Celebrating International Women’s Day: Three Generations of Women in Public Health

By Andi Kezh, intern

On March 8, the world celebrated International Women’s Day, with this year’s theme of “embracing equity.” WHO estimates that women make up 67% of the global health workforce, which is true at The Task Force where 69% of employees are female. As a global health organization that works with partners in more than 150 countries to advance health equity, The Task Force is proud to contribute to larger discussions on gender equity. 

We sat down with three female employees to gain unique generational viewpoints from a variety of perspectives: at different stages of their careers and with different areas of expertise. 

Cassandra Holloway has been at The Task Force for nearly 12 years. She is project support specialist for International Trachoma Initiative (ITI)’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Supply Chain Forum, a unique public-private partnership that includes some of the world’s leading experts in pharmaceutical supply chain systems for donated drugs. She received her Executive Master’s in Business Administration from Georgia State University. 

Jimica Tchamako has 15 years of experience working in the health sector, and serves as the Director of the Requirements Lab business unit at The Task Force’s Public Health Informatics Institutes (PHII) developing information systems to support public health needs for international partners. She earned her Master’s in Business Administration as well as a Master’s of Public Health from Emory University. 

Aimee Rivera earned her Master’s of Public Health in 2021, and has served just over a year as a Program Assistant with The Task Force’s Health Campaign Effectiveness Coalition (HCEC), assisting with implementation research and programmatic management for global health campaigns. 

We’ve condensed the conversation below to focus on a few key themes that emerged.

Cassandra Holloway, project support specialist for International Trachoma Initiative (ITI)
Jimica Tchamako, Director of the Requirements Lab business unit at the Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII)
Aimee Rivera, Program Assistant at the Health Campaign Effectiveness Coalition (HCEC)

Influence and Representation

All three women said influence from female figures was a key to their professional success.

Holloway: “A female colleague of mine in my undergraduate lab was my greatest early influence. She was able to keep a group of fellow scientists focused to publish nine scientific papers in a single year, which was huge.”

Tchamako: “I was very influenced by women such as Dr. Camera Jones, who is a leading female epidemiologist working on health equity, and she really shaped my career path.”

Rivera noted an additional aspect of representation. 

Rivera: “It’s not only just about being a woman, but also influence from minority groups that look like myself. While completing my Masters in Public Health, I found it difficult to actually find research and representation of Latinx populations. I found motivation in creating my own impact within the public health field to influence other Latinx women.”

Gender-Based Challenges

A WHO report at the Commission on the Status of Women found that leadership voices in Global Health continue to be predominantly male: 69% of global health organizations and 80% of board chairs are led by men. The panelists had different perspectives on the issue of gender-based challenges. 

Tchamako: “I represent a couple of intersections in terms of being not only a woman, but a Black woman in the space of STEM. I am often the only voice or the first voice for many in the room that is trying to implement change. It requires a different mental capacity that can be a bit overwhelming at times.” 

Holloway: “From my generation, women were not encouraged to pursue science as a career. I think getting the message out that women are allowed to exist within science and public health space is important.” 

During this first year of her career, Rivera said she has seen very few gender-based challenges.

Rivera: “I have been fortunate that so many of my supervisors and professors have been women. I have seen the difference and progress that has been made in public health since I have not had to face the difficulties that so many other women have endured before me.” 

Leaving a Legacy

Despite the challenges, the panelists offered positive outlooks and advice for women interested in global health.

Tchamako: “The health and wellbeing of communities must include women. We are part of the workforce as well, and there is an opportunity to tap into women and all of the skills that they bring to the table. I want my legacy to encourage and provide opportunities for women in leadership roles, as well as in innovation and progress within the field.”

Holloway: “Having a female mentor is also an extremely important aspect of this career. A mentor is key to maintaining motivation, and was definitely part of my personal career development. I hope that my legacy includes mentorship for other women.”

Rivera: “The type of legacy I ultimately want to leave is that women can really do this. I felt moments of timidness as I have first entered this career, and I want to encourage public health as an open field for everyone.”

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