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CGD’s work on gender focuses policies in aid, development finance, trade, migration and peacekeeping that will improve women’s economic empowerment worldwide.
Greater equality drives big gains in health, education, employment, and improved livelihoods—for individuals, their families, and their communities. However, in many parts of the world, women and girls, and other marginalized groups including LGBT people, still face legal, economic, and political constraints that prevent them from participating fully and equally in society. CGD uses evidence to show how governments, donor institutions, and the private sector can help create conditions in low- and middle-income countries that allow all people to thrive.
Globalization of the economic sort is often maligned. But then there is globalism: of norms, values, culture, and attitudes. Are norms and values, even “culture,” being globalized? Is the idea, for example, that women have equal rights, as in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), gaining ground as a universal norm? And might changing norms and values affect legal regimes and behavior (sometimes, maybe)?
The charts below show the results of questions posed to men and women in the (nationally representative) Demographic and Health Surveys starting in the early 2000s, which asked about what circumstances respondents believe might justify a husband beating his wife: when the wife burns the food? Argues with her husband? Goes out without telling him? Neglects the children? Refuses to have sex with him? Is too tired?
The first set of charts indicates the percentage of urban women interviewed who agreed that one or more of the reasons posed justifies wife-beating, for each of five regions and separately for Anglophone and francophone Africa. (We include only countries in which the questions were posed in at least two years. For rural women, the percentages are slightly higher and the trends very much the same, country by country.)
Figure 1. Percentage of respondents who agreed that one or more reasons justify wife-beating by husband.
In many countries surveyed, the absolute percentages of women are disturbingly high—except in Peru and Colombia, both upper middle income countries of Latin America where less than 5 percent of women see some justification for wife-beating. For the most recent survey years in other countries outside Latin America, levels range between 9.5 percent (the Philippines) and 89.5 percent (Guinea). In India and Bangladesh, it is hard to see a “good” downward trend from relatively high levels (see the chapter on meta-preference for sons in this latest economic report on the Indian economy). On the other hand, the trend is downward in Egypt and Jordan, in many countries of francophone Africa, and in most countries of Anglophone Africa.
There are anomalies (why is the percentage rising in Cambodia and Indonesia, while falling to a low level in low-income Benin? (Is it Benin’s democracy?) Why so high in Guinea (recent war? Ebola?) and why is it failing to fall in Sierra Leone (Ebola?), but falling in Liberia (Africa’s first female president for a decade?) Why is the percentage lower and more likely to be falling in Anglophone compared to francophone Africa? Is the difference real—something about colonial history or “culture”—or were the relevant questions framed or understood differently?
The next chart illustrates the difference between the percentage of urban women and men who said that there are one or more justifications for wife-beating (in the most recent year for each country and including countries with only one survey year with these questions). Except in the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Kenya, the percentage of men who endorse at least one reason is lower. Why? Perhaps because some wives who are survivors of partner violence suffer confirmation bias. Perhaps men more than women try to answer the way they assume they ought to? (See Rachel Glennerster on the challenge of attitude and other questions meant to measure women’s agency or empowerment.)
Figure 2. Percentage of respondents who agreed that one or more reasons justify wife-beating by husband.
These questions, and additional ones on domestic violence, were only introduced into the DHS after the turn of the century. Why then? In 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)—and there is evidence of a subsequent positive and statistically robust (though uneven across countries) “CEDAW Effect” on women’s rights around the world. The Beijing Women's Conference (more formally known as The Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development, and Peace) was in 1995. Did global “jawing” in the late 20th century help inspire, with some lag, the introduction of these questions into the DHS system?
The questions are about attitudes, not behavior. But surely in the long run attitudes matter. Might the universal values reflected in CEDAW, discussed in Beijing, and codified in the Sustainable Development Goals explain some of the downward trend the charts show in many countries? Is recent news of sexual assaults on women—in Delhi on a public bus, by UN peacekeepers in the Congo, in Hollywood, USA—a sign that at the global level the norm is changing? Let us hope there is in fact a phenomenon we could call globalism of norms, and that changing norms are changing behavior. That would mean that sometimes-maligned globalism has been good for women in the most intimate and private part of their lives—and thus good for all of us.
This paper presents short-term results from an experiment randomizing the promotion and registration of a mobile savings account among women microentrepreneurs in Tanzania, with and without business training. Six months post-intervention, the results show that women save substantially more through the mobile account, and that the business training bolstered this effect.
