Global and Local Evidence: Women in Leadership in Health Sector

Session Report
Reetwika Mallick

The Gender Impact Studies Center, at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi conducted a Two-Month Online National Winter School Program on ‘Young Women Leaders in Public Policy Fellowship’ from January 6th, 2024 to March 8th 2024.

The course, spread over two months, provided a unique opportunity to gain in-depth insight into public policy. The course led by esteemed experts, empowered young women to be effective leaders. Through a combination of engaging lectures, interactive workshops, networking, guidance by thematic experts and practical exercises.

On day 5 of the Young Women Leaders in Public Policy Fellowship, Ms. Sangeeta Rege, Coordinator, Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT), Mumbai, delivered a compelling presentation on women in leadership positions in the health sector.

Women in Health Sector

Commencing the session, Ms. Rege outlined the representation of women in the health sector globally and locally in leadership positions. In the formal health sector, as Ms. Rege traced only 25% of the executive leadership positions are filled by women globally. In low and middle-income countries the number is more disturbing. Economic contribution of women in the health sector, as Ms. Rege enumerated majorly comes from the care-giving work which is hugely laborious.

According to NSSO 2017-18, 80% of the women in the health sector are employed as nurses of various positions. Despite such a huge number, Ms. Rege drew the session’s attention towards lack of representation of women in the decision-making aspect.

Ms. Rege sharing a qualitative study conducted in Kerala, a state that is considered to be performing well in the gender equality indicator, elucidated how abuse and discrimination towards women still persists in the society. The study provides perspective on the challenges of women in the health sector. Ms. Rege while explaining the barriers mentioned that the list was not exhaustive. Among the struggles, one prominent struggle faced by the women was to continue with their education and therefore they had to constantly balance their domestic responsibilities- private in nature as well as excelling in their academics to be able to continue their studies. 

In the session, Ms. Rege explaining the barriers faced by women mentioned that women had to choose a non-clinical degree in their post-graduation in order to be able to fulfil their domestic responsibilities. Ms. Rege here enumerated that the career choices of women are often driven by society’s constructions. Such societal constructions even hinder women’s career growth towards securing leadership positions.

Several other roadblocks faced by women in the health sector were also discussed, including women being transferred to the city where their spouses are located just to ensure women are able to perform their domestic roles. Ms. Rege revealed that, since there are very few women role models in the leadership position, whose trajectory the young women can follow, the young women feel more vulnerable in a patriarchal working environment.

Ms. Rege, taking the session forward discussed another study capturing the discrimination faced by the women in the health sector in Mumbai. The study emphasized upon the abuse that women experience in both domestic as well as in the public sphere at the workplace within the health sector. Ms. Rege, also outlined the challenges that female doctors when compared to female nurses face- i.e. lack of organizational power. Since nurses have a strong union and work in association, they speak about the abuses they face, however, when female doctors face abuses from colleagues or patients they tend to remain silent due to a lack of strong associational voice.

Ms. Rege in the session further shared some positive examples from across the world whereby women were successfully represented in leadership positions, proving women can be as effective leaders as men can be and at times can also outperform men in leadership capabilities. Ms. Rege shared a model of how a feminist leadership should look like. She suggested that there is a need for dismantling the traits that are glorified as leadership- that masculine trait- that leaders are independent, should be looked at as inaccessible people and should not work with the team. The feminist analysis of leadership, on the other hand, emphasizes leaders being communicative, purposeful, egalitarian and gender-sensitive.

Concluding the session, Ms. Rege elucidated the need for more women in leadership positions in order to create role models for young women.

Read more event reports of IMPRI here:
From Partition to Progress: Young Women Redefining the Future in Public Policy


  • IMPRI Desk

    IMPRI, a startup research think tank, is a platform for pro-active, independent, non-partisan and policy-based research. It contributes to debates and deliberations for action-based solutions to a host of strategic issues. IMPRI is committed to democracy, mobilization and community building.

    View all posts