Men make most of the decisions connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a worrying trend that could cost lives.
A study of 115 decision-making and core advisory bodies from 87 countries showed that over 85% are male dominated and just 11% have mostly female representatives, with only 3.5% gender balance.
According to research reported in the journal BMJ Global Health, the situation isn’t any better at the international level. For example, the World Health Organization’s first, second and third International Health Regulations Emergency Committee has just 23.8 percent, 23.8 percent and 37.5 percent of women members respectively.
“Reaching a critical mass of women in leadership, as a result of intentional selection or quotas, benefits governance processes,” the researchers said.
Benefits of women participation
The researchers said that including more women in decision-making challenged group thinking, led to more innovative views and higher monitoring and management efficiency, as well as more proactive risk management.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, countries led by women had “systematically better” results, with female leaders locking down the countries earlier than others and reporting half as many COVID-19 deaths, research published in June confirmed.
The absence of women in decision-making and advisory bodies also means that it is less likely for concerns related to women to be heard during the pandemic.
Impact of pandemic on women
Although COVID-19 has hit men harder as a disease, the pandemic’s long-term economic and social implications may fall more heavily on the shoulders of women. Early signs are that the coronavirus recession has hit women harder.
The researchers said that past pandemics, such as Zika and Ebola, have had negative consequences for women, such as increased levels of maternal disease and death, as well as unintended pregnancies and illegal abortions.
Not all governments have publicly released COVID-related data, which is broken down based on gender. According to a tracker published by the Global Health 50/50 project at University College London, fewer than one in three of the world’s countries record gender-classified data for both COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The study authors claimed that data on membership, leadership and areas of expertise in advisory and decision-making bodies were “neither easily accessible nor publicly accessible.”
“Men dominating leadership positions in global health has long been the default mode of governing. This not only reinforces inequitable power structures but undermines an effective COVID-19 response which is ultimately costing lives,” the researchers added.