Achieving Greater Gender Equality in INGOs

 Five strategies to move forward on gender equality

gender equality

Roger Parry recently attended the Feminist Futures workshop hosted by Wild Research in London. The workshop brought together experts and practitioners within the INGO sector to share experiences on how these organisations can achieve greater gender equality, particularly at leadership levels.  

At the event, Roger had the opportunity to present a case study on how the Norwegian Refugee Council is tackling the issue of gender equality.

In this blog Roger pinpoints five strategies organisations can adopt to move forward on gender equality.


1. Take an organisation-wide approach


It’s positive when individuals take the initiative to encourage female managers – for example, through sponsoring or mentoring. However, such approaches are going to have limited impact if they are only happening on a limited scale.

It is much more powerful to treat the issue with an organisation wide strategy. The NRC case study is an example of where decisions have been made on an organisational level.

If you wish to make a substantial difference, organisation-wide approaches are needed.


gender equality2. Make the case for gender equality


Most organisations have a number of competing initiatives vying for senior management attention. Getting  gender equality on the agenda will require a clear business case:

  • Where specifically is gender equality an issue?

Is it in particular grades or roles or parts of the organisation? Some organisations set a target of 40-60% for the percentage of women in each of these categories, for example.

  • What benefits would there be to the organisation from tackling gender equality?

Some organisations feel that more diversity in leadership leads to a more inclusive culture and a stronger organisation.

  • What benefits would there be to the organisation’s beneficiaries or service users and in particular to beneficiaries who are women?


3. Understand and focus on the barriers and enablers


There are many possible barriers to gender equality.

For example: policies, recruitment and induction processes, organisational culture, gender dynamics, networks, sponsorship and mentoring, approaches to management and leadership.

Many of our clients have found it helpful to design a staff survey to ask women about their experiences. In particular, they ask what they see as the key issues, and what would make the most difference.

This has helped build strong evidence to understand what strategies are going to make the greatest difference.


gender equality

4. Set managers targets and hold them accountable


There may well be some changes needed organisation-wide – for example to recruitment processes and to your leadership development programme.

But the greatest change is going to happen when managers throughout the organisation take action. Set your managers clear targets and ask them to develop their own plans tailored to their own cultural context and situation.


5. Share knowledge and provide support


Some of your managers will know exactly what they need to work on. Others may need more support.

Share knowledge across the organisation and provide ideas and encouragement. Highlight case studies of successful change and bring your mangers together to exchange their experience on a regular basis.


If you are interested in finding out more about how an Employee Engagement Survey can help you on this journey to achieving greater gender equality in your organisation, please get in touch with Roger.



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