Source: Enabling Sustainable Health Equity (ESHE) Project, Palladium
A new report from research and advocacy initiative “Global Health 50/50” finds that power, privilege, and misaligned priorities are putting delivery of the UN's health targets for 2030 at risk.
The group’s annual report and accompanying Gender & Health Index monitor the policies and practices of the top 200 organisations working in global health and health policy around the world. According to the report, two major inequalities are impeding progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): career opportunities inside global health organisations, and benefits from the global health system.
A Licence to Operate
Christopher Hirst, CEO at Palladium, has been a long-time critic of the barriers he sees to career progression in the traditional development and aid sector, including in health.
“From requiring post-graduate degrees to prioritising volunteer experience for entry level positions, we limit our workforce out of the gate to those who can afford to pay for education and work for free,” he explains in an article for Thomson Reuters. “We risk being weakened by the lack of diversity that comes from a range of voices, in particular those from disadvantaged groups which ironically, are often the ones with the most contextual understanding and empathy for the problems we’re trying to solve.”
Palladium was included in this year’s Global Health 50/50 report and index for the first time, and called out as a top performer thanks to the changes the company has made over the past few years to address these challenges.
To Palladium Chief Diversity Officer Rosanna Duncan, this has meant making diversity and inclusion a key aspect of the business.
“Diversity has been a competitive advantage for some time, but for us, it’s a license to operate,” Duncan says. “Not only is it good for our people, but the range of perspectives we’re able to harness spark the creativity and innovation we need to solve complex problems in challenging environments – something that’s crucial to our business.”
Tips for Organisations
With Global Health 50/50 predicting that we’re half a century away from gender parity in senior management of the organisations reviewed, and calling for action at the local level, Duncan also has some tips for organisations looking to improve.
“Hold senior leaders accountable and be transparent about progress,” she recommends. “At Palladium, we hold quarterly forums and require senior leaders to report on our KPIs to all staff, including targets on equal pay and blind recruitment.”
Duncan also stresses the importance of reporting, referencing the old adage “what gets measured gets done” and adding that diversity is no exception. She credits improved metrics with having a huge impact on Palladium’s ability to move the needle.
While the Global Health 50/50’s Index has a primary focus on gender, the report also recognises the need to embrace diversity and inclusion (D&I) more broadly. This includes scoring organisations on their policies to advance D&I beyond gender, and noting that only 5% of global health leaders are women from low- and middle-income countries.
“Gender is just one piece of the ‘inclusion jigsaw’,” Duncan explains. “Women are not a homogenous group, and gender parity does not equal diversity or inclusion when women are only being recruited and promoted from the same privileged backgrounds as their existing male counterparts.”
The Global Health 50/50 report finds that an inspiring movement to shift power is strong and growing, but the pace of change is too slow. Duncan believes that this type of research and the concrete recommendations of organisations who are further along their D&I journeys can go a long way toward helping to speed up progress.
“Moving forward, we’re going to see more analysis of how different types of inequality intersect,” she predicts, “and we’ll be able to shift our recruitment practices, selection criteria, cultures, and unconscious biases toward the necessary action for meaningful change.”
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