By Akilah James (@ajxmesss)
International Women’s Day globally celebrates the social, economic, political, and cultural achievements of women. It is one of the most important days of the year to work towards raising awareness about women’s equality, fundraise for female-focused charities, and lobby for accelerated gender parity.
One project that uses these principles as the basis for their work is Empowering Women In Health. The project aims to empower female university students into changing future practices of gender and social exclusion and recognizing key figures in the field of health. The project aims to foster self-reflexivity and calls on society itself for action to provoke real change.
Tatiana Espinosa-Merlano - Founder and Project Director, Empowering Women In Health created the project after noticing the lack of women in senior leadership positions in healthcare.
After reading a recent UN report stating “70% of the global health force are women”, but only take up “25% of senior leadership positions in healthcare”, Espinosa-Merlano decided it was time for a change.
“I’ve been studying in the health field for about six years and it was only recently when I had finished that I became aware of women’s health,” said Espinosa-Merlano. “I realized the field that I had studied in and that I really admired for providing people with care was actually reinforcing some societal biases and gender disparities in their very own treatments and research.”
“I thought the UN report was really shocking because usually, you think of health as a field that is equal in terms of gender disparity but it actually is not. I looked at data from Canada and realized that the numbers were shockingly similar,” added Espinosa-Merlano. “That’s when I realized that this applied to almost every health field that you could find. I decided to create this project to fill in the hole in our community and to expose the problem while also helping others to become empowered.”
While gender disparity in healthcare is a growing problem the Empowering Women in Health project is working to bring recognition to - it is a problem that is often swept under the rug in both mainstream media and research efforts overall. Women’s role in healthcare still goes heavily unnoticed even in a time where gender exclusion is heavily looked down. Espinosa-Merlano believes that this is because not enough people know of this problem to bring the proper awareness and exposure that it needs.
“I think the problem is that people do not know that this is a problem and so it is a perpetual cycle that goes on and on. People often look at fields like business, engineering, and finance where you usually see more of a male presence and think these are the fields we have to fight,” says Espinosa-Merlano.
“There is also not a lot of research being done to collect data on this gender disparity. For example, I was doing research for Black History Month and looked up what percentage of leaders do Black women represent in healthcare? There is no data on that. Who is the first Black female doctor in Canada? No one knows. The data is just not out there” she said.
Empowering Women in Health is also hosting a 2 hour International Women's Panel taking place on March 12th hosted by distinguished female leaders describing their experiences in their different fields of study and imparting their knowledge on future generations.
Tatiana associates International Women’s Day to her project as an important day of celebrating women’s achievements, and a call to action.
“It was the birth of the initial project. We have decided to adopt International Women’s Day principles such as awareness and empowerment and we’re embracing them to be applicable all year long,” she added.
How will you celebrate International Women’s Day? Let us know here!