Women Health Ministers: courageous and ambitious leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic

Monday, March 8, 2021

Let’s start with something positive:

Since February 2020, women leaders have sought tirelessly to safeguard both health and democracy in the communities they serve, also forging sustainable paths toward more equitable societies while global efforts for recovery are being shaped and implemented.

At the moment of writing, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of more than 2 million people worldwide, even as it threatened our economies and exacerbated inequalities.¹ Throughout it all, women political leaders have shown the way in protecting the health of their constituencies.

Ensuring equitable access to health care 

Impactful solutions must be multilateral, and Health Ministries have been playing a crucial role in ensuring equitable access to health care, delivering medical supplies and vaccines, and providing precautionary guidance to communities. Among them, women Health Ministers have been playing a crucial role.

Recent studies agree that women leaders have been champions in leading the fight against COVID.² Yet they remain starkly underrepresented in leadership positions across a number of sectors, according to the 2020 Women’s World Atlas – a graphic presentation of the persistent divide between women and men in leadership, updated and published each year at the Reykjavík Global Forum and powered by McKinsey & Company. 

  • The 2020 Women’s World Atlas reveals a shocking deficit of women in positions of political leadership. The number of countries with a female Minister of Health is still remarkably small.

At the time that data for 2020 Atlas were collected, only 44 women worldwide were serving as Ministers of Health – less than half the number of women serving as Ministers of Children, Youth, and Family.³ 

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2021, Women Political Leaders (WPL) offers high commendation to these women leaders for their courageous, and ambitious leadership which has been (and will remain) the most consequential force guiding the creation of healthier and more equitable societies. 

Thanks to the outstanding women who have served as Health Ministers during this pandemic, and those who continue to serve that vital purpose!

Get inspired!

Let the leadership of these women be an inspiration – take part in advancing equitable and sustainable health in your own communities. Women are needed in leadership roles at all levels, not only in the fight against COVID-19, but in building a next-generation society. Now is the time to join together, to fill the empty space in those maps in the Women’s World Atlas and to create change around the world, for the health and well-being of all. 

WPL strives constantly to increase visibility and awareness around women’s essential roles, not only in healthcare responses but in all sectors of society. Their leadership inspires everyone, especially the young generations. Working to champion women who are actively transforming the status quo and driving necessary change will encourage young women and girls to achieve their ambition of making a real difference. Visible models of excellence and leadership are crucial – after all, “you can’t be what you can’t see.”

Continuing the work

Advancing health and well-being in all societies, especially during a pandemic, starts with conversations among medical experts and other leaders. In February of this year, WPL hosted women leaders for a roundtable discussion on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3: Health and Well-being. Distinguished participants shared best practices and identified achievable paths that all leaders can take toward the realisation of SDG 3. These guides and practices have been recorded in the Reykjavik Manual, an innovative toolkit that all leaders can employ in their own communities.

Women Political Leaders works to engage leaders across all sectors, seeking always to inspire others through actions that bring greater visibility to the outstanding efforts of women leaders worldwide. In the months and years ahead, beyond this time of crisis, WPL work will continue, always drawing inspiration from the courageous women who have protected and elevated us during this unprecedented global health crisis.