Investing in the Power of Nurses

Women make up 70% of the total health and social care workforce. In the nursing and midwifery profession, that percentage is even higher. Despite this, however, women hold only 25% of health system leadership roles.

Addressing gender-related barriers to leadership in nursing is critical to ensuring universal access to quality health services and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3.

Investing in the Power of Nurse Leadership: What Will It Take? is a new report launched by Nursing Now in collaboration with IntraHealth and Johnson and Johnson.

Drawing on surveys and interviews with over 2,500 nurses and nurse-leaders, the report offers essential new insights into the lived experiences of nurses worldwide.

At the Women Deliver 2019 Conference, Girls’ Globe spoke to Barbara Stilwell, Executive Director of Nursing Now.

She told us: “This moment in time is a moment for nurses. And I don’t think it will come again for a long time.”

The research found that there are a ‘constellation of barriers’ preventing female nurses in particular from progressing into leadership roles.

Key recommendations to address these barriers include:

1. Change the perception of the nursing as a ‘soft science’ and elevate the status and profile of nursing in the health sector.

2. Address occupational sex segregation and eliminate the perception of nursing as ‘women’s work.’

3. Eliminate employer discrimination on the basis of gender or child-bearing status.

4. Build nurses’ self-confidence and sense of preparedness to assume leadership positions.

5. Ensure workplace environments that are safe and responsive to work/life balance and allow for employee flexibility to fulfil both formal work and unpaid care responsibilities.

6. Ensure opportunities for nurses to access funding for leadership development, higher education, or other professional development.

7. Foster increased access to professional networks and mentoring schemes for nurses.

It’s clear that major changes are required to strengthen leadership and equality in the global nursing workforce. This report reflects the voices of nurses – it’s time for the rest of the world to listen.

This blog post was created by Girls’ Globe powered by Johnson & Johnson.

A Data-Driven Look at the World Women Live In

This week, Women Deliver 2019 kicks off in Vancouver, Canada, with over 6,000 delegates from different industries, sectors and countries. Equal Measures 2030 shines a light on the hard numbers behind what they’re all there to discuss: the reality facing girls and women living around the world, and how we can improve their lives.

To make progress transparent and accessible to all, they unveiled a powerful tool, launched today: the SDG Gender Index. It reflects a mammoth effort to look at the numbers and measure how countries are really doing at making progress towards achieving gender quality.

Its initial findings were summarized in a 60-page report. The findings were surprising, and will be crucial in setting the agenda for the next decade.

The Sustainable Development Goals

A quick recap: the Sustainable Development Goals are 17 separate benchmarks set by the United Nations. Each has to do with making life more equal, sustainable, healthy and prosperous for citizens.

While they run the gamut from poverty eradication to environmental protection, they work individually and holistically to increase gender equality (which, in turn, strengthens the capacity of each country to achieve their other goals).

Surprising findings

The findings from the SDG Gender Index report show that we can’t rely on stereotypes. Some countries are showing unequal progress, strength in some areas, and weakness in others. Even some of the lower performing countries are well ahead of the highest ranking on certain indicators. For example:

– Rwanda is one of the highest scorers on indicators that capture women’s physical safety, through how safe they feel walking unaccompanied at night.

– Women in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Thailand and Uruguay are more likely have to have successful accessed modern family planning methods than women in Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden (although they all ranked well globally.)

– One of the higher rates of women who use digital banking was seen in Kenya.

GDP does not necessarily translate to equality

It is a common misconception that money equals development, and development leads to equality. Yet, the SDG Gender Index report shows that’s not necessarily so.

“Some countries – Finland, Georgia, Greece, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Rwanda, Slovenia, and Viet Nam, among others – perform better than would be expected based on their GDP per capita,” write the authors. “On the other hand, other countries – such as Botswana, Iraq, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States, among others – have lower gender equality scores than might be expected given the countries’ income levels.”

What the numbers don’t show

While the lowest ranking countries have been mired in troubles, and listed on the OECD‘s list of fragile states, some – like Syria and the Central African Republic – were omitted entirely. In the midst of the level of the depths of conflict that these countries have experienced, reliable data is too difficult to gather and analyze.

Lack of data doesn’t mean we should forget these countries or exclude them as we head towards 2030. These populations may be among the most vulnerable.

Even within the countries that were included in the SDG Gender Index report, it’s important to remember that an average number can be a deceiving figure. Even a high ranking country can have populations who desperately need access to care, services or advocates, and lower ranking countries can have ample communities of empowered women ready to mobilize and lead change.

