Women in Leadership

Our goal
To accelerate women’s full and effective participation in leadership at all levels of decision-making in economic and public life, particularly in the fields of health, law, and economics.
Labake Bode-Matthew poses for a picture along with some members of her staff outside her home which also serves as her production facility in Lagos, Nigeria.
A business owner poses for a picture along with some members of her staff outside her home which also serves as her production facility in Lagos, Nigeria. ©Gates Archive/Nyancho NwaNri

At a glance

  • From health care and business to public office and the courts, women have been underrepresented and undervalued.
  • Increased representation of women in leadership roles can result in more significant progress in health, more just and inclusive systems, increased prosperity for everyone, and greater progress toward global development goals.
  • Leadership that more fully reflects the communities served results in better decision-making and more equitable policies and norms for everyone.
  • More women in decision-making roles and at leadership levels would begin to break the cycle of inequitable and gender-biased policies.
  • When we remove the barriers for women and girls to thrive—when we unlock the potential of half the world’s population—something transformational happens: We ignite more of the world’s talent, energy, and creativity for progress that benefits everyone.

Our strategy

We work to empower mid-career women to reach the highest leadership positions in health, law, and economics.

We focus on three areas of opportunity, investing in and supporting individual empowerment, organizational change, and societal impact to enable pathways for women’s leadership, power, and influence. This means investing in women, identifying and addressing longstanding barriers and gaps in research about pathways for women to attain leadership roles, and supporting policymaking that enables equitable, sustainable pathways to leadership.

Our work is supported and guided by research to identify the root causes of underrepresentation and attrition and best practices and effective interventions at multiple points along the leadership pathway. This data helps us and our partners better understand what works to advance, retain, and empower women leaders.

Areas of focus

The Women in Leadership team focuses on three areas of opportunity: individual empowerment, organizational change, and societal impact. These are mutually reinforcing—progress in one area requires progress in the others. Our strategy is designed to allow us, along with our partners, to consider and support this work as a whole: 
When women have equitable access to training, role models, networking, and other tools that have traditionally been designed for men, they have the opportunity to accelerate their careers and promote organizational change from the inside.

When organizations enable equitable paths to leadership, their example and their strategies allow other organizations and entire sectors to do the same.

When women are visible in positions of leadership, it changes the very nature of what effective leadership looks like—and begins chipping away at deeply rooted stereotypes and biases.

By investing in these areas, we aim to create the conditions for a virtuous cycle of women’s leadership, power, and influence in fields that directly support global health and development goals. When women’s access to leadership roles and decision-making power increases, their lives improve, the communities around them improve, and all of society benefits.

Why focus on women in leadership?

In no country in the world do women have an equal role in setting policies, allocating resources, leading companies, or shaping markets. In many countries, more women are working than ever before, but compared to their male counterparts, they are not earning as much, rising as high, or being afforded an equal voice at work, at home, or in the community. Half the world’s talent is left untapped, and we cannot make progress on gender equality—or any other issues—unless women can achieve their full potential.

From health care and business to public office and the courts, women are underrepresented and undervalued. Yet women’s representation in leadership positions has significant implications for health, justice, and prosperity for everyone.

Women are an untapped and underutilized talent pool. Leadership should look like the communities it serves, and that includes gender diversity in global health.
Anita Zaidi
President, Gender Equality

Strategy leadership