Alison Varco

Alison Varco, Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Alison Varco

Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Alison Varco (She/Her) is a Program Officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Women in Leadership team where she leads a portfolio of grants dedicated to advancing women’s power and influence in the global health sector.  She is passionate about challenging and shifting harmful social norms that limit women from achieving their goals, advocating loudly for policies that empower women and supporting individual leaders.  In addition to her role, Alison sits on the Board of Directors for the Washington Women’s Foundation.  Prior to joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she spent over a decade working for health and education focused non-profits designing and directing leadership development programs for youth globally.  Alison holds a Masters of Public Administration from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance and a BA in Sociology and Political Science from the University of Washington.  She lives in Seattle with her two children.

All Sessions by Alison Varco

4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Quiet Quicksand: Caregiving as a key Determinant to Gender Equal Leadership

Led by: WomenLift Health Alumnae.

While the detriments of dependent and/or elder caregiving are increasingly being documented, including diminished mental and physical health, financial security, career prospects, and overall well-being, the complex dynamics of those outcomes are not well studied. The data that is available about those with multiple caregiving responsibilities confirms that it is not easy and it also comes largely from Europe and North America. It comes from wealthy nations, places with formal (albeit broken) welfare systems. This focus on the Global North has shaped the way we think about the consequences of intergenerational transfer. This means we lack a comprehensive understanding of the magnitude, determinants, or impact of the caregiving experience. These individuals are subsidizing entire economies, yet their heavy labor is invisible. Current momentum to measure unpaid work and the global care economy brings recognition to the matter.

How should the lived experience of caregiving be valued and integrated by employers and colleagues? The session will explore questions like: What value does caregiving add? What leadership skills does it lend to the workplace? How can these skills be maximized for impact? What novel systems should be built from the ground up to reflect the profile of the workforce now versus simply adapting anachronistic structures designed for a fraction of the population? How can we, as leaders, advocate for the integration and scaling of such novel systems and policies?

1. Brooke Cutler, Gender Equity and Global Health Consultant
2. Paurvi Bhatt, MPH, President and Chief Impact Officer, Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers
3. Ms. Evelyne Opondo, Africa Director, International Center for Research on Women
4. Dr Olivia Velez, Director of Technical Services, PATH
5. Alison Varco, Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Women in Leadership