6. An institution that delivers for gender equality

Addressing gender equality goes beyond programming and funding – it needs to be understood holistically, as an issue that connects with the entire institution. It is essential to build institutions that enable staff to work towards gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through incentives and accountability systems, and which also integrate gender equality into their internal and human resource policies.

Efforts should be led by management, strategically supported by gender advisers and gender focal points, and implemented by everyone (Elroy, 2019[1]). Organisations are inherently gendered, as are all advantages and disadvantages, allocations of work and responsibilities, systems for imputing value, interpersonal relationships, and means of control there within (Navarro, 2007[2]).

Strong institutions that support gender equality are based in part on a foundation of strong policy frameworks. Harmonising and ensuring application of standards in an organisation is central. Aligning these standards with international commitments on human rights, gender equality and staff safety across departments and ministries, is also particularly relevant.

When examining different approaches to creating institutional frameworks that best support gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, it is important to consider how institutions are affected not only by their policies and practices, but also by the organisational culture, including leadership and ownership of gender equality and human resources policies. Explicit policies, standards, codes of conduct and ethical norms have an important impact on the culture within organisations and implementing partners. Developing an overarching organisational theory of change, including both organisational strategies and programming, to map the pathways for achieving gender equality results can be a useful exercise (Chapter 2). The linkage is clear: organisational culture informs policy, and policy contributes to organisational cultural change.

Setting a clear tone for internal culture and organisational values supportive of gender equality is essential for the transfer of values and requirements of all staff within and between institutions, and to external partners.

Both political and public support for gender equality has become a greater priority among many Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members. It has not, however, always been accompanied by investment in additional resources or stronger architecture for gender equality. Gender equality needs to be the responsibility of all staff and management, as well as of a team of dedicated specialists to the topic.

Different models of institutional architecture to support gender equality have been put in place. Institutional arrangements, whether bilateral, multilateral, or for other kinds of actors, have included a wide range of structures. They include dedicated gender equality teams in programme or policy divisions, stand-alone gender equality units, and high-level gender advisers attached to leadership and networks of gender focal points in departments. Additional analysis and evaluation of how different structural arrangements affect organisational capacity and results on gender equality is useful. Greater insight into effective architecture could have important implications not only for DAC members, but partner governments and international organisations, since models are often replicated across institutions (Rao and Sandler, 2021[3]).

At headquarters level, most DAC members have dedicated staff for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.1 The teams and individuals concerned typically have to work at high pressure. Many models of gender architecture exist, but they often face situations where demand exceeds supply and where budgets for those working on gender equality are inadequate (Rao and Sandler, 2021[3]). Many of the positions dedicated to gender equality include additional responsibilities such as responsibility for broader equal opportunities; or responsibilities for strategic engagement with a broader portfolio of multilateral partnerships, including gender equality as a priority consideration. Gender equality advisers or experts are also often involved in co-ordinating internal networks of gender focal points, spread across teams, departments or ministries; and participate in external or multi-stakeholder networks.

In the past, DAC members have identified the following qualities as important for gender equality advisers. It is important to note that such skills include technical expertise and experience specifically related to gender equality, and also leadership, relationship and facilitation skills; communication and negotiation skills; political sensitivity; sector-specific expertise, regional knowledge and experience working in partner countries; persistency, courage and humility; an open mind, innovative thinking and analytical capacity; flexibility; and team spirit. DAC members also noted other elements of expertise relevant for these positions, whether related to specific sectors or regions or to other cross-cutting issues (OECD, 2014[4]).

DAC members need to aim to have a sufficient number of gender equality advisers or experts in place, but also non-specialist employees or peers with the knowledge and commitment to address gender inequality in their areas of responsibility.

Some members with large gender equality teams have taken an approach to staffing linked directly to thematic expertise. This includes staff working in a gender equality division or team, with additional dedicated responsibilities for preventing gender-based violence, humanitarian action, natural resources and governance, or LGBTIQA+ issues. The need for expertise on gender equality and other types of diversity issues need to be factored into broader workforce planning exercises.