Christal Morehouse, Alla Volkova, and Silvia Fierăscu of The Open Society Foundation (OSF) have just issued a fascinating report on the gender breakdown of speakers at 23 high-level conferences across Europe—including nine forums, six conferences, four meetings, three summits, and a games and an ideas lab (which adds up to 24 because the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is a Meeting at a Forum—doubtless why it costs $71,000 to attend).
The OSF team tracks 12,600 speaking roles between 2012 and mid-2017 and finds that across conferences with data for 2012 and 2016 there’s a welcome trend: 14 of the 15 conferences had a larger proportion of women speaking in the later year. But across the sample they still find that overall men occupied 74 percent of speaking roles and women only 26 percent. Women were better represented amongst keynotes and moderators than panelists—where only 24 percent were women.
Some gender equality leaders stand out: Chatham House had 44 percent women speakers at its 2016 London Conference, for example. Chatham House’s Laura Dunkley reports that the institution:
recently launched an internal gender awareness action plan. Covering three strands of Chatham House’s activities, the work will aim to build a toolkit for think tanks operating within international affairs…Specifically on convening and debate, Chatham House is committed to no all-male speaker panels at events and encouraging staff to uphold this commitment when speaking externally. Chatham House places equal importance on creating a greater mix of gender representation in participants, as well as ensuring events and workshops are designed to facilitate and encourage inputs and contributions from all participants.
We look forward to seeing—and learning from—this toolkit. And the OSF report is well worth reading in full both for the data and ideas on how to improve. But OSF doesn’t report on the proportion of European conference panels that are all-male—Euromanels, if you will. So we used the OSF’s dataset to calculate that.
Gender Breakdown of European Conference Panels
In short: the Euromanel is alive and well. Of the 2,282 panels in the database we looked at, 903 (or 40 percent) were all male. At the other end of the scale, 56 (2.5 percent) were all women. In the middle 280 (12.3 percent) were 50/50 gender-balanced (only possible on panels with even numbers of participants, of course) and 154 (6.8 percent) had more women than men but did have a man. Some comforting data: over time (between 2012 and 2017) the proportion of Euromanels has gone from 43 percent to 33 percent (though note that is over a changing set of conferences).
Thanks to OSF for quantifying and highlighting the conference speaker gender gap in Europe. Doubtless the situation is little different in the United States, and we’d love to see data on that.
Data notes: We used the OSF data on panel membership alone (excluding keynotes, moderators, and others), dropping panels that appeared to have only one panelist and a few observations that were potentially duplicate or where the panel name was too generic to ensure it was a separate event from other listed panels. You can download our code here.
Earlier this week, CGD co-hosted a candid conversation with Devex on gender equality in the workplace, encouraged development organizations to look inward and consider changes in our own practices, and highlighted persistent gender gaps in the sector. It was just a first step in what will be a longer journey for CGD and all development organizations to prioritize and realize the promises of equality and diversity.
Research shows that pursuing policies that promote diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but will also improve the quality and impact of our work. Building on the conversation we hosted, here are five ideas that development organizations (including our own) should consider to help ensure we live our values and maximize our impact. As a starting point, we offer ideas focused on promoting gender equality, while recognizing that sexism is not the only challenge we must face. As Angela Bruce-Raeburn underscores, racism is a core issue for development and humanitarian aid and is inseparable from sexism:
Abuse, bad behavior, exploitation, and sexual misconduct are the result of a system that is owned and managed by white men who have no need to be accountable.
Real progress and transformation will require commitments that take an intersectional approach to addressing power relations inherent in class, sex, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and health status, both in the workplace and in the places development organizations operate.
Here are five ideas as food for thought and action:
1. Commit to 50/50 targets
Committing to diversity and equality starts with the hiring pipeline. Hiring, investing in, and retaining diverse talent up and down the management chain requires a concrete commitment to achieve parity. To reach diversity and inclusion targets, we must extend beyond our traditional networks to ensure a diverse pool of candidates. Recruiting women may also take greater engagement, recognizing that women are less likely to put their hat in the ring. An internal Hewlett-Packard report, cited in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, found that women will only apply for a job if they feel 100 percent qualified, whereas men will apply if they meet only 60 percent qualified. Recently the World Bank, UN, and WHO have demonstrated that concerted effort to increase women in leadership can yield results. Women comprise 45 percent, 50 percent, and 60 percent of their senior leadership teams, respectively.
