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The tumultuous events of the past year, with the coronavirus pandemic, the global economic crisis, Black Lives Matter protests, and election conflicts all have magnified the issues of gender inequality and systemic racism.

To help address these challenges, Stanford University School of Medicine has launched the Global Center for Gender Equality at Stanford. 

“Now is the moment. There are tectonic shifts happening globally,” says Sarah Henry, executive director of the Center. “With the onset of COVID especially, we are seeing the gendered impacts of the pandemic. The highest burden is on women, especially women of color. So it’s a huge moment to build new ways of doing things, because the old ways aren’t working. If we don’t address the root causes of these inequalities, we will have missed a massive opportunity.”

The Center aims to improve global health and prosperity through innovative, science-based solutions that address the pervasive problem of gender inequality. Center faculty, collaborating with colleagues across Stanford and other institutions, will conduct research on effective approaches for achieving gender equality. They will then work with organizations in the United States and globally, including Kenya, in channeling those results into effective programs on the ground, focusing on issues that range from vaccine delivery to clean water and sanitation to agricultural output. 

“Our research shows that if we are actually going to reach the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, addressing the root causes of gender equality is absolutely essential,” Henry says. “We can take the best, evidence-based research to create new solutions for the world’s most pressing problems, whether it’s at the intersection of gender and climate, gender and water sanitation, or gender and government leadership.” 

Accelerating Impact Through Philanthropy 

Heather Bresch, former CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals, has made a meaningful contribution to provide seed funds for the newly established Center. Bresch chose to invest in the initiative because she viewed it as an opportunity to be a founding member of a venture that reflects her longstanding passion for gender equality issues and has the potential to bring about tangible change.

“I believe the Center has the possibility of being impactful, and I look forward to being a part of it,” Bresch says. “We are starting this at a unique moment in time. The issue of gender inequality is very present in our world and has been made painfully obvious in many of the movements, like #MeToo, which have brought it front and center.  While capability and work ethic know no gender, opportunity absolutely does.”

Bresch is the first woman to lead a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company and says she has “lived the reality of nonequality,” having encountered many barriers along her path to prominence. She has long championed the value of gender equality and made policies of inclusion a cornerstone of her leadership at the global drug company, from which she retired this fall.

Lloyd Minor, MD, the Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Dean of the School of Medicine, said he views the Center as “a unique opportunity to address some of the longstanding inequities that have hampered progress in global health and development.

“We believe the initiative has the potential to be a driving force in the creation of innovative, evidence-based solutions that can truly impact the lives of people across the globe,” Minor says.

Viatris Inc. (“Viatris”) has also contributed a significant gift to launch the Center. “With a mission to empower people worldwide to live healthier at every stage of life, Viatris is proud to be an early funder of the new Global Center for Gender Equality at Stanford given our shared commitment to global health and equality,” says Lara Ramsburg, head of corporate affairs at Viatris. “We look forward to supporting the Center to make meaningful progress toward gender equality as this important initiative kicks off.” 

Collaborative Network—Locally and Globally

The Center is partnering with several organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Sarah Henry and Gary Darmstadt, MD, the faculty director of the new Center and associate dean for maternal and child health at Stanford, are collaborating with the nonprofit in its effort to incorporate gender equality in all of its investments and strategies.

Another core partner of the Center is the Gender Innovation Hub in Kenya, a public-private enterprise that occupies six new buildings on the campus of the U.S. International University-Africa in Nairobi. Its goal is to develop model, community-based programs to address gender inequities.

As the hub’s programmatic partner, Stanford’s role is to bring it to life by attracting researchers and community partners who can spark new ideas and approaches. Stanford also will establish a data center and develop a scientific basis for new policies and initiatives that promote gender equality.

“We believe it’s important to conduct rigorous research to identify what works. Then we will join with our partners to put that into action on the ground,” Darmstadt says. “We are very excited about the opportunity of having experts in our community and in East Africa come together and see what cross-disciplinary innovation can emerge from that.”

The Center will benefit from access to an extraordinary pool of talent on the Stanford campus, as faculty and staff work with colleagues in global health, maternal and child health, human rights, the humanities, and other disciplines.

“It’s one of the key opportunities of a center like this at Stanford—having people across all eight schools, all working together in thinking about new approaches and identifying the key, underlying principles that lead people to be marginalized, whether it’s on the basis of gender or other aspects of identity,” Darmstadt says. “That is one of the fundamental advantages of being on a campus like Stanford and having the ability to translate what we learn into action in our own communities, as well as in communities like Kenya.”

To learn more about the Center or get philanthropically involved, please contact Payal Shah at