To know more, you can access the full-length SDG Gender Index report here.

The Vital Need for Data to Improve Maternal Health

Globally and daily, around 830 women die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth – equivalent to nearly 35 women an hour. This results in over 300 000 maternal deaths each year – deaths that could be prevented if adequate care was provided. Skilled care before, during and after birth has been identified as one of the key strategies to reducing maternal deaths, a care that 25% of women still do not have access to.

Bernice lives with her father and her four younger siblings in a small rural village in the north of Burundi. Her family, along with eight out of ten Burundians, live below the poverty line, and they depend fully on their household food crop production for their survival. Due to several droughts lately, they are currently facing severe food shortage. Bernice is pregnant with her first child, and even though she’s more than half way through her pregnancy, she hasn’t yet seen a doctor. She is severely malnourished, putting both her and her baby at an elevated risk of complications.

Two years ago, Bernice’s mother Thalia passed away when giving birth to her fifth child, due to a post partum haemorrhage – one of the most common causes of maternal deaths in both developing and developed countries. As with 40% of the deliveries in Burundi, each of Thalia’s childbirths have taken place in their family home – every time without a skilled birth attendant by her side, without both water and electricity.


Bernice represents a population that is facing numerous challenges that arise from their individual circumstances. Living in extreme poverty in rural Burundi – a country with one of the highest maternal mortality ratios (maternal deaths per 100 000 live births) in the world – makes Bernice and her baby highly vulnerable in regards to surviving pregnancy and birth. In just a couple of months it is her turn to face the difficulties that often come with childbirth in her condition. She fears what is to come, knowing what happened to her mother.

Bernice and her family are fictional characters and fortunately, this time the story is a fictional one. However, based on the latest data on maternal and child health, this is the reality of countless women, adolescent girls and babies around the world, with sub-Saharan African countries facing great challenges in regards of maternal, newborn and child health. In this region, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth is an appalling 1 in 36, and the newborn death rate is the highest in the world with 34 deaths per 1000 live births. Compared to a woman in a high-income country, a woman in sub-Saharan Africa faces a 100 times greater risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth.

The future might look nothing but dark when looking at numbers related to maternal health, but we also need to recognize the improvements that have occurred. Globally, since 1990, the maternal deaths have dropped by 44%, and ¾ of women now have skilled care during their childbirths. Furthermore, at least four antenatal care visits are received by  ⅔ of women worldwide. This increase in maternity services is imperative in showing us that some interventions are successful – hopefully leaving us with a somewhat optimistic mind.

However, in spite of ubiquitous efforts, much is yet to be done. The gap between the countries with the highest and the lowest maternal mortality has grown despite the increased use of maternal health services, resulting in a bigger gap between countries and populations. In other words: millions of pregnant women are left behind from the progress, with minimized opportunities for health gains not only for themselves, but also for their babies.

“We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind.”
The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

For us to be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and the underlying aim of “leaving no one behind”, accurate, reliable and population-based data on maternal health is essential. It is more crucial today than ever before, and vital to decrease the inequities in care that remains and seem to increase between and within populations.

The percentages in the illustration refer to to following numbers and statistics:

  • 25% of women do not have access to skilled care during birth
  • 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries
  • Between 1990 and 2015, the global maternal mortality dropped by 44%
  • A woman in sub-Saharan Africa is at a 100 times greater risk of dying during childbirth compared to a woman in a developed country
  • Every hour, nearly 35 women die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth

Stories of Power: Women in Politics

Recently, there has been a growing focus on the importance of reliable, accurate gender data on the situation of women and girls. There are many reasons why data is important: we need accurate data so that we can prioritize. We need accurate data to know where we are starting from, so that we know if the programs we are implementing are actually working. We need data to know whether our work is benefitting people equally and reaching those who are most vulnerable. But data does something else too: It tells powerful stories.

As the world is hopefully nearing a day when a woman is elected to be the president of one of the most powerful nations in the world, let’s see what kind of a story data tells us about women’s political participation globally.

The aspect of women’s political participation and empowerment is also included in the Sustainable Development Goals, under Goal 5 about gender equality and women’s empowerment, for which target 5.5 is:

Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.

