Gender inequalities drive inequities in health and wellbeing. From determining our chance of being born to the predominantly male-led delivery of our funerals, gender interacts with, and frequently amplifies, other inequalities such as race or poverty in shaping our entire life experience. The global goal of equality on the basis of gender is an integral part of other global struggles for inclusive, rights-based, respectful, equitable systems, structures, and communities.
Gender is a social construction—influencing, and in turn influenced by, the distribution of power and resources, divisions of work and labour, distinctions between production and reproduction, and expectations and opportunities available to all people in all societies. Gender intersects with other social factors to drive health inequities. This is evident in the COVID-19 pandemic in which severity of illness and death rates are higher in men than in women but women face heightened vulnerabilities because they form the bulk of front-line health and care workers, and bear the greatest burden of domestic violence, household and child-care responsibilities, mental health, and economic impacts of the pandemic.
Gender is embedded within and across organisations, systemic structures, and institutional norms, including in science, medicine, and health. Deep-seated gender biases were documented in The Lancet‘s 2019 theme issue on advancing women in science, medicine, and global health, #LancetWomen, which explain, for example, the persistent imbalance between the 70% of health workers who are female and the 70% of health-care leadership who are male. Gender is a cross-cutting issue with an impact on the health and careers of women, men, transgender people, and people with non-binary identities everywhere.