Roger Parry, Director of Agenda Consulting interviewed Gyda Bugge, HR Director of Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).The discussion explored how NRC used a survey to develop an impactful, long-term strategy to tackle gender equality.
What were your goals in relation to gender equality?
“Gender equality has always been important to NRC and we decided to set a goal of 40-60% for the percentage of females in each grade and location. We did this for two reasons. Firstly, we know that greater diversity in our leadership fosters a more inclusive culture and a stronger organisation. Secondly, it contributes to our effectiveness on the ground as many of our beneficiaries are women.”
Why did you conduct a survey?
“There were lots of ideas and opinions about how NRC should improve gender equality. But before deciding on the way forward I wanted to reach a deeper understanding and listen to the views of all female managers and leaders, wherever they were based.”
What topics did the survey cover?
“We looked at it broadly and asked about work-life balance, safety and security, discrimination, gender dynamics, career ambitions, recruitment, views on NRC’s current approaches to gender equality, barriers to and enablers of career advancement.”
What were the main things that you learned from the survey?
“Our biggest takeaway was that the issues were about gender dynamics, culture and leadership rather than specific policies or benefits, for example insurance or space for breastfeeding.
Another issue was a lack of a professional network. Most of the social events that take place were difficult for women to be involved in.
We also discovered that there was a great deal of consistency between the responses from females in different grades and in different locations.”
“The survey allowed us get the facts about the key issues and helped us focus on strategies that would make a difference.” – Gyda Bugge
What strategies have you pursued how is it making a difference?
“At a global level we confirmed the 40-60% target and:
- reviewed our leadership programme;
- updated our recruitment standards and induction programme to make sure we are conveying the message of equality at all stages of our staff’s journey at NRC;
- developed our employer branding, including editing our online presence and publicity to ensure the way we are communicating with current and future employees presents an inclusive and empowering culture for all genders;
- are developing a global female future leaders programme which encompasses mentoring and training.
At country level we have:
- given each country its own 40-60% target;
- asked each country to develop its own action plan to achieve the target.
Our Afghanistan programme has been particularly engaged and has undertaken work on culture and recruitment, including the use of quotas for some roles. This has been very impressive given the context for our work there.”
“We aren’t a success story yet, but we are taking it seriously and making significant changes, with a long-term strategic approach.” – Gyda Bugge
Are the changes you are making sustainable?
“It’s early days, but we are pleased with how things are progressing. We will be asking countries to share their progress at an upcoming global HR workshop.
The key is to keep going on gender equality: share experiences, set targets, measure progress and hold managers to account. That’s the way that we will make gender equality an established part of the way we work at NRC.
Going forward, we will conduct a global survey across the whole of NRC to measure the impact of these initiatives and to gather the views of the whole organisation on these issues.”