World Health is in the Hands of Women

Illustration by Corinna Heumann/ Text by Ted Ganten, Susanne Gold, Corinna Heumann

Setting the pace in terms of equality: World health is in the hands of women!

Equal treatment of women and men makes societies more resilient and thus economically more successful. In crises, grievances become particularly evident. This clarity enables us to drive forward the progress we need.

Especially in difficult times we get an undisguised view for facts. This also applies to the crisis of our time, COVID-19

A look at the structure of the world health system: Health is a human right, which we not only proclaim but also want to implement. But who actually implements this human right at present? At the World Health Summit in Berlin in October 2020, the role of women during the pandemic was highlighted. A look at the current situation makes it clear that women are not only the mainstay of global health systems, but are also more affected by pandemics than men.
An initial crisis assessment by the German Economic Research Institute already made the gender imbalance in Germany abundantly clear: Women in Germany still bear the main burden of daily work in the family, in childcare and in caring for relatives in need of care. A look at the rest of the world paints a similar picture.

The role of women in the global health system

The female contribution to the health sector is immense: 75 % of those employed in the health and care sector are women, not including the work that women additionally perform in families. Germany also sets a negative benchmark by discriminating against women in management positions. For example, the Swedish-German Allbright Foundation has already described the treatment of women in Germany as a “special path”.

Men remain in power!

The proportion of women on the boards of Dax companies is declining and even in areas where women are the majority, such as the health care system, leadership remains in the hands of men. Germany is not alone in this: despite their immense commitment, only 25% of the world’s leading positions in the health sector are held by women.

This is despite the fact that it is precisely in times of crisis that “typically female” qualities such as empathy, balanced opinion-forming and non-violent communication are the key to success.

Through their employment in the medical and nursing professions, women are also more exposed to infections. The workload and stress factors for women increase greatly during the pandemic. Social protection, family structures and safety nets are strained, living and working conditions of women are further aggravated by the pandemic.

The pandemic has further aggravated problematic living conditions for women.

Women have to forego income more often during the pandemic. The pandemic pressure sometimes leads to difficult and sometimes inhumane conditions for women worldwide. The structural dependency in which many women in the world live financially and spatially enables a new quality of power and thus also of violence as a result of the pandemic.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, female unemployment has risen. Proportionally fewer women have been newly employed. In addition, in families it is predominantly the mothers who reduced their working hours and thus also their income in order to look after the children or to prevent the risk of infection in their professional environment.

Women often suffer from the collateral damage of the pandemic.

Since access to health care facilities is severely restricted during pandemics, maternal mortality is rising at the same time. During the lockdown, the pressure breaks out into increased domestic violence and unwanted pregnancies. Family care – in many places still the domain of women – becomes more difficult and dangerous in remote areas.

Gender equality is social progress!

Although the performance of women in pandemics is disproportionately important for society, they are at the same time disadvantaged in several ways. Gender equality at all levels of society is the only sustainable way to make societies crisis-proof.

The Corona crisis shows us that it is quite possible to make economically hard and morally correct decisions. For example, it was suddenly possible to unhinge capitalist logic for a short time in order to act morally right. The economy was shut down to save human lives. In this context, French President Emmanuel Macron demanded that we should not leave our healthcare systems to the free market. This despite the fact that he had recently made great efforts to make France’s economy more liberal. But Macron recognized the moral hazard of the crisis and changed his stance.

So there is one lesson we can learn from the corona crisis: It is possible to solve moral problems through cooperation between science, politics and business. In every crisis there is also the chance for moral progress to include ethical values in the discussion. This should also apply to the imbalance in the orchestration of healthcare systems. The health or illnesses of people cannot be a commodity with which to make ever greater profits.

As far as possible, the still often unpaid work done by women in the health sector should also be transparently presented and remunerated. Undeclared work in the home environment must be vigorously combated and transferred to insured employment relationships. Typical female characteristics such as compassion, inclusion, solidarity, care and cooperation are particularly important in crises.

The path to a crisis-proof social structure: How can this be achieved?

A new structure can succeed, if women and men live their lives together with respect and appreciation. Our global society – as the pandemic clearly shows – is ultimately only the sum of its parts.

Our future is a vision. It is formed from our decisions, which are determined by our thoughts and feelings.  Only together can we work for a good and crisis-proof future. Every single one of us – now!

Time to set the course

Therefore, anyone who can hire women in management positions should do so. Every single decision made by women in leadership positions simultaneously paves the way to a more crisis-resistant society. At the pace we are currently moving in terms of equality, it will take another 100 years to get there.

This must change. Not only in the interest of women, but in the interest of everyone! It is true that the Covid pandemic has paralyzed the economy, threatening livelihoods and disrupting entire industries. But this crisis also opens up completely new opportunities for us. Today we are setting the course for our future – and tomorrow can make possible what was unthinkable yesterday. Today, we are making a lasting impression on the society and economy of tomorrow. Each and every one of us. Particularly when it comes to equal rights, we should not carry the past into the future.

That’s why we are calling for speed and diversity to be promoted.

Not only, but especially in the healthcare sector. Not only, but also to emerge from this crisis with increased resilience as a global society. So, speed up the process of equal rights!


One comment on “World Health is in the Hands of Women”
  1. This is a great initiative! congratulaltions!
    I agree – but what can I do to improve the Situation??
    Detlev Ganten

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