Women have been making steady gains in the traditionally male-dominated health care field. They make up over 50% of medical school students across Canada and over 80% of the health care workforce. Yet gender disparities remain. Women lead fewer than 20% of hospitals, and hold relatively few leadership positions overall.
On June 12, efforts to shatter the glass ceiling and empower women leaders in the health care sector received a major thumbs up. The Canadian College of Health Leaders and the Canadian Health Leadership Network, working with University of Ottawa Telfer School of Management professors Ivy Lynn Bourgeault and Barbara Orser, the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvements and the Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work, received $400,000 to advance gender equality in health care, health sciences and indigenous health. The funding was awarded by Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef as part of the Canada 150 project grants.
The team’s project, Empowering Women Leaders in Health (eWoLIH), aims to transform the health care, health sciences and indigenous health system by increasing participation, visibility and advancement of women in leadership positions. “Our goal is to build a strong and supportive community of established and emerging women leaders, helping them transform the health care system by drawing on women’s unique leadership skills, experiences and contributions,” says Bourgeault, the project lead. “This network will support community outreach initiatives, build partnerships and work to bring down the systemic barriers that contribute to gender inequity in health care, health sciences and indigenous health.”
The project, which will begin in Ottawa, Toronto and London, will first identify the unique systemic barriers limiting women’s participation in leadership roles. Working with partners, the team will develop and put in practice a set of action tools and resources and promote measures to remove these barriers.
By the end of the project, the team plans to have implemented these activities and evaluated their effectiveness. “Women’s leadership in health sciences is critical to advance research on issues specific to women, encourage female scientists and generate new knowledge to improve health and health care. It will also help shape the next generation of health workers and the leaders of tomorrow,” adds Bourgeault.