Gender discrimination and inequality in health professional education (HPE) affect students and faculty and hinder production of the robust health workforces needed to meet health and development goals, yet HPE reformers pay scant attention to these gender barriers. Gender equality must be a core value and professional practice competency for all actors in HPE and health employment systems.
Peer-review and non-peer-review literature previously identified in a review of the literature identified interventions to counter gender discrimination and inequality in HPE and tertiary education systems in North America and the Caribbean; West, East, and Southern Africa; Asia; the Middle East and North Africa; Europe; Australia; and South America. An assessment considered 51 interventions addressing sexual harassment (18), caregiver discrimination (27), and gender equality (6). Reviewers with expertise in gender and health system strengthening rated and ranked interventions according to six gender-transformative criteria.
Thirteen interventions were considered to have transformational potential to address gender-related obstacles to entry, retention, career progression, and graduation in HPE, when implemented in core sets of interventions. The review identified one set with potential to counter sexual harassment in HPE and two sets to counter caregiver discrimination. Gender centers and equal employment opportunity units are structural interventions that can address multiple forms of gender discrimination and inequality.
The paper's broad aim is to encourage HPE leaders to make gender-transformative reforms in the current way of doing business and commit to themselves to countering gender discrimination and inequality. Interventions to counter gender discrimination should be seen as integral parts of institutional and instructional reforms and essential investments to scale up quality HPE and recruit and retain health workers in the systems that educate and employ them. Implementation challenges spanning financial, informational, and cultural barriers need consideration. The application of core sets of interventions and a strong learning agenda should be part of ongoing HPE reform efforts.