Commiting to a recruiting and hiring process that ultimately results in a diverse group of employees is only the beginning. In order to retain and promote staff, organizations and its leaders should enact and actively promote policies that promote equality and inclusion in the workplace, like equal maternity and paternity leave (and encouraging men to take the leave they are granted) and greater flexibility (not working less, but working different hours or teleworking). The motherhood penalty is tangible for both hiring and wages, and may be even greater in development where travel is often an important part of the job. Organizations can look for ways to facilitate work and life, for example by enabling women (and men) to take their children on travel, whether for conferences or fieldwork. This matters not just for retaining talent, but for changing the norm on what successful leadership looks like.
2. Consider progress on gender equality as criterion for funding decisions
Some private investors, like CalPERS, are considering board diversity as a factor in their investment decisions. They see the bottom line benefits of investing in companies with boards that are more likely to avoid “group think” and brings diverse experience and skills. Likewise, funders have the potential to play a big role in advancing gender equality in development organizations. By considering progress towards targets for gender equity and inclusion as part of investment criteria, funders can push development organizations to adopt policies and practices that promote equality. For example, some foundations ask for organizations to report their diversity statistics, including breakdowns by gender and ethnicity, but what if one factor in funding decisions was around meeting targets for increasing gender diversity in boards and management? Given the connection between diversity of voices and potential impact, there’s a clear case to be made for consideration of gender in investment decisions (with gender as not the only important criterion, but an important place to start).
3. Encourage and equip staff to check their implicit biases
It is important, both as organizations and individuals, to strive to recognize and respond to implicit and explicit gender biases. Beyond taking the implicit association test (which everyone should do), there are potential tools that researchers and practitioners can use to check themselves. For example, we can utilize software that analyzes citations by gender; think about concrete positives and negatives when evaluating performance (versus relying on “gut feelings”); and amplify women’s voices at meetings, events and in the media. These strategies are important because, as Alice Evans points out in her viral #Sausagefest post, it’s too easy to fall into the default of venerating and deferring to men, and especially white men. Knowing that we all have implicit biases (including those who are discriminated against), we should aim to have open and honest conversations with our colleagues about equality in the workplace.
4. Establish an ombudsperson and a community for them
The #MeToo movement has underscored the inadequacy of processes to report and address sexual harassment and assault across industries. These structures are built on outdated legal mechanisms for avoiding employee harassment and retaliation. For example, anonymous harassment hotlines in workplaces are largely underpublicized, ineffective, and underutilized. The reality is that formal reporting is the least common strategy victims of sexual harassment pursue, fearful of a wide array of consequences--namely, retaliation, blame, and reputational damage. About three out of four victims of harassment never discuss their experience with a superior. It is the responsibility of an organization’s leadership to prioritize handling these issues as a fundamental component of workplace culture. A task force assembled by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commision found that workplace culture has “the greatest impact on allowing harassment to flourish, or conversely, in preventing harassment.”
Providing employees with multiple channels to report sexual or discriminatory behavior can help mitigate the well-founded fears associated with directly reporting a colleague to a superior or human resources officer. Appointing an ombudsperson to serve as an independent, neutral, and confidential ally for victims can an effective strategy to ensure inappropriate behavior is reported and that all employees have a designated contact that they can voice concerns with. Development organizations can join together to create a community or association of ombudspersons to share lessons and generate ideas.
5. Launch a peer review process
Programmatic trainings, certifications, and standards geared towards the awareness and promotion of gender equality and inclusivity are important tools for prioritizing and instilling these values in workplace culture, but it is imperative that these tools are used to drive organizational and cultural change. The learning and progress achieved through these certification processes must be routinely evaluated and engaged at the organization’s highest levels. One idea to strengthen the impact of certifications is to create a peer review system (like the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s process where donor members evaluate each other’s development effectiveness). Creating mutual accountability among organizations can help drive faster progress and changes across the sector. The peer review process could include a core set of metrics that allows for transparent reporting and comparison among development organizations.
These are just some of the great suggestions raised at the event. Many of these ideas can and should be expanded or adapted to increase diversity along other dimensions, which must be part of the conversation today on International Women’s Day and beyond. We are at our best when diverse voices are at the table, included and empowered.
Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will join the Center for Global Development's Board member Tony Fratto to discuss her experience as president and lessons learned from Liberia’s relationship with development partners.