A growing urgency to expand women’s participation in global health leadership has provided an opportunity to reconsider long-standing institutional policies, facilitating more gender-responsive programmes and policies around the world.1 However, most of the new ideas about expanding women’s leadership in global health have come from high-income countries.2 Over three-quarters of the global health organisations assessed in the Global Health 50/50 report1 have headquarters in high-income countries. The relative lack of voice from low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) about women’s leadership in global health is problematic because of the unique challenges,
social contexts, and political forces that shape women’s experiences in these regions. Innovative ideas to encourage women’s leadership in health programmes within LMICs are needed.
To expand global discussions about women leaders in global health, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) co-sponsored by UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank, and WHO organised a crowdsourcing challenge to identify creative ideas focused on increasing the number of women in a TDR mid-career clinical research fellowship. Crowdsourcing challenge contests provide an opportunity to solicit feedback from a large and diverse group of individuals about a problem.3,4 The purpose of this crowdsourcing challenge was to identify feasible ideas that could be used to adjust this specific TDR mid-career clinical research fellowship. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the fellowship is designed to provide individuals from LMICs with a 1-year opportunity to undertake mentored clinical infectious diseases research.
In 2019, the number of eligible female applicants for the fellowship increased to 48 (31%) of 155 from 11 (17%) of 66 in 2017. This increase suggests that the three implemented ideas were useful in promoting women to apply for this fellowship. Progress towards gender equality in global health institutions has picked up pace in some high-income countries but needs to expand to LMICs and incorporate voices from these regions. Crowdsourcing challenges present one structured way to engage individuals from LMICs in these discussions, but there are other potential mechanisms.