions other than gender. We are proud to have a head office staff that is diverse in terms of race and nationalities and with more women and men of color in management positions than white women and men. Our program offices are led and staffed by people from the countries where we work. This year’s GH5050 report emphasizes diversity broader than gender equality, and we welcome the insights on this critical topic. As we think about equity at EngenderHealth, we are thinking not only across gender and other personal characteristics, but across our geography. We understand that GH5050 plans to extend future reviews to analyze the international offices of assessed organizations, and we will welcome that addition. We are committed to continuing these conversations, sharing our journey, and learning from others.

The kinds of discussions and decisions GH5050 has helped prompt at EngenderHealth are exactly the types of challenges and change needed to move our sector toward gender equality. And I know we are by no means alone in this regard. By evaluating policies and practices related to gender across more than 200 organizations, GH5050 is providing the independent monitoring and benchmarks we need to improve our practices and transparency within organizations, and as a community.