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Table 2 Summary of Key Barriers, Opportunities and Recommendations for Women Leaders in Health and Conflict

From: “Having more women humanitarian leaders will help transform the humanitarian system”: challenges and opportunities for women leaders in conflict and humanitarian health

Key Barriers Opportunities Recommendations
Societal [4, 59, 62, 63, 66] Women’s rights advocacy and localised responses [64, 71, 93]. Community-based dialogs and trainings.
Organised diffusion: Participant-led method to share information with non-participating members [104].
Organisational culture [56, 58] Embedding gender equity approaches in working cultures [66]. Wide-ranging strategies and reforms that challenge deeply entrenched practices.
All institutions involved in conflict and humanitarian action should also undertake gender audits of their organisational culture and human resource management and set milestones to increase female leadership and gender sensitivity at all levels.
Training on gender sensitivity and unconscious bias must be ongoing and built into a wide-range of activities [50, 57].
Organisational policy and commitments [44] Developing inclusive policies and commitments [44]. Incorporate a commitment to gender equality within programme policies, visions, mission statements and core strategies [3, 43, 44].
Sexual harassment and gender-based violence [62, 73, 74] Improving reporting mechanisms [62]. Adopting zero tolerance policies on sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
Hiring independent regulatory bodies to conduct investigations.
Obtain data on sexual violence and gender differentiated analysis to better understand the risks and appropriate mitigation strategies [62, 73, 74].
Gender pay inequity [49] Governmental intervention for transparent salary reporting [84, 85]. Tracking gender pay in the humanitarian sector.
Skills-based hiring [85, 93].
Motherhood leadership penalty [30] Introducing internal roster recruitment [66]. Implementing paternal leave, flexible work policies [25, 26, 92].
Mentorship, training and collaboration [22, 50, 58, 75] The importance of facilitating networks to benefit women aspiring to leadership positions cannot be underestimated, nor can the importance of the women and men who are in leadership roles committing to support those women who aspire to do the same. North-South partnerships are furthermore important, as women leaders in the Global South face compounded burdens in fragile contexts that often marginalize women and exhibit significant regulatory and cultural barriers [94, 98]. Effective mentoring through encouraging, identifying, and generating opportunities for women at early and mid-career stages in order to develop their creative ideas and leadership potential.
PhD funding for women in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs).
More women leaders to serve as editors and on editorial boards of leading journals.
Nominating women leaders in conflict and health for prizes, visiting fellowships, honorary doctorates, and other awards [94, 97, 98].
Power and resources [105] Women’s rights advocacy, localised responses [87, 89]. Formal leadership training for early and mid-career women in humanitarian and conflict-related health sectors.
Grant writing academies for women researchers – especially via the small (to medium) grant schemes for early career women researchers and post-doctoral candidates [58].
Insufficient donor funding [106] Presence of few schemes that address women empowerment [93, 107]. New funding streams and activities that address gender inequality at the local, regional and global scales [84, 106, 108].
Inadequate research [55, 99] There is no data available on how much funding is allocated to women’s leadership in the humanitarian sector.
Quantitative research needs to be conducted to create evidence which promotes targeted funding.
An examination of gender as an important locus of inequity in health capacity research is necessary and the inclusion of female professionals in capacity strengthening programmes should be seen as essential [90, 98].
Feminist research design that seeks to challenge the intersecting power hierarchies that negatively affect women.
Bibliometrics and mapping of author contributions published on conflict and humanitarian health.
Mapping gender composition of leadership teams across a series of humanitarian responses (which does not currently exist) [30, 88, 109].