The task force involved in coronavirus response has raised a very important question- Where are the women? Though women are at the forefront in the healthcare system, a major bias is evident in the decision making front in dealing with the crisis. While 70 percent of the world’s healthcare staff is made up of women, only 25 percent of leaders in the world are women. And because of not having women on the decision making front, policies are lacking the gender aspect – like not much has been done to address the rising domestic violence.
Even in India, a fiscal stimulus of $23 Billion has been outlined, but only $6.5 per month for 200 million poor women. This raises two very important questions. First, is this amount sufficient, and second what about the not-so-poor women in the job sector, who are most vulnerable to losing their jobs as an aftermath of the crisis?
Why Are Women Leaders Important?
- Since women’s voices are not being reflected at the decision-making table, their concerns aren’t addressed even in the response to deal with the crisis.
- As an example, the Ebola outbreak can be considered which resulted in a spike in maternal deaths, because obstetric resources were diverted to fight the crisis. This is why women leaders are important – to address women-specific issues.
- According to the Global Health 50/50 Report 2020, decision making bodies are still predominantly male. If we go by current trends, gender parity at the CEO level is still 40 years away.
Only 25 Percent of Women In Leadership Positions Globally
Coronavirus has affected more than 16 lakh people globally. At this time, gender inequality on the leadership front means policymakers are likely to miss out on women’s issues. According to the World Economic Forum, “Solving health emergencies like COVID-19 demands the best minds the world has to offer – in health systems strengthening, therapeutic R&D and more. We know diverse teams lead to more innovation and neglecting half the talent pool limits our ability to make life-saving choices.”
Moreover, while women form 70 percent of the healthcare staff globally, only 25 percent of the world leaders are women. It is the leaders in the senior position who decide the area of research work, medicines and vaccines. With no women here, it is quite likely that the hurdles faced by women won’t be addressed.
Health Emergencies Affect Men And Women Differently
In 2014, when the world witnessed the Ebola outbreak, obstetrics resources were diverted to deal with the virus. This led to a spike in the number of maternal deaths. So the question- Were the decision-makers not apprised of the consequences of diverting all the resources? There are certain health issues that are particular to women. When a healthcare system is deployed to fight a crisis such as the Coronavirus, we consider humans as a whole and not a specific gender. Hence we miss out on health issues specific to women, as was the case with Ebola virus.
When women do not form a part of the decision making, their thoughts and issues are not brought to the the table, it is quite obvious that policies will miss out on issues that affect women. It is time that we take lessons from the past health crises like Ebola and Zika virus and ensure women’s presence on board, before the next disaster strikes.
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