While it is important for DAC members to keep in mind how gender equality is connected to other intersecting inequalities, it should not be assumed that staff responsible for gender equality necessarily have expertise on or should by default be responsible for leading work in the institution on all types of diversity issues or other kinds of inequalities.

Beyond representation at headquarters, it is common for DAC members to dedicate some staff resources to gender equality in country offices. Some have made the decision to incorporate responsibility for gender equality into the responsibilities of many or all staff, rather than designate a single specific focal point at the regional or country level. 2

While all regional and country level staff should have some level of responsibility for gender equality, it is good practice to appoint dedicated staff.

Some DAC members are making efforts to involve national experts in country offices/embassies. More efforts should be made to recognise the importance of local researchers, and guidance and expertise can be drawn from youth experts, feminist experts, women experts and faith/religious experts, among others, to allow for contextual solutions, technical expertise and active, locally-led decision-making (Peace Direct, 2021[5]).

DAC Members should have policies and strategies in place to recruit a diverse pool of staff in country offices, including national gender equality experts.

Supportive political leaders and senior leadership continue to be a key ingredient for DAC members’ commitment to gender equality. Ideally, gender equality is the responsibility of all political leaders and senior staff, as well as every employee. An increasing number of DAC members have “gender equality champions”3. However, how these “champions” are expected to operate, for example, at what level of seniority and with what balance between their gender equality and other responsibilities, varies widely.

DAC members can consider opportunities for appointing or awarding high-level and/or influential “gender equality champions” in capitals and in partner countries, to help raise the visibility of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, in addition to having a dedicated team and making gender equality the responsibility of all staff and management.

Organisational networks for gender equality often include focal points in ministries and departments.4 Most networks focus on representatives at the expert level, but some include senior leadership and/or management. In some cases, networks extend beyond headquarters, either to embassies, delegations or country offices; or to specific key representation offices. Networks can also be focused on multiple thematic areas, e.g. women, peace and security (WPS) or sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEAH).

Gender equality networks are a useful way to increase capacity building within institutions. For example, regular staff rotations can help build networks of staff interested in and knowledgeable on gender equality.

DAC members can connect to and collaborate with counterparts in other gender equality networks, either in other governments (whether DAC members or partner governments) or organisations. These might also be multilateral organisations, with similar networks, or international women’s movement networks with extensive expert knowledge. Connecting and cross-sharing expertise can be an opportunity to exchange lessons learned in areas of common challenges.

There is a strong connection between an institution’s internal organisational culture and its development policies and programming. Ensuring more equal representation from a broader range of groups is important in an organisation’s workforce and influences how programmes and policies are designed. It is important that DAC members make sure that a range of perspectives and experiences inform decision making, both within institutions (within the staff pool) and with partners. Staff diversity is an important factor in achieving institutional objectives, including goals related to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Elements of diversity include gender, educational and professional background, regional experience, ethnicity and other characteristics such as disability, in a range of personal and professional experience. Higher diversity and more gender-balanced employment are especially important for public sector institutions, so they can be more representative. Greater levels of diversity and a more gender-balanced public sector are associated with higher levels of productivity and creativity, as well as more inclusive policies and programmes (OECD, 2018[6]). Representation and inclusivity can build public credibility in a DAC member country, and enhance DAC members’ relationships with partner countries or organisations through development co-operation. It is important that DAC members show leadership in this area, particularly if they set up development programmes to improve the human resources and organisational capacity of partner countries’ public institutions.

The OECD Recommendation for Gender Equality in Public Life is worth bearing in mind when setting up institutional architecture in development co-operation to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

An institutional approach to human resources could include: promotion of merit-based recruitment; consideration of positive policies and practices to ensure a balanced representation of men and women in each occupational group (staff and management) in public sector employment; equal pay for equal work/work of equal value; and developing measures to remove implicit barriers within recruitment, retention and promotion processes, where appropriate and necessary (OECD, 2016[7]).

Some DAC members have introduced specific policies to target increased recruitment of women, to establish a more gender-balanced workforce overall. This includes for example, specific targeting of women candidates for leadership positions, or specifically targeting recruitment of women from local populations. It is also vital that the women already recruited have the opportunity and the support so they can stay in their positions in the medium to long term. Retention policies considering work/life balance, equal pay, harassment/sexual harassment and pro-active mitigation measures are essential (ILO, 2020[8]).

