The discussion began by aligning on key definitions. Gender equity is the process of being fair to people of all genders. Social inclusion is any set of actions or interventions designed to enable each person or community to fully participate in society and enjoy a safe and healthy life despite race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies or identities.
Members shared on the current states of gender and social inclusion in the health supply chain, including efforts to date to integrate gender and social inclusion in the supply chain:
- Bayo Adekola described that there are a number of barriers preventing women, persons with disabilities, and other excluded groups from accessing education and employment opportunities, affecting their participation in the supply chain workforce.
- Several participants cited research from Gartner, which indicates women comprise only 41% of the supply chain workforce (asof 2021). Women represent only 39% of supply chain undergraduates and 5% of supply chain executives. This data is predominantly from high income country contexts and does not include frontier markets.
Women comprise only 41% of the supply chain workforce, 39% of supply chain undergraduates, and 5% of supply chain executives.
- An anonymous participant – using EtherPad to submit responses – highlighted that the family planning supply chain may be viewed as the most appropriate place for the involvement of women. This could explain why there are not as many examples of integrating gender equity and social inclusions across global health supply chains.
- Alexis Strader raised that the gap in women’s representation in leadership roles can directly affect young women seeking to join the supply chain workforce. When young women do not see themselves represented, it may discourage them from seeking employment or setting goals for advancement.
- Another anonymous participant shared that when she was younger and unmarried she was not listened to in her roles in the supply chain workforce. She shared that even now that she is older she may not be given credit for her work, and she has felt she needed to be overqualified to be taken seriously. This could be a barrier to women’s advancement in the supply chain workforce linked to gender norms and biases.
- Miranda Buba Gyanggyang shared her experience working in the supply chain. She was discouraged from joining the supply chain due to the perspective that the work is physically demanding and thus not appropriate for women. There are also concerns for women’s safety when traveling to manage logistics, which can also affect their families.
- An anonymous participant shared that although some women are employed with implementing partners and Ministries of Health in supply chain roles, they tend to be involved in the programmatic side of supply chain work as opposed to the logistics side.
- Tauqueer Ahmad explained a long-standing belief that women may not be capable of taking on roles in the supply chain (e.g., driving trucks, using equipment in warehouses). This affected perceptions of women and undermined their opportunities for employment in the supply chain.
- Barry Chovitz discussed equity and inclusion from the perspective of the communities that receive medicines through the supply chain. Barry shared an example from Tanzania, where community leaders were invited to understand the products available in the supply chain to encourage community ownership and involvement. This allowed communities to advocate for more medicines if needed. Unfortunately, social dynamics, including political affiliations, can affect the distribution of products in the supply chain. As Barry shared, “Even though supply chains should be neutral, medicines are a tangible asset, and can be manipulated.”
The conversation then shifted to what we could be doing to promote gender equity and social inclusion in the health supply chain:
- Bayo Adekola advocated for conversations to better understand how inequities and exclusion affect access to essential health commodities, and that supply chain managers should use this information for improved inclusiveness especially for persons with disabilities, adolescents, and young people.
- Bayo Adekola expressed the need to improve access to educational opportunities to make them more inclusive, thus increasing opportunities for employment in the supply chain. There is also work to be done to remove gender and social inclusion related barriers to employment, including establishing a facilitating and welcoming workplace environment for people from all genders and social groups. Finally, there are gaps in representation in women, persons with disabilities, and other excluded groups in leadership roles.
- Pamela Steele raised the question of what we know about the impact of increased focus on training women in the supply chain workforce, and pointed out the gap in knowledge about women’s involvement in the supply chain workforce and leadership in frontier markets. There needs to be transparency from organizations about how they support women from recruitment, to advertising, to compensation for equal work. The voices of women and girls must also be included to understand their interest in the supply chain and their experiences. However, research alone is not sufficient – research must be translated into concrete actions to enhance women’s involvement and improve their experiences in the supply chain.
There needs to be transparency from organizations about how they support women from recruitment, to advertising, to compensation for equal work.
- Alexis Strader emphasized the need to attract more women to join the supply chain workforce, which was recently discussed in a webinar from CARISCA. Participants discussed reaching young women early in their studies and careers to generate interest in supply chain management.
- Miranda Buba Gyanggyang shared that she was deeply impacted by having a woman as a role model early in her career, which helped her navigate her own career in the supply chain. There are also discussions ongoing about compensating supply chain employees for overtime work in warehouses, which could help overcome barriers to women’s continued participation in these roles.
- Tauqueer Ahmad pointed out the need to shift perceptions of leadership in the supply chain so they can use their influence to effect change in workplace environments and cultures for equity and inclusion. Leaders need to understand the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion to improve their projects/programs.
- Vicky Nyombi recommended that advertisements for job postings in the supply chain should encourage applicants from underrepresented groups to apply. Institutions can also put into place policies that can allow for groups to accept employment in the supply chain. For example, flexible work policies can help support women who have families to work in the supply chain.
- Barry Chovitz pointed out two opportunities to enhance gender equity and social inclusion: (1) How could community health workers and volunteers be mobilized to deliver medicines to clients who may not be able to access a facility? (2) Because educational access impacts opportunities for employment, how could educational institutions ensure more diversity in their student population? Are there opportunities to provide training outside of formal educational institutions?