2021 Global Health 50/50 Report

Gender equality: Flying blind in a time of crisis

Now in its 4th year, the Global Health 50/50 Report finds that action to dismantle gender inequality inside organisations and to apply a gender lens in health programmes remains scarce.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that gender matters - to career pathways, to people’s risk of disease and death, to shaping equitable, effective health policies. Yet the 2021 report reveals that the vast majority of activities to address the health impacts of COVID-19 ignored the role of gender. In a male-default world, the report finds that gender as a driver of everyone’s health, including that of men and boys, remains under-addressed. The result: gender-blind pandemic responses that are less effective than they should be, with grave consequences for the health of people everywhere.

Flying Blind also reports the appointment of yet another cohort of mostly male global health leaders, predominantly from high-income countries, with the mandate to exert influence over the health and wellbeing of people worldwide. Despite substantial rhetoric, the data reveals little progress towards gender equality and diversity in leadership across the health sector and no progress on closing the gender pay gap among UK organisations mandated to report on it.

Resources for taking a gender-responsive approach to improving health outcomes

Alongside other social constructs, gender plays a key role in determining health and well-being across the lifecourse. Being fully ‘gender-transformative’ therefore requires that organisations recognise and address the root causes of gender-based health inequities.

The following resources from the global literature offer guidance on implementing gender-responsive health interventions, including in response to COVID-19. GH5050 has not verified the accuracy of information in these links, but we list them as a source of further information:


WHO - Gender Responsive Assessment Scale - Criteria for assessing the gender-responsiveness of programmes and policies

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation - Global Burden of Disease tool - Database of causes of deaths and DALYs globally including by population

Sida - Gender Analysis - Principles & Elements - Guidance for conducting gender analysis

Engender Health - Engaging Men in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, including Family Planning - why using a gender lens matters - Guide for designing and implementing gender-responsive programs

Inclusive Data Charter commits signatories to strengthen data disaggregation and publishes action plans of signatory countries and organisations to meet their commitments.


Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - Gender Equality Toolbox - A Gender Lens on our COVID-19 Response - Recommendations for making gender-responsive investments in the pandemic response

WHO - Gender and COVID-19 Advocacy Brief - Guidance for countries and global actors on gender-responsive interventions to address the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 

The Sex, Gender and COVID-19 Project Sex Disaggregated Data Tracker - Database mapping the gender disparities in COVID-19 health outcomes in over 180 countries

WHO COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan  - Strategy for national and international public health measures to prepare for and respond to COVID-19