We have made significant strides globally in tackling equality, leading to advancements in race, gender, religious and other socio-economic issues. Equality focuses on sameness and ensures parity across the socio-economic ‘playing field’. While progress is being made to improve equality for all, we are still struggling, in many aspects, to address existing systemic inequalities and consequently, to achieve equity in our society.
A lot of people use equality and equity interchangeably, and wrongly so because, while we aim for ‘sameness’ in society, our differences need to be celebrated and in the same vein, our unique needs and requirements need to be embedded in solutions aimed at tackling any disparities faced by individuals and across various societal groups. Equity is integral to social justice and fairness and can only be achieved when resources and support networks are tailored to the direct needs of the individuals or groups that need them in order for them to succeed and reach their full potential irrespective of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or socio-economic status.
While celebrating International Women’s Day 2023 (IWD23) earlier this month, I thought about the various inspirational pioneers, thought-leaders, people managers, enablers (most of whom are women) who have helped me thrive. I thought about the challenges and the barriers – often as a result of discriminatory societal norms – they and women and girls worldwide have faced, and still face in access to education, in healthcare and in general employment considerations. I had resolved long ago to be an ally and aid in the achievement of an equitable society for all, but this year, I vow to be an active voice, and aim to empower women through mentorships and championing equity, and urge you to take on this challenge with me – to actively embrace #equityforall.
With the focus on Women’s History Month 2023 (WHM23) and in particular IWD23, a fundamental reason equity is critical for women and us all, can be found in the promotion of economic and social development. I think of women CEOs, Chiefs of Staffs, Heads of Business functions, Country Leaders, etc., under whose astute guidance and leadership, companies and countries have thrived, or have navigated significant challenges and health pandemics remarkably well; I think of women hedge fund managers who outperform the market; of women medics who have created and championed organisations that supports equitable healthcare for all; of women whose work has led to global recognition of the harms we are doing to our environment and the consequential efforts to tackle global warming; of women who have come together to embrace their respective differences and harnessed these differences in building a platform that supports growth and development in others within their workplaces and beyond; of women whose day-to-day lives and activities have had a positive influence on the labour market, thus driving us towards a society built on foundations of equity, morality and compassion. I acknowledge and celebrate them all, not just as part of WHM23, but all year round!
I would like to take this moment to honour some magnificent women whose contributions to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, and the field of healthcare in general, is paving the way for future generations of scientists and entrepreneurs:
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett: a viral immunologist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who played a key role in developing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. She is also an advocate for increasing diversity in STEM and promoting vaccine education.
Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders: a physician and public health advocate who served as the first Black woman Surgeon General of the United States. She has worked to improve access to healthcare and promote public health initiatives, particularly in underserved communities.
Dr. Lisa Jackson: a senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute who led the clinical trials for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. She has also conducted research on vaccine safety and efficacy, particularly in diverse ethnic populations.
Dr. Patricia Bath: an ophthalmologist and inventor who developed a laser-based treatment for cataracts. She was the first Black woman to receive a medical patent, holding 5 patents in the span of her lifetime, and founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.
Dr. Letitia Dzirasa: a physician and a paediatrician who held numerous leadership roles within the Baltimore Medical Systems where she fought tirelessly for equitable care, and continues to be an advocate for programs that support overall health and wellbeing. She currently holds a dual role as the Health Innovation Officer for Fearless Solutions, providing a vision for their health information technology, and is also the current Commissioner for Health for the Baltimore City Health Department.
This is a non-exhaustive list because there are so many names that could grace this page but, these are purely examples of the impact black women and women around the world are making in our societies – where would we be now if more women are educated, encouraged and empowered globally?
Let us all strive for #equity, dismantle the barriers, and be emboldened without limits because achieving #equity is not just a matter of human right, it is also vital in creating and developing a better world now, and for the future generation.
Happy Women’s History Month 2023! #standwithequity
About the Author
Ral Ogbah, Head of Learning and Development at Black Pharma and currently holds a role as an Associate Director in a global pharma company covering oversight of quality assurance and compliance processes, strategy development and implementation of frameworks that contribute to the maturity and the health of Quality organisation.
Ral is passionate about bridging the gap and enabling success of diverse ethnic talents and is an ally/champion for mentoring and continuous development, personal and organisational accountability, and career success.