International Women’s Day 2023 perspectives from the IHF community

Date:  30 March 2023

Every year on 8 March, news stories and events pop up under the purple banner of “International Women’s Day (IWD)”. According to the United Nations (UN), “International days are occasions to educate the general public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity”. The UN officially adopted International Women’s Day in 1975. However, records indicate that it was celebrated as early as 1911 in Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, and France.

This year we asked leaders in our community to tell us what IWD means to them and what progress they’d like to see materialize in the future. Here are some of the messages they shared with us.

Removing the barriers to equal opportunities

“All over the world healthcare is mostly provided by women. In Portugal it amounts to 78% of the workforce. At my organization, 71% of the staff are women and 75% of the management
positions are occupied by a woman. Here, as in several Portuguese public organizations, we have some benefits, such as flexible working hours or full-time work from home for parents with children – both for men and women.”

Vanessa Ribeiro, IHF Member, Portugal

“In the past, only five% of our physicians were women. We are very proud that recently we have reached 30%. One thing we feel has helped this progress has been our effort to support female doctors who also want to be mothers. Traditionally women in Japan had to give up their careers in order to raise a family. At our hospital we are striving to create a supportive environment which offers benefits and policies to make childbearing and childcare less of a barrier and we encourage male doctors to take childcare leave as well so that they can support their partners.”

Dr Satoru Komatsumoto, IHF Member, Japan

Addressing bias and challenging perceptions

“In my workplace, we have implemented a programme to promote diversity and inclusion by providing training and resources to all employees. This programme aims to educate our staff on the importance of equity, to eliminate any biases, and to create an inclusive workplace where everyone feels respected and valued.”

Muna Tahlak, IHF President Elect, Dubai

“When I first joined hospital administration 40 years ago, women were nuns, nurses, or volunteers. And thank goodness for those women who became the foundation for the healthcare system that we have today. Now women are in every position across the organization, across the sector. There's just not enough. We need more board members, more managers, more directors, more CEOs, and more COOs. Let's make sure that it's not another 40 years to achieve equity.”

Linda Clark, Director of Professional Development at the IHF

Ensuring equal representation at every level

“Women bring fundamental contributions to the healthcare workplace, but so do men. Our current workforce is 64% women. Through our training, coaching, mentorship, and recruitment
processes, we are encouraging more men in the healthcare workforce. And through our college of healthcare sciences, we encourage more male nursing students.”

Toseef Din, IHF Member, Kenya

“Even if the world population counts 51% of women, in the health sector 75% to even 90% of the workforce is female. Where are all these women? Only 25% of them hold senior positions. In general, health is delivered by women and directed by men. […] Healthcare systems will
be stronger when the women who deliver them have an equal say in their design and
Policies.”

Bettina Borisch, IHF Partner, Switzerland

Acknowledging the work to be done

“The National Health Service here in Britain is one of the biggest employers in the world, employing about 1.4 million people. Four out of every five of those people are women, but we're still underrepresented in the most senior positions. Our challenges will resonate with our global colleagues. Women's health, women's safety, the gender pay gap, flexible working, blockages in talent pipelines, promotion, and the importance of supporting professional development.”

Dr Layla McCay, IHF Member, UK

“I would look to a day where more women in fact occupy the corner suites, their voices are heard, and they are empowered to be able to contribute to healthcare, to the global economy, to the health of the nation. Because health and economics go hand in hand, and if the nations are healthy, and if women can play a big role in that, we're doing a great service for mankind.”

Dr Preetha Reddy, IHF Member, India

The IHF is a member organization for the leaders of health systems, hospitals associations and stand-alone hospitals around the world. Together we look forward to continuing the conversation on addressing challenges and identifying opportunities to advance leadership so that healthcare delivery across the globe can most effectively meet the needs of the hospital of today and tomorrow.

Share your insights on gender equity in healthcare leadership, send us your story at ihf.secretariat@ihf-fih.org.

Key references on gender:

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Written by:

Katherine Bennett

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