Gender equity is imperative to the attainment of healthy lives and wellbeing of all, and promoting gender equity in leadership in the health sector is an important part of this endeavour. This empirical research examines gender and leadership in the health sector, pooling learning from three complementary data sources: literature review, quantitative analysis of gender and leadership positions in global health organisations and qualitative life histories with health workers in Cambodia, Kenya and Zimbabwe. The findings highlight gender biases in leadership in global health, with women underrepresented. Gender roles, relations, norms and expectations shape progression and leadership at multiple levels. Increasing women's leadership within global health is an opportunity to further health system resilience and system responsiveness. We conclude with an agenda and tangible next steps of action for promoting women's leadership in health as a means to promote the global goals of achieving gender equity.