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May 30, 2024   |   Blog Post

Gender Equity in the Supply Chain Workforce

September 2023, Macucune Village, Inhambane Province, Mozambique. Specific Location: Mocucune Rural Health Unit – Rural Medicines Warehouse Director of Mocucune Rural Health Unit Ligia Cumbane (plaid jacket) and Pharmacy Technician Emilia Constantino (red jacket and white coat) manages the medicines and materials received. Credits: Ricardo Franco

By Rebecca Alban

Senior Manager Health Systems

In my 7 years of working at VillageReach equity has always been a core value of the organization. We want to increase equitable access to health care for under-reached communities. And a critical way of increasing access to health care for vulnerable populations in Africa is to increase women’s participation in the paid health workforce. However, currently women in the health workforce are still underrepresented in positions of leadership, overrepresented in unpaid work and earn on average 27% less than men

This is also true in the supply chain workforce where women make up 41% of the overall public health supply chain (PHSC) workforce, and only 26% of supply chain management (SCM) positions. Promoting gender equity in the SC workforce is an issue close to my heart because it is a tool we can use to actually improve our supply chains, by making them more equitable, people-centered, resilient and sustainable – in turn building more responsive primary health care systems.

Women consume a large proportion of health products that our supply chains provide; because they obtain health products for themselves, but are also primarily responsible for obtaining health products and services (such as routine immunizations) for their children too. It is crucial that we have women supply chain practitioners who are responsible for designing and managing PHSCs in a way that caters to the needs and preferences of women beneficiaries. 

Understanding the issue

Gender inequity in the PHSC workforce is something that has been visible and discussed in our field for years, but there hasn’t been much evidence to quantify the problem, or understand the barriers women face in entering the PHSC field. I had the privilege to join a research team at VillageReach to tackle this issue head on and conduct thorough, structured research to validate what we all suspected—that there is a deep inequity in the PHSC workforce.

Through our interviews conducted with global stakeholders and with PHSC professionals, educators and students in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi we heard first-hand about the many barriers that women face to enter and grow their careers within the PHSC workforce. 

In the following research report we explain the root causes of these barriers, some of which are based on cultural, or societal norms. But we were also able to identify some ‘low hanging fruit’ areas for intervention, that are within our power to change over time. Increasing women’s participation in the PHSC will take intentional and tailored efforts and our report offers concrete recommendations for governments, supply chain employers, academic institutions, implementing partners and donors.  

Through collaboration we can do big things. Read our report and join us in our journey to increase gender equity in the supply chain workforce. 


  1. Executive Summary 
  2. Full Report
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