Time to address gender discrimination and inequality in the health workforce

Constance Newman
2014 Human Resources for Health  
Gender is a key factor operating in the health workforce. Recent research evidence points to systemic gender discrimination and inequalities in health pre-service and in-service education and employment systems. Human resources for health (HRH) leaders' and researchers' lack of concerted attention to these inequalities is striking, given the recognition of other forms of discrimination in international labour rights and employment law discourse. If not acted upon, gender discrimination and
more » ... alities result in systems inefficiencies that impede the development of the robust workforces needed to respond to today's critical health care needs. This commentary makes the case that there is a clear need for sex-and age-disaggregated and qualitative data to more precisely illuminate gender-related trends and dynamics in the health workforce. Because of their importance for measurement, the paper also presents definitions and examples of sex or gender discrimination and offers specific case examples. At a broader level, the commentary argues that gender equality should be an HRH research, leadership, and governance priority, where the aim is to strengthen health pre-service and continuing professional education and employment systems to achieve better health systems outcomes, including better health coverage. Good HRH leadership, governance, and management involve recognizing the diversity of health workforces, acknowledging gender constraints and opportunities, eliminating gender discrimination and equalizing opportunity, making health systems responsive to life course events, and protecting health workers' labour rights at all levels. A number of global, national and institution-level actions are proposed to move the gender equality and HRH agendas forward. Key concepts Gender inequalities are systems inefficiencies that contribute to clogged health worker educational pipelines, recruitment bottlenecks, attrition, and worker maldistribution in formal and non-formal health workforces. Fostering gender equality increases the likelihood of women and men having an equal chance of choosing a health
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-12-25 pmid:24885565 pmcid:PMC4014750 fatcat:f7m7xtbwv5fg5ojhy4il5wzjiy