Second meeting with WGH Sweden: “There is still a shortage of women in leadership positions”

Advancing Women in Science, Medicine and Global Health / The Lancet.

Women in Global Health Sweden organized a 2nd meeting on June 17th, at the Karolinska Institutet. The attending 25 participants were there to discuss the much-needed direction of WGH Sweden that would be useful for equal gender representation in leadership and work environment in the field of global health in Sweden.

Helena Nordenstedt, one of the co-founders, talked about the misconceptions and facts that we oftentimes omit, and scarcity of data related to sex and gender.

Sara Causevic presented “Advancing women in science, medicine and global health” from The Lancet, (Feb 09, 2019, Volume 393, and Number 10171), as food for thought before the group discussions, highlighting few thoughts:

  • There is a shortage of women in leadership positions as well as in decision making roles;
  • Research that is sex and gender disaggregated, with relevant issues related to LMIC/LIC, research collaboration;
  • Ensuring finance for this type of data as well as gender equality including in research and development.

With the further discussion in the World Café, led by Emelie Looft-Trägårdh, the suggestions from the participants were as following:

1.    What do we experience as the biggest challenges for women working with global health in Sweden?

The most significant challenges are the opportunities to network, or to have a more extensive network comprising of other disciplines not focusing only on science and researchers. Another challenge identified is the limitation of opportunities in the field of global health, especially as a woman and coming from a different ethnic origin. Funding is still scarce and available mainly to men. Or, in most cases, men are research project leaders.

2.    What should the platform WGH Sweden target?

The Swedish platform should think of how to create an enabling environment to promote transformative leadership in all levels of experience, background, and knowledge. It should go beyond the scientific forum, but capture the NGO sector, private sector, and individuals. Interdisciplinarity matters. Hierarchies that are present in other communities are not typical in Sweden; however, they still exist. Ensure empathy and creation of an enabling and supportive environment. It could be a space for sharing and pushing the global health agenda, not least from a gender perspective.

3.    What solutions, actions, and strategies would be relevant to tackle these challenges?

There is a need to understand the baseline statistics of women in global health in Sweden: who are we, what are our profiles, and how can we connect better. At the same time, WGH Sweden should be a passing place, where networking makes women more visible to be considered as moderators, panelists, and for job-positions. These meetings should have both vertical and horizontal approach.

As a wrap up from Wiebke Mohr, it was concluded that women should, in general, be more supportive of their peers. Men should be part of the narrative and solution. But as Karolina Nyberger said in her final remarks, quoting Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – she added that being supported and asking for a support does not mean that you are inferior. We should be there to support each other.