The nuances of gender and knowledge management reveal challenges in knowledge sharing and exchange, which impact how people receive and use knowledge products. Knowledge SUCCESS’s Gender Analysis is a deep dive into gender and knowledge management for global health programs, particularly family planning and reproductive health. This post shares highlights from the Gender Analysis and recommendations for responding to some key challenges, and a guiding quiz for getting started.
“Sometimes there is a dynamic … When a man speaks up, people listen. … Being a man brings a certain power in a lot of the social constructs in the work space.” – Woman from a donor organization based in the United States
Knowledge management (KM) is a strategic and systematic process of collecting and curating knowledge and connecting people to it, so they can act effectively. At Knowledge SUCCESS, we often ask ourselves: Who is accessing and using the knowledge we create and share to improve family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs, and how? What are the barriers to this knowledge connection and use?
When asking these questions, we would be remiss if we did not consider the impact of gender—including gender identity, gender roles, and gender relations. Sustainable impacts in FP/RH do not operate in isolation but as part of a larger health system, which in turn is influenced by knowledge management systems and processes. It is important to recognize that gender inequality can be seen across the global health workforce—specifically, that while women make up a large proportion of this workforce, only a small percentage of leadership positions are held by women. This disparity can strongly influence how knowledge is used and shared in the global health and FP/RH fields.
From May to July of 2019, Knowledge SUCCESS conducted a gender analysis to understand the gender-related barriers, gaps, and opportunities in KM among health professionals around the world. That analysis is all the more relevant now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on gender inequities in the global healthcare system. The crisis drew attention to the fact that 70% of frontline healthcare workers are women and thus more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection—to name just one example of the visibility of gender inequality today. Through a literature review and key informant interviews, we assessed how gender and power dynamics may affect:
What we found was enlightening. In both the existing literature and among our interviewees, there was a lack of awareness of gender (particularly the experiences of transgender or non-binary people) and its effects in KM. Still, some themes did emerge from our analysis that are important for FP/RH professionals to consider as they access, share, and use knowledge to improve their programs.
In looking at the interplay between gender and knowledge management, we discovered that gender-related barriers exist across many key gender domains, including access to and control over assets and resources; cultural norms and beliefs; and gender roles, responsibilities, and time use. Some of the most relevant barriers to KM and global health for women compared to men are:
We tend to value the knowledge more of people with more peer reviewed publications, but is that more valuable than the knowledge a midwife has with 30 years of practice? – Woman at partner organization based in the United States
Awareness of these challenges is the first step in shifting KM toward a more gender-equitable and inclusive system. Our gender analysis findings are all the more relevant now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light to gender inequities in the global healthcare system. The crisis drew attention to the fact that 70% of frontline healthcare workers are women and thus more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection — to name just one example of the visibility of gender inequality today. To spur the process of integrating gender equity into KM, we recommend that people and organizations working in global health:
As this is a developing field of study, we recognize it can be difficult to begin integrating gender considerations in KM approaches. We encourage FP/RH professionals to continue asking questions like “Who am I reaching?”, “Who am I missing?”, and “How can my knowledge products and approaches be more inclusive of all genders and address power imbalances?”
To help you get started on this path, take our short, interactive quiz to test your knowledge on gender and KM!