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Addressing the issue of gender inequity on a priority basis in the health sector

1 Vice-Principal Curriculum, Member of the Medical Education Unit and Institute Research Council, Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth – Deemed To Be University, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth – Deemed to be University, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission28-Apr-2019
Date of Decision13-Aug-2019
Date of Acceptance15-Oct-2019

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava,
Professor, Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth (SBV) – Deemed to be University, Tiruporur - Guduvancherry Main Road, Ammapettai, Nellikuppam, Chengalpattu, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu - 603108
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mjdrdypu.mjdrdypu_117_19

How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS. Addressing the issue of gender inequity on a priority basis in the health sector. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth [Epub ahead of print] [cited 2021 Nov 30]. Available from: https://www.mjdrdypv.org/preprintarticle.asp?id=309941

The health sector across the world gives an employment to close to 250 million health workers, and it has been reported that 70% of the global health workforce is constituted by women, of which almost 50% are working in the unorganized sector.[1] It is an alarming fact that hardly one-fourth of the female health workforce occupies senior roles and actually gets a chance to make critical decisions and lead the work.[1] These facts suggest that even though women are predominantly involved in the delivery of health services, it is men who actually lead the task.[1],[2]

Moving further, the so-called gender norms and stereotyping significantly affect the role which female health worker can assume, and it also plays a crucial role in determining the gender pay gap.[3],[4] In fact, a difference of close to 28% has been reported among the two genders, with men getting more pay than female health workers.[1],[3] The problem is further complicated by the lack of financial support owing to which the prospects of accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals are reduced big time.[3] In addition, the number of women who are full-time employees is also significantly less when compared with the number of men, and their involvement is further affected by their race and caste.[1],[4]

Another dimension of gender inequity is that these female health workers are often exposed to bias, discrimination, and sexual harassment, which then affect their dignity and even the desire to continue with their career.[2],[3],[4],[5] If we allow all these issues to progress without intervening, there are no doubts that the health-care delivery in itself will be compromised, as we are in need of >40 million health workers by 2030 and the majority of these workers will be required in low- and middle-income nations.[1],[3] All these issues clearly emphasize the issue of gender inequity in the health sector and the need that steps have to be taken to bridge the same.[2],[4],[5]

It is important to note that in the absence of precise and targeted strategic interventions, gender equity cannot be achieved in even 200 years.[1] It is high time that nations should adopt those policies which can precisely address the underlying reasons for the prevailing gender inequities.[3],[5] In other words, it is the need of the hour to look for gendertransformative changes, which can simultaneously meet the shortcomings attributed to the system.[4],[5],[6],[7] There is a definite plan to expand the health workforce with the help of different international agencies, and gender has been given key importance while formulating policies.[3],[4],[5],[6],[7] However, we have to realize that mere increase in the number of vacancies will not solve the existing problems; instead, we should look to improve the working conditions and give more responsibilities to women.[3] Moreover, efforts have to be taken to prioritize the research activities in this regard and focus should be toward evaluating the impact of the planned interventions.[1],[3]

In conclusion, the need of the hour is to formulate and implement gender-transformative policies with an aim to eliminate gender-based discrimination with regard to the pay scale and job responsibilities and aid them in their professional development and discharge of leadership roles.

  References Top

World Health Organization. Gender Equity in the Health Workforce: Analysis of 104 Countries. Geneva: WHO Press; 2019. p. 1-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Inequality in health for women, infants, and children: An alarming public health concern. Int J Prev Med 2016;7:10.  Back to cited text no. 2
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
World Health Organization. 10 Key Issues in Ensuring Gender Equity in the Global Health Workforce; 2019. Available from: https://www.who.int/ news-room/feature-stories/detail/10-key-issues-in- ensuring gender-equity-in-the-global-health-workforce [Last accessed on 2019 Apr 28].  Back to cited text no. 3
George AS, Amin A, GarcÍa-Moreno C, Sen G. Gender equality and health: Laying the foundations for change. Lancet 2019;393:2369-71.  Back to cited text no. 4
Newman CJ, de Vries DH, d'Arc Kanakuze J, Ngendahimana G. Workplace violence and gender discrimination in Rwanda's health workforce: Increasing safety and gender equality. Hum Resour Health 2011;9:19.  Back to cited text no. 5
Holliday EB, Siker M, Chapman CH, Jagsi R, Bitterman DS, Ahmed AA, et al. Achieving gender equity in the radiation oncology physician workforce. Adv Radiat Oncol 2018;3:478-83.  Back to cited text no. 6
Sheehy AM, Kolehmainen C, Carnes M. We specialize in change leadership: A call for hospitalists to lead the quest for workforce gender equity. J Hosp Med 2015;10:551-2.  Back to cited text no. 7


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