Each year, through its annual report and the Gender and Health Index, Global Health 50/50 (GH5050) assesses the gender-related policies and practices of global health organisations. The 2022 Report and its findings hope to contribute to growing interrogations of power in global health.
In addition to the in-depth analysis of board members, the report also includes their annual analysis of the individual performance of 200 organisations across GH5050’s standard nine variables on gender-related policies and practices, in which Palladium has participated for the past three years.
The report reveals that while some progress has been made, there are signs of stagnation around gender and diversity markers across global health organisations. After five years of tracking 138 organisations, more than half have never had a female CEO and nearly one third of the organisations have made little to no progress across their index.
“Progress is about making sure equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) is embedded into everything an organisation does until it becomes part of its DNA, rather than it being treated as a tick box exercise,” explains Palladium Chief Diversity Officer, Rosanna Duncan. “EDI is not something you do once and are done with. If organisations want to continue to make progress, it has to be resourced and remain top of the agenda.”
Of the 200 organisations assessed, Palladium was one of 39 ranked a consistently high performer, and one of the few consultancies to do so. Scored across nine variables including commitment to gender equality, workplace gender equality policy, and board diversity and inclusion policy, consistently high performers had to have received at least five points across the nine variables for the past three years.
“We’ve still got a long way to go; however, we’re making progress,” Duncan notes. “Beyond a focus on gender equality, we’re also looking at the categories that intersect gender, be it disability, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background.”
“It’s important that we refresh our strategy and approach on EDI regularly to take into consideration the shifting environment in which we work. To continue to perform well in this area, we’ve had to look at where our vision was and ask ourselves if that was the right vision for where we wanted to go,” she adds.
Duncan explains that she credits much of Palladium’s improvement across the GH5050 index to viewing EDI holistically, ensuring that the lens is applied not just to the internal workforce but to the work that Palladium does with its communities and supply chains.
While many of the companies surveyed have bolstered commitments to gender equality, set and published workplace policies to advance equity, and designed gender-transformative program approaches, the report reveals that the large majority of organisations have not. “We are concerned that progress reported by GH5050 in recent years represents a sector divided into those organisations that are striving to achieve gender equality and those that are stagnating,” reads the report.
This year, for the first time, the group assessed the demographics of board members across 147 organisations, and its findings were staggering. People from high-income countries dominate board membership, 44 percent are held by US nationals alone and people from the US and UK together occupy more than half of all board seats. And while more women are represented than ever before, there is a long way to go to gender parity in board chairs, with only 35 percent of organisations reporting a female board chair.
“The influence and responsibility vested in these governing bodies is vast,” notes Elhadj Assy, Co-Chair of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board. “Some control the distribution of billions of dollars each year, some engage in global discourse determining priorities, norms and solutions. They collectively govern the careers of 4.5 million employees.”
“Ensuring the leadership and influence of people from low- and middle-income countries, and especially women, in these bodies is not only a question of equity – however essential – but of the very relevance, effectiveness and impact of the global health enterprise,” Assy adds.
But diversity is more than gender, and Global Health 50/50 reports that little progress has been made in increasing other measures of diversity among board chairs. Duncan echoes the need for boardroom diversity beyond gender. “In the rush to achieve gender parity targets in the boardroom, we risk seeing women as a homogenous group, when female board members are often likely to be from similar backgrounds and bring similar perspectives as their male counterparts,” she explains.
Duncan adds that of Palladium’s three-seat Board of Directors, one seat is held by a woman. “But the board is only one part of our EDI journey. If you look at our senior-level managers, we now have a far more even split across gender and diversity, and I think that’s a better indicator of where we are.”
As always, there’s room for growth, and if this year’s report is any indication, the spotlight will be on global health organisations’ boardrooms. The past two years have been unprecedented, especially in the realm of global health, but it’s no excuse for stagnation. Though some of the findings of the report are disappointing, there’s an opportunity here to set the tone in putting forth commitments and policies and ensuring that more diverse people have a seat at the table.
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