By Michele Barry, Zohray Talib, Ashley Jowell, Kelly Thompson, Cheryl Moyer, Heidi Larson, Katherine Burke, and the Steering Committee of the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference

The complexity of global health problems demands leadership that represents the pluralism in society. The absence of gender parity in the leadership of key global health institutions in academic, governmental, and non-governmental organisations is evidence that this aspiration for diverse and inclusive leadership is not yet a reality.1, 2 Women continue to represent most of the health workforce worldwide yet remain the minority in global health leadership.3 For example, only 31% of the world's ministers of health are women, and among the chief executives of the 27 health-care companies in the 2017 global Fortune 500, only one is female.4

To address this gap the inaugural 2017 Women Leaders in Global Health Conference (WLGH) at Stanford University, CA, USA, brought together more than 400 leaders, mostly women, from 68 countries, representing more than 250 organisations and institutions. The attendees reflected on current gaps and barriers to the advancement of women in global health and the steps needed to achieve gender equity in leadership. A number of key themes emerged.

"it was incredibly inspiring seeing women of all ages and backgrounds, and from so many different parts of the world, coming together to discuss women's leadership openly and in a constructive way.  I left feeling a responsibility to think more about what we can do together at UW and with our partners in Kenya to support women to become leaders in global health and other disciplines – and to take concrete action," said Carey Farquhar, MD, MPH, Associate Chair, Academic Programs, Department of Global Health, UW, who participated in the conference.

Also see Student Blog: Women Leaders In Global Health—Beyond Gender Parity by Shadae Paul, UW Department of Global Health MPH, MPA Candidate, who attended the conference. 


Judith Wasserheit, Chair of the Department of Global Health, was on Steering Committee that organized the inaugural Women Leaders in Global Health conference and contributed to the development of this manuscript. The Department of Global Health and Women’s Center at the University of Washington joined forces as one of the conference sponsors. 

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