A number of factors should be taken into account in establishing an institutional architecture and human resources policies to reduce gender and other inequalities, as well as addressing the underlying conditions, including power imbalances and social norms.

To address intersecting inequalities internally, DAC members would benefit from a human resources strategy that takes into account diversity in many forms. This includes, for example, focusing on how a range of staff could include those representing LGBTQIA+ or ethnic/racial minorities, or those with disabilities. It is important to ensure that diversity and a range of experience are seriously considered in the employee or expert pool. It is important to recognise the potential barriers to recruiting, promoting and retaining staff representing minorities. Specific strategies should be put in place to address these particular challenges, throughout the full range of human resources processes, including recruitment, promotion and retention.

For DAC members, capacity building takes a variety of forms – the most common ones being training and mentoring – and is linked to knowledge management and a variety of learning initiatives to address gender equality.5 Capacity development is an ongoing cycle with staff, and retaining the relevant expertise is an important part of maintaining institutions’ efficacy and adaptability. Since DAC members are increasingly seeking transformative change for gender equality, the link between the institutional learning agenda and organisational buy-in for this concept is crucial (Chapter 1).

DAC members’ most common form of capacity building is training. A number of factors influence the efficacy of training on gender equality:

  • Format and structure: including options such as in-person or face-to-face; hands-on training; or e-learning/online models. It is important that staff based in country offices can also benefit from this training.

  • Participation and size: smaller vs. collective training or group settings; interactive; peer discussion; exchange with partners/joint reflection; personal/group coaching

  • Audience: targeting specific groups, such as senior management and human resource managers

  • Timing: degree of regularity, such as annually or before specific missions/deployment

  • Requirements: obligatory/elective training for all staff; specific training for certain categories/ groups of staff, etc.

  • Thematic/substantive considerations: focused not only on gender equality and mainstreaming, but also on leadership, management and diplomacy; specific research skills; discrimination, harassment, bias, etc., or through integrating gender equality into training focused on other sectors/issues (e.g. results management, safeguards and protection from SEAH, etc.)

  • Training facilitators: options for use of external or internal experts

  • Technical capacity: additional training is required to make sure staff can access/use the resources available; and a variety of formats/techniques can be used in training.

  • Complementary materials: as background or as a substantive complement to training, offering tools, good practices and easy access to guidelines.

While it is important to offer gender equality or gender mainstreaming training for all staff, if the timing and recurrence of such training are not considered (for instance, if staff are not retrained regularly) or these sessions are not complemented with nuanced and substantively relevant training on specific/thematic issues, initial mandatory training can become less effective in the medium to long term. It is helpful to aim for a valued outcome so that the training will be prioritised and attended by all.

A range of effective models for training are available. Several DAC members emphasised the importance of in-person or face-to-face training, noting the positive feedback from staff and an increase in the level of interaction between participants.6 Many DAC members also noted the effectiveness of hands-on training, by including real-life examples or sharing specific experiences from those involved directly in programme implementation in country.

Other DAC members emphasised the need for bespoke or adaptable models of training, to appeal to a range of employees and staff with differing learning styles, who may be more receptive in a certain context. A diverse range of approaches to training is useful, offering both collective training in larger groups, but also the option for smaller, more targeted group workshops. It can be helpful to provide both formal and less formal contexts for training. DAC members, international organisations and partners stress the benefits of offering a variety of ways to communicate and build capacity, using different forms of training, including compulsory e-learning modules, in-person training and workshops, in co-ordination with appointed internal focal points.

DAC members have noted that using external experts is helpful for supporting reflective learning and promoting system change. Using external expertise, rather than internal resources, can motivate action. In any case, it is also important to guarantee that trainers being used are gender-sensitive and that stereotypes and biases around gender are taken into account in choosing trainers and session formats.