Women’s ability to participate in politics and decision making varies greatly between countries. The Nordic countries are often seen as trailblazers in this area: My native country, Finland, was one of the first countries in the world to grant women full voting rights in 1906, and in 2000 Finland elected its first female president, Tarja Halonen, who served two terms from 2000 to 2012. Halonen is one of nearly 80 women who have served as Heads of State in the world since the mid 20th century.  Yet, despite the growing number of women in positions of power, there are currently only 10 women serving as Heads of State and 9 as Head of Government – while there  are over 190 countries in the world. Only 22% of parliamentarians worldwide are women, and women in Saudi Arabia only gained the right to vote and run for office last year, in 2015 – leaving only one territory left where women still effectively cannot vote:  Vatican City.

Now perhaps more than ever, the world needs stories about women in politics – stories and narratives backed up by data that show how incredibly unequal the world of politics still is not only  in terms of political positions, but in terms of political panels and reporting the news on politics. A Google search of “images of famous political analysts” reveals quite a lot. It certainly isn’t that there aren’t talented and savvy female political analysts available, but a question of who is given visibility, attention, broadcast time and media space.


In the United States, arguably one of the most powerful and developed nations in the world, a presidential race like no other is underway with only days left before the next President of the United States is elected. On November 8th, Hillary Clinton will most likely (and hopefully) become the first woman to be elected for that office – but her campaign and career, even way before this presidential campaign (or the previous one) began, have been shadowed by clear bias and discrimination due to her gender. This current presidential campaign has been an unreal and scary showcase of the deep rooted misogyny and patriarchal attitudes that are embedded in the American society, and Clinton has taken the brunt of it – but she is not the only woman. In America, and throughout the world, women who dare to run for or be elected to positions of power are faced with hatred, discrimination, belittling, shaming, verbal abuse, mansplaining and sexism.

Having a woman in a political leadership position does not, obviously, automatically lead to more pro-women or gender-equal policies or politics – but there is plenty of evidence that indicates that countries with more women in charge have greater chance of making lasting strides in areas like education, labor force participation and paid leave. In the corporate world, companies with a more gender-equal leadership tend to outperform companies run only by men. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been in the headlines for many pro-women and pro-feminist statements and actions since he took office, one of which being his decision to ensure gender parity in Canada’s cabinet. When asked why, he stated the obvious: Because it’s 2015.

As global institutions, agencies and governments take strides towards closing the gender data gap, let’s ensure the data we collect can tell powerful stories of the kind of a world we could have if more women had fair access to positions of power and decision making. Let’s ensure that our data tells us why it is important for all of us to make sure women have a chance in elections, that women are no longer overlooked and belittled, and that those who are elected also get treated fairly and without sexism while in office. If women can succeed against all odds and get elected to positions of power even in our current system that is inherently biased against them, imagine what women could do and achieve if so much of their energy, time and effort didn’t need to go into fighting back and standing up against sexism, bigotry and discrimination.

With reliable data, we won’t need to imagine. So let’s make sure we have that data – and let’s make sure we also use it and tells those stories of resilience, of power, or change.

Illustration by Elina Tuomi. 

Percentages in illustration reference the following numbers and statistics:

Telling Stories: The Power of Data in Narrating the Lives of Girls

Today, October 11th, marks the sixth International Day of the Girl Child, celebrated around the world to bring attention to the rights and well-being of girls. Every year, a global theme is set for the Day by UNICEF – and this year, that theme is “Girls’ Progress = Goals Progress: What Counts for Girls”.

The theme continues a recent global focus and emphasis on the importance of better gender data, especially with tracking the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals. Earlier this year at the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, Melinda Gates pledged $80 million over the next three years from the Gates Foundation towards closing the gender data gap and accelerating progress for girls and women around the world. A new multi-partner coalition was formed, with organizations like Plan International, Women Deliver, International Women’s Health Coalition, KPMG and ONE Campaign to particularly track and drive progress on the gender targets of the SDGs. The newly released latest report on Plan International’s Because I am a Girl series, titled “Counting the Invisible”, explains how improving the data and information on girls is essential in our quest to secure their rights and build a more gender equal and just world.

Without data, we don’t know where the biggest gaps and needs are. We can’t identify the most marginalized and most vulnerable if we can’t see them. We can’t efficiently focus and prioritize our resources – and perhaps most importantly, we cannot track if what we are doing is making a difference and working. To ensure that we are indeed delivering on the SDGs to those most in need – especially girls – we have to have data. And we need that data to equally represent the lives and situations of all genders.

But that is not all we need data for. Numbers have another function as well:

They tell stories. 


