Let’s end the ‘shadowy practices’ that stop women from breaking glass ceilings

Let's end the 'shadowy practices' that stop women from breaking glass ceilings

In 2016, I campaigned to be elected as United Nations Secretary-General. Even for a seasoned political campaigner, the election process was a case study in lack of transparency.  

Three years on from that campaign, new data from Global Health 50/50 now further reinforces the perception of opaqueness in much of the international system. Its new Equality Works report reveals that a meagre 14 per cent of nearly 200 global health organisations surveyed are fully transparent about their workplace gender equality policies.

The gender pay gap is a particularly vexing area of non-disclosure. The report found that only seven of the 49 organisations which reported their gender pay gap data did so voluntarily, revealing that men’s earnings were 13.5 per cent higher than women’s. The other 41 organisations only disclosed because they are based in the United Kingdom, where they are legally bound to do so by new reporting requirements.

This data is shocking, if not surprising. With decades of experience working across sectors and borders, I have come to learn a great deal about how shadowy practices stall progress, including about how they stop women from breaking glass ceilings.

Against the backdrop of last year’s #metoo and #aidtoo movements, there is a clear need for the management cultures of a number of major global health agencies to be brought into the 21st century. Making organisations less hierarchical, more effective, and increasingly accountable to staff, tax payers, and the people they serve will require transparency, independent scrutiny, and public discussion.

If all the major global health players made their data and policies publicly available, that would be one clear-cut way of fostering a widespread culture of openness to help drive change across the international system. We should also follow the money and push the funders of these organisations to make support conditional on new standards for transparency.

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