Creating safe spaces and creative formats for internal dialogue is also vital, for example, by targeting specific groups of staff or partners. One DAC member offered an instance of one successful internal yearly event, “Barbershop talks for men”, for reflection on masculinity, gender discriminatory norms and how to improve gender equality in the organisation. Reflective leadership dialogues have been described as important, as well as creating and facilitating space for managers to have honest conversations about harmful power dynamics and privileges in the organisation, and what must change to end misconduct. These can often lead to sensitive conversations requiring tools and methodologies to support leaders.

While targeting specific groups of staff or partners for capacity development can be useful, DAC members would do well to consider carefully the goals and expected outcomes of targeting certain groups, to study who could potentially be left out or excluded as a consequence.

Capacity development programmes may not reach out to all concerned staff or institutions; and training or programmes aimed at increasing capacity, awareness or engagement may not include managers or senior officials (OECD, 2018[6])

Several DAC members noted the importance of including implementing partners in training with internal staff. This can offer a more structured space for joint reflection, to cultivate mutual learning and common understanding. Joint training or training open to implementing partners was also specifically used by one member as a way to reflect on the implementation and experience in joint gender action plans at country level. Timing of training was also noted as a potentially important factor in joint training. One DAC member plans training for key moments during project milestones or programme implementation and review.

It is important to mainstream gender equality considerations in all training and capacity-building initiatives, regardless of their thematic focus. Stand-alone training on gender equality, including thematic or substantive considerations on gender equality, can help ensure a comprehensive approach to the issue. It is essential to build understanding and knowledge around the root causes of such inequalities. It is often important to combine or complement gender equality capacity-building exercises with training on such topics as cultural barriers/shifts or discrimination and biases. One objective in such training is to concentrate efforts on increasing emotional awareness among staff and leadership on the impact of gender inequalities and existing power imbalances. Sharing personal testimony can be a powerful way to encourage a supportive and empathetic work culture. Creative methods for complex discussions have been noted as helping to facilitate dialogue. They could include airing video recordings of individuals sharing their stories of abuse and discrimination, after obtaining their consent, or interactive learning, for instance using a play with hired actors, to be shared and discussed amongst staff (see Annex 6.B for some suggested content for gender equality training).

DAC members have also specifically used networks of gender focal points to promote learning and exchange. Gender focal point networks by definition span teams and departments, often including agencies beyond the development co-operation body. Certain DAC members facilitate such networks with internal communication channels or chat services, or online platforms. At least one member holds an annual conference to bring together all gender focal points – spread across missions and countries. This allows the focal points to exchange learning and good practices directly.

More frequent exchange and mutual learning between gender focal point networks and other relevant institutions can also be helpful for DAC members, to allow for a wider range of expertise and perspectives.

Some progress has been made on cross-institutional networks focusing on specific topics within gender equality, such as ending sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. Multi-stakeholder networks offer an important venue for building knowledge on complex issues that require a multi-stakeholder response.

External events and conferences can also be useful as a way of raising awareness and establishing more extensive and experienced networks for capacity building.

Technology can help increase options for capacity development. Some DAC members have set up help desks where staff in headquarters and country offices can seek advice on gender equality issues. The help desks can also be used to link staff looking for additional resources and external experts.

Another model some DAC members have used is online knowledge databases (both internal and public-facing). This can include regularly updated guidance and checklists; and notes on gender equality and related topics, or specific contexts. Close partnerships (or even memoranda of understanding) with external actors, including academia, can offer staff expert sources of advice.

Many capacity development exercises conducted by DAC members are focused on building capacity of their own staff. Mechanisms to increase cross-exchange and lesson learning from implementing partners, partner governments and other development partners are also helpful. Institutional mechanisms supportive of gender equality, and development policies and programming, can be strengthened with input from the country-level perspective.

Using existing resources and expertise outside headquarters, including from local partners, can help build a supportive organisational culture in country offices or embassies. A participatory, integrated approach is enhanced by including capacity building, tools, materials, and training by established and recognised expert local organisations, including women’s rights organisations, UN agencies, country offices and national governments, on gender equality and non-discrimination.

