Achieving women's leadership in science and gender equality is an ongoing challenge that requires a collective effort from individuals, institutions, and society.  

An open panel discussion on fostering women's leadership was held at The Global Health Network Conference 2022 in Cape Town and chaired by Iris Mwanza, Deputy Director of the Women in Leadership programme at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It featured speakers from Africa, Latin and North America, Asia, and Europe. The panellists shared their experiences and insights on the challenges and solutions for improving gender equity and fostering women’s leadership in health research. 

What solutions do you think are necessary to improve gender equity in global health research? Leave a comment below to help us build a better future for women and girls in science.  

Discussion Topics  

  • Underrepresentation of women in leadership positions at leading research institutions and in decision-making roles. 
  • Gender imbalance in family care responsibilities and housework 
  • The gender pay gap 
  • Challenges in the early-career researcher stage and age discrimination for mid-career women 
  • Exclusion of women from research studies 
  • Societal and familial norms that discourage career growth or pursuing science professions 

Key Recommendations 

  • Flexible work arrangements from employers, such as telecommuting and part-time work options for mothers re-entering the workplace. 
  • Financial incentives from governments for employers who implement strong maternal leave and flexible work policies. 
  • Institutional data gathering and transparency on differences in pay and workload across gender lines. 
  • Mentors actively supporting thecareer development of early career researchers 
  • Youth programs to train and inspire girls to pursue careers in science. 
  • Scholarships funds for women in communities that do not have access to health training. 
  • Advocacy via law, policy, and affirmative action quotas. 
  • Allocating specific resources to these issues. 

“Our hypothesis in the work that I lead is that if we can get women into leadership positions, they’re going to take care of the rest” — Dr Iris Mwanza, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 


Dr Iris Mwanza, Deputy Director, Women in Leadership, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United States  


Dr Alice S. Lakati, Director of Research and Community Extension, Amref International University, Kenya 

Katherine Littler, Co-lead, Global Health Ethics Team, World Health Organisation, Switzerland 

Professor Cristiani Vieira Machado, Education, Information and Communication Vice President, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Fiocruz, Brazil 

Dr Aliya Naheed, Scientist, Initiative for Non-Communicable Diseases, Health System and Population Studies Division, icddr,b and lead for The Global Health Network Asia Regional Coordination Centre, Bangladesh 

Professor Thumbi Ndung'u, Director for basic and translational science, Africa Health Research Institute, South Africa 

Dr Lyda Osorio, Associate Professor, Universidad Del Valle, Colombia 


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