Data is not just numbers, charts and figures – it explains the world to us. Numbers turn into narratives, charts convert to compelling accounts of realities and lives of people around the world. We need data – better data – to convince others that what we are doing is important and makes a difference. We need numbers to convey us facts like:

These kinds of numbers paint a powerful and sad story of a world in which girls’ basic rights to survival, health, education and life free of violence are violated every minute of every day. In this world, girls are not valued as full human beings, equal to their male peers. Girls are mistreated and abused, discriminated and overlooked, forgotten, brushed aside.

But numbers can tell a different side of this story as well:

Numbers can tell us a story of a world that does better when girls and women do better. Numbers tell us that girls who get to grow up healthy and be educated grow up to be women who make a difference in the lives of others. Data shows us that investing in girls is not only the moral imperative and our global responsibility – but is also perhaps the smartest move we can make for development and progress. Numbers tell us that if there ever was a silver bullet to a better future, it most likely is the Girl Child.

This is why we need better gender data. We need it to know that we are focusing our efforts on the rights things, and also doing things right – but we also need numbers and data to paint a picture of a world, the way it is now and the way it could be.

Do you see it? Do you see what the world could be, if girls’ rights were truly protected and realized?

We see it. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful world.


On this Day of the Girl, Girls’ Globe is launching a campaign to focus on stories told by data. We will continue to share stories and narratives of the lives of girls and women around the world, as conveyed by the data we have available now. With a solutions-based focus, we to bring you stories of girls from around the world to help you also see the future we could build by investing in girls and women and ensuring that tomorrow’s world is truly a gender equal world for everyone. 

Illustration by illustrator, artist and educator Elina Tuomi.

The Importance of Data: To Make Women Count, Count Women

“We can’t close the gender gap without closing the data gap.” That was the key message of the speech by Melinda Gates at a session titled “A Girls’ and Women’s lens on the SDGs ” at Women Deliver. With a new plan of action, new goals and a new roadmap for achieving them, it is more crucial than ever to ensure we are able to measure the progress properly. Yet, the data is still incomplete, and the dark numbers are huge. Is it really that difficult to gather data, and how do we change that?

Data is necessary for knowing what’s happening, and how to move further. Without being able to measure the right things, we cannot know where and how to invest money and time. And often, where help is the most needed, the numbers are the most misleading. As Gates pointed out later on during her presentation, “Where the data does exist, quite often it’s sexist.” Now, how can numbers and statistics be sexist? Basically, the surveys are often focusing on men and their achievements. Also, the work that is being measured often doesn’t contain the household work and other tasks that women generally do in the rural areas. According to Gates, this is a way of stereotyping men as the producer and women as the reproducer. “What about all the hidden work that doesn’t get measured?” she asks. “Although it isn’t paid, I’m sure that all of you would agree on it being work. Am I right?” Reaching out to the most distant places and getting the right information about women’s participation to society is urgent, and in order to achieve that, Melinda Gates promises that her foundation will donate 80 million dollars throughout the next 3 years to this issue. Hopefully, this will lead to us receiving more precise data where it’s currently lacking.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia thinks that we are getting better at gathering data, however, it’s not always the right numbers, or we simply cannot understand them. “We have the data, now we’re going to another level, where we’re learning to understand the data.” We are relying on numbers to determine if and how we’re making progress, within all areas; education, health and economy. This is why we have to do something about the data collection now, in order to ensure the efficiency of our work. If we don’t have the right numbers to start with, it will be impossible to measure our progress. Apart from the distance to the rural areas, Tedros mentions another difficulty in achieving the right facts. Women in these areas are usually shy and don’t always speak up about their situations. If people don’t tell the full story, the data will fail, and the measures won’t be as precise. It is a somewhat difficult cooperation, where a lot of things have to work. Therefore, we cannot forget to focus on this incredible important area of gathering the right data.

Hopefully, things are changing. With a lot of recognition, and the incredible amount of money from many foundations and donors such as the Gates Foundation, there’s great hope that our data situation will improve and the gender bias of the existing data can be eradicated. To sum it up, I’d like to use the finishing words by Geeta Rao Gupta, the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF who moderated the panel: “To make women count, count women.” These words truly captures what our ultimate goal really should be.

Girls’ Globe is present at the Women Deliver Conference, bringing you live content straight from the heart of the action. If you can’t be there in person, you can be a part of Women Deliver through the Virtual Conference, by hosting an event in your hometown, and by engaging online using #WDLive and #WD2016.