Launching the list of 200+ Francophone Women Leaders in Global Health: Taking stock and next steps

In 2014 and 2015, Illona Kickbush, Director of the Global Health Programme at the Graduate Institute of Development and International Studies in Geneva, launched the #WGH100 and #WGH300 lists of Women Leaders in Global Health to redress the lack of recognition of women in global health leadership and governance [1, 2]. This historic initiative, circulated throughout social media, received tremendous international support and underlined the necessity for frank conversations about the lack of representation of talented women who work and are experts in global health. We contend, however, that these initial lists showed geographical and linguistic disparities among different groups of women. As a group of Francophone doctoral students, post-doctorates and recent graduates of the School of Public Health of the University of Montreal (ESPUM), we approached Women in Global Health (WGH), whose mission is to promote parity between men and women in global health leadership, to set up a project to address this in the French-speaking community.

Working alongside the WGH’s global movement for equality, the WGH Francophone Working Group was established to organise and manage an open process for collecting names for a list of current and emerging women leaders in global health, aiming to increase the visibility of dedicated women leaders who speak and/or work in French. We launched a call for nominations of Francophone women leaders working in global health both in French and English that was open from June to September 2018. It was shared on the WGH’s website, with international and regional global health networks, and through targeting specific organisations, groups and individuals on Twitter. To amplify the call, a correspondence was published in The Lancet to further raise awareness among the global scientific community about the under-representation of Francophone women in global health leadership efforts [3].

In total, we received more than 330 individual nominations, with more than 50 duplicates. Each nominated woman was contacted through email and asked to validate her information. For those who did not reply, five reminders were sent to ensure that no woman who was nominated was left behind. As a result, 204 women are included in this first Francophone WGH List, coming from 35 countries across four continents. Compared to previous lists, the representation of women leaders working in global health from low- and middle-income countries has significantly increased, with a higher percentage of women from the African continent represented (46% in 2018 [4] versus 13% in 2015 [3]). The following graphs summarise these observations.

On November 20, 2018, we pre-launched the web version of the list of 200+ Francophone Women Leaders in Global Health, along the Canadian Women in Global Health list, during the Canadian Conference on Global Health in Toronto. Several conference participants and scholars noted the importance of highlighting the work of women in global health, beyond those working in English. Acknowledging that this initial list is not complete and does not include all Francophone women leaders worldwide, there was also a great interest in seeing the Francophone list being expanded in the upcoming years. More recently in Montreal, on January 30, 2019, the Research Institute in Public Health of the University of Montreal (IRSPUM) and the ESPUM organised a scientific event where we launched and promoted the Francophone list. Didier Jourdan, the UNESCO-WHO Chair on Education and Health congratulated this initiative and suggested that for each Francophone woman contacted through this list and invited to speak at global health events, the Francophone Working Group and WGH should be notified to witness the reach and monitor effects prospectively. Internally, we are also exploring the expansion of the list, with the support of new potential members being based in different parts of the world.

Working toward gender equality is a long-term endeavour which requires inter-country and inter-disciplinary collaboration. We are committed to keep going! And you?

From left to right: Lara Gautier, Muriel Mac-Seing, Érica da Silva Miranda

[1] The Graduate Institute Geneva. Global Health Programme. 100 Women Leaders in Global Health 2014.

[2] The Graduate Institute Geneva. Global Health Programme. 300 Women Leaders in Global Health 2015.

[3] Jones CM, Gautier L, Kadio K, Mac-Seing M, Miranda É, Omenka C, et al. Equity in the gender equality movement in global health. The Lancet. 2018;392(10142):e2-e3.

[4] Group WW. 200+ Femmes francophones leaders en santé mondiale. 200+ Francophone Women Leaders in Global Health 2018.

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