Equity and Equality in Global Health: Making Our Way

By Karl Hofmann, PSI President & CEO 

“On behalf of Global Health 50/50, we would like to congratulate PSI for their strong performance in the 2021 Gender and Health Index. By taking deliberate and transparent actions PSI keeps the pressure on themselves and others in the sector to continue pushing for change, and provides much needed hope that we can achieve gender equality in our quest for health, dignity and social justice for all.’” —Kent Buse and Sarah Hawkes, Co-Directors, Global Health 50/50 

Every International Women’s Day, we look forward to the latest report from Global Health 50/50 on how we and others around us are doing in advancing gender equality and fostering diversity and inclusion in our work and our workplace, while promoting these values in our world.   

At PSI we are humbled and inspired to be named as a Top Performer in the GH50/50 rankings this year, landing in the top 5% of organizations surveyed. You can view the findings here: “Gender Equality: Flying Blind In a Time of Crisis — The 2021 Global Health 50/50 Report.” 

As I wrote last year, the GH50/50 process challenged us to think more broadly about gender, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at PSI. We have worked to turn our commitments and policies into concrete objectives and actions. Our global operating model, with national NGOs comprising a large part of the PSI global network through which we achieve our health impact, favors more national voices in our decision making, and a more diverse set of organizational leaders. We welcome this and are committed to building upon it.    

To counter sector-wide power imbalances, we established goals for our global senior leadership population across the 44 countries where we work. We aim for 50% of our leadership to be comprised of underrepresented gender identities, and 50% comprised of underrepresented groups*, by 2025. (On the former, we’re already above target; on the latter, we’re working on it.)  

Our gender and DEI policies have deep roots but were brought to the fore thanks to GH50/50 and it has been rewarding to see these actions and objectives take hold. We have all benefited from workshops and trainings to build DEI awareness, knowledge and skills – and the day-to-day efforts to adopt and incorporate inclusive practices into how we work and how we show up at workThese are clearly efforts in progress for us.  

credit the GH50/50 process (and a bit of our own competitive spirit) with advancing PSI’s organizational performance amongst our peersOur people are our most important resource and we continuously work to counter the power and privilege imbalances that surface in any workplace through equitable family-friendly policiesflexible working philosophy, annual gender pay gap analysis, and an enhanced respect framework to promote an ethical workplace 

COVID-19 has renewed attention to the care burden that falls disproportionately on womenPSI responded to this with maximum flexibilities and enhanced support services for all staff, including specifically for caregivers, while extending our anti-harassment and discrimination policies to include the virtual working world. In our health work around the world, our COVID response programming in 2020 incorporated gender disaggregation as a norm right from the start – a best and necessary practice for our work.  

The Great 2020 Disruptions included regressions after decades of progress against malaria, HIV and unintended pregnancy, stalled progress toward the SDGs, and a reversal of the long decline in extreme poverty globally. In the US, our poisonous politics and systematized structures of hate gave the megaphone to voices of misogyny, inequality, exclusion and racism.   

And yet, 2021 has seen the first-ever woman of color as US Vice President, and the first-ever woman from the Global South as head of the World Trade Organization. Kamala Harris and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala are inspiring reminders that progress can come, even against long and determined opposition. 

Gender, power, sex and inequity – these were the forces that launched PSI over 50 years ago, with our determination to support women in their reproductive choices, include men in constructive ways in those choices, and unleash the power, voice, choice and agency that is latent in our consumers around the world.  Healthy Lives – Measurable Results: our tagline can’t be meaningful without the continued progress that GH50/50 inspires, and which our times demand. I look forward to GH50/50 continuing to hold PSI and the whole of the sector accountable to the values that we espouse and the vision of the more equitable world we want to see.   


*Underrepresented groups include people with Disabilities, Veterans, LGBTQ+, Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, Asians, American Indians or Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Multiracial.

Banner image credit: Black Drag Magic – Portrait of a Drag Artist and A… Lee-Ann Olwage, winner of the 2021 Global Health 50/50 Photo Contest, This is Gender.

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