Is your agency walking the talk on gender equality? Ever thought about conducting a gender audit?

Dr Juliet Hunt

03 Oct, 2018

Do I really know what it is like for women who work in my organisation? What about people with a non-binary gender identity, or different sexual orientations? Do their experiences of working in my organisation differ from men’s, and if so, how?

Recent international surveys and public debate suggest that some CEOs and human resource managers may not appreciate how women’s experiences differ from those of men in development organisations. I’ve worked for many years with a range of different types of aid organisations on how to embed their gender equality policy commitments into their practice, and since 2000 on gender audits examining how Australian NGOs (ANGOs) are addressing gender equality, inside and out. In my experience, it is not uncommon for female and male staff to have somewhat different views on how well the organisation is doing on gender equality – in development and humanitarian work, communications and engagement with stakeholders, marketing and fundraising, policy advocacy, and campaigning. Women and men may also have rather different views about internal organisational culture, structure and processes – including how well the agency is “walking its talk” on gender equality, and even on whether gender inequalities are taken seriously by managers.

As Susanne Legena (Plan International Australia CEO) said in an ACFID blog in April 2018:

“…our sector is not a safe place for women. It’s an uncomfortable truth that needs to be confronted.”

How will I know if my organisation is ready for a gender audit?

What are the potential benefits and risks of going down this path?

How can I ensure that actions will be taken to follow up on gender audit findings?

These and many other questions are answered in a forthcoming ACFID on-line resource: the ACFID Gender Audit Guide. It is designed to help assess organisational readiness and achieve management buy-in, and provides tips on how to turn potential risks into opportunities. It identifies the essential preparations needed for an effective gender audit, drawing on lessons learned from ACFID’s recent research on how ANGOs have translated gender audit findings into practice (see a blog on the preliminary research findings here).  

If you want to explore organisational culture, and build a rigorous evidence base for taking action to improve performance on gender equality internally and across other areas of work, conducting a gender audit may be your next best step. If you want to learn how staff feel about their capacity to address gender inequalities, their understanding of gender equality policy and how the agency is supporting (or constraining) them, a gender audit can identify strengths and constraints, enabling staff to contribute ideas on actions to take internally and across the agency’s work. The Gender Audit Guide provides advice on a range of methods to achieve these outcomes, along with tips on using each method and links to more resources – so you can choose methods that are a good fit for your agency and your audit objectives.

While a gender audit can do all these things and more, it is not a magic formula for dealing with gender inequalities. Let’s hear again from Susanne Legena in the ACFID blog:

 “We know that deeper work on power, gender and culture must be an ongoing process.”

Organisational commitment to follow up on gender audit findings and develop an action-oriented response is essential to make progress on implementing gender equality commitments. A gender audit is just one step in the journey, but it can help to increase the pace of change if the organisation is ready to look in the mirror. An openness to hearing and responding to challenging findings by senior management and human resource staff is essential to make real progress. Internal and external accountability are also key ingredients that improve the effectiveness of outcomes from gender audit processes.

One of the things I have witnessed over the years is that most organisations – ANGOs, multilateral and bilateral agencies – face the same types of issues with implementing their gender equality policies. Often, gender advocates working at the coalface feel very isolated, and even a bit surprised that gender audits reveal the same type of challenges, regardless of the rhetoric of the agency, its size, or how loudly it has proclaimed its commitment to gender equality.

Just want a taste of what is in the Gender Audit Guide to begin with?

The Guide is designed for you to be able to dip into any section, according to your needs.

  • If you would like an overview of the content of the Guide, tune in to the webinar here on Wednesday 10th October at 2pm.
  • Please bring all your questions about gender auditing along to the webinar. If your questions are not already answered in the Guide, the Q&A at the webinar will help us ensure that the final product meets your needs, and those of your organisation.
  • Dr Juliet Hunt
    Dr Juliet Hunt

    Juliet is an advocate for gender equality and human rights. She has worked in the development sector since 1978, focusing on gender equality, violence against women, gender auditing and organisational change, and research on gender issues. She has worked closely with several local civil society organisations in the Pacific and other regions, bilateral and multilateral agencies, and INGOs. Juliet was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research good practice in gender equality programming and gender auditing in 2000, and has worked with several ANGOs to develop and implement gender audit methodologies. She has designed gender training courses for a range of stakeholders, and developed several toolkits and manuals on gender equality and development.

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