Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Governance for Health in Low and Middle Income Countries Roundtable hosted by Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) Leadership, Management and Governance (LMG) Project at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. The Roundtable aimed to further the conversation surrounding good governance within businesses and organizations – particularly in regards to health systems management. As demonstrated by the attendees who represented a wide range of cross-cutting issues, good governance impacts everything – from women’s leadership to technological innovations to global health.
Governance is a life and death decision. When you get it right, you live. When you get it wrong, you die. ~ Jono Quick, MD, CEO of MSH
Dr. Kate Tulenko, Senior Director for Health Systems Innovation at IntraHealth International, was first to speak about the importance of women’s leadership in health systems governance. Tulenko emphasized that women usually are first to come into contact with health systems as they – typically – are the primary caregivers for their children. Therefore, more women must ‘sit at the table’ of health systems governance boards in order to achieve the best results – both in finance management and health outcomes. Tulenko also emphasized the need for more data demonstrating how boardroom diversity – in gender and other realms – is critical for improved results.
In order to attract more women to high-level positions, organizations must implement a leadership training style that suits women’s needs.
One option discussed at the Roundtable was to include a mentorship program into companies’ mandatory guidelines. The importance of matching women with more senior women to encourage women-to-women learning cannot be underestimated. Women often experience unique and similar struggles in the workplace (i.e. establishing a healthy work/life balance and interacting with male supervisors). Through female mentorship programs, women are not only more likely to reach for leadership positions, but to excel at them.
Additionally, workplaces must cater to women’s specific needs. As Sheryl Sandberg discussed in Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, an act as small as designating close-up parking spots for pregnant and expecting mothers can have a huge impact on women’s high-level aspirations. To expand on that, the Governance Roundtable discussed the importance of establishing daycare services at workplaces – an effort that would allow women to focus more attention on achieving career goals and less on constant caregiving.
Gender quotas in boardrooms also serve as a helpful tool to ensure gender equity exists in the workplace. However, merely including women at the executive level is not enough. Women must be considered boardroom equals and have the ability and desire to freely voice their opinions to male colleagues without the threat of negative consequences. Therefore, in order for women to most effectively participate in board discussions, leadership training – for both men and women – must begin at an early age.
Participating in the Governance Roundtable discussions was an amazing experience. I learned an incredible amount from the participants and left with a greater appreciation of the importance of approaching obstacles in a holistic manner. After all, good governance is not good governance unless it extinguishes all major threats of corruption throughout every sector – whether found in governance, health, education, leadership, or gender equality.
To learn more about the Governance Roundtable, please see the following:
- Follow the event’s Twitter feed at #g4h2013
- LMG’s event recap “G4H2013: We must put ideas to action!”
- LMG’s photo blog
Organizations represented at the Roundtable include Abt Associates Inc, AMREF, BoardEffect LLC, Boston University, Center for Strategic and International Studies, DAI, Department for International Development, Free the Slaves, Hughes Development Inc, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Leadership, Management & Governance Project, Management Sciences for Health, Medic Mobile, Medicine Imperial College London, Plan USA, RTI International, USAID, the World Health Organization, and of course, Girls’ Globe.