Collage with photos of Dr. Helena Frecker, Jennifer Okpala, Shezeen Suleman and Rachel Bagley with overlay text that reads "International Women's Day"

International Women’s Day 2024: MGH staff and physicians share importance of highlighting diverse women’s voices

International Women’s Day (IWD) is March 8, an opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also serves as a powerful reminder of the progress made towards gender equality; the work that still needs to be done; and the complex and multifaceted experiences of oppression that occur simultaneously based on gender, race, class and other social identities. 

This year’s IWD theme is Inspire Inclusion. Inspiring inclusion encourages everyone to recognize the unique perspectives and contributions of  women, trans and nonbinary people.

In the spirit of inspiring inclusion, we're highlighting the perspectives of some MGH staff and physicians and their thoughts on why it’s important to centre the diverse voices and experiences of women in healthcare and how organizations can foster a culture that better understands and values women’s inclusion. 

Dr. Helena Frecker (she/her) 


Dr. Helena Frecker smiling while doing a "heart hand" pose.

“I think it is important as healthcare providers to use our privilege to amplify the voices and experiences of marginalized people. In our society today, gender-diverse individuals are highly stigmatized, face greater barriers to healthcare than cisgender people, and as a result have poorer health outcomes.  

Creating spaces, particularly reproductive healthcare spaces, where diverse gender identities are welcomed and included works to break down these barriers to care. It is also important that we remain intersectional when considering people’s experience in healthcare, considering not only their gender identity and expression, but also their socioeconomic status and ability, as well as ethnicity and background.” 

Jennifer Okpala (she/her) 

Supervisor, Support Services 

Jennifer Okpala smiling doing the "heart hands" pose.

“Organizations like MGH help foster women’s growth and inclusion by having more representation of women in leadership and managerial roles, creating more gender-neutral policies, and by putting systems in place that support women’s professional development. 

A focus on equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB) is also important. MGH has actively demonstrated its commitment to this by hiring a dedicated role in this area and raising awareness of EDIB initiatives in the hospital. In this environment, I feel like women are not defined by sex or gender but by intellect, capability and ethics.” 

Shezeen Sulemen (she/her) 

Registered Midwife and Co-Lead of South Riverdale Community Health Centre’s MATCH (Midwifery and Toronto Community Health) Program, which provides labour and birth care at MGH and staffs the Early Pregnancy Clinic; Co-chair of Health Network for Uninsured Clients; Co-chair of East Toronto Health Partners’ (ETHP) Working Group on Uninsured Health Access 

Shezeen Suleman smiling doing the "heart hands" pose.

“Being part of a department comprised of mostly cis women, trans women, and AFAB (assigned female at birth) nonbinary people who are providing care to individuals who are also part of these groups, I understand that we work within historically patriarchal systems that can present challenges in care delivery. 

I'm so grateful to work alongside an incredible interprofessional team here at MGH within the Maternal Newborn and Child Department. As a team, our focus is always on what works best for the communities we serve each day, in the face of these challenges. We keep pushing for better, even when it’s hard!” 

Rachel Bagley (she/her) 

Senior Consultant, Organizational Development and Learning 

Rachel Bagley smiling doing the "heart hands" pose.

“If we create space for the diverse voices of all women, healthcare providers are enabled to truly deliver patient-centred care that is informed by these voices and work in an environment that values the contributions of all women, whether at the bedside or in the boardroom. By prioritizing inclusion, MGH and other organizations can demonstrate their support and understanding of the value that all women bring to the communities that we serve and care for.” 

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