One DAC member shared a successful experience with workshops with local partners on the agency’s policies, which include requirements for implementing partners. This involved an inclusive approach and early engagement with partners to address risks and problems. Formulating joint standards helped to build a sense of ownership, which was described as helping to sustain a set of shared values, and an openness to nationally tailored approaches to ensure safe, non-discriminatory working places. Educational outreach programmes that include implementing partners can be especially important in ensuring that local populations can express their needs. This makes for better communication, and informs individuals of their rights, as well as the reporting mechanisms and support services available.

Capacity development, jointly with partners, can also strengthen the institutional set-up of a range of partners, including partner governments, but also other stakeholders such as private sector or international organisations (see also Chapter 3). Such exchanges increase capacity development by pulling from a larger range of perspectives and expertise, and can address the power dynamics inherent in such partnerships, levelling the playing field with open exchanges around common challenges.

Translating gender equality policy commitments into actions and results requires not only capabilities but also accountability and incentives relating to both performance – delivering on policy commitments to address gender inequalities in development co-operation – and behaviour at the individual level.

Efforts should be made to ensure strong leadership on gender equality among all staff in management positions. Continued capacity building and performance assessment is a long-term effort. This is valid for both DAC members and their implementing partners.

Even in cases when requirements to mainstream or integrate gender equality considerations are long-standing and mandatory, at least one DAC Member found that the degree to which requirements are implemented varies greatly. In turn, managers consider the use of incentives and accountability measures to encourage staff to address gender equality.

Institutional policies, strategies, rules and procedures provide structure to DAC members’ practices. However, other factors contribute to the behaviour of staff that influence the implementation of such policies. In the context of improving practices to achieve better gender equality outcomes, it is important to take into account the incentive structures in place, whether they are explicit or implicit, formal or informal.7

DAC members take various approaches to putting in place incentives for integrating gender equality into their area of work, such as through:

  • specific awards or mission contests

  • integration of gender equality objectives in staff reviews or performance targets or

  • the explicit use of financial incentives for staff when addressing gender equality.

These different approaches need to be selected and adapted to the institution.

DAC members can establish staff incentive structures to address gender inequalities both in development policies and programming and in institutional practices.

The existence of certain policies and their fair or equal application can be an incentive for staff to take advantage of opportunities equally. One DAC member cited in the OECD survey (see Annex B) the guarantee of providing equal opportunities for staff to work reduced hours or remotely or at long distance (and encouraging all staff to use this policy), as an example of such a practice. This kind of policy can help address the challenge of ensuring that all staff have equitable ways of working in the workforce.

When deciding which model or format of incentives is the best fit for their institution, DAC members should establish specific objectives for the use of staff incentives. This could include, for example, targeting the promotion of the voice or the rights of vulnerable or minority groups, also linked to gender inequalities.

Incentives can also include the deliberate establishment of human resource or contractual policies that motivate progress towards gender equality within DAC member institutions.

Accountability can involve multiple dimensions and contextual differences, and institutions define or interpret them in their own ways. While some DAC members have had established gender equality policies and strategies for decades, accountability is not always guaranteed.

In considering how to define accountability and put in place principles to track and manage an accountability framework, it is important to first consider who holds responsibility for gender equality policy commitments and how it is possible to hold them accountable. At the management level, this may include checklists as part of programme approvals, and potentially setting financial targets using the DAC gender equality policy marker (Chapters 4). At the operational level, aid quality checks and internal audit assurance reviews of compliance with gender equality acts can be helpful for accountability and are used by some DAC members. DAC members that have included gender equality in their legal frameworks are finding this helpful for accountability purposes (Chapter 1).

One tool – serving both for accountability and as an incentive – that DAC members and other actors have found helpful are performance reviews that integrate promotion of gender equality objectives as important criteria in defining professional success. Performance reviews can provide formal and informal opportunities for discussing and assessing staff contributions to identified gender equality objectives, as well as the identification of improvements that can be made to strengthen these contributions (Carucci, 2020[9]). This includes specific performance monitoring, routine check-ins, and annual evaluations.

These criteria should apply at all levels, from managers to working-level or technical staff. Performance reviews are important not only because they can determine rewards for high-level performance, or promote staff motivation and promotion, but also because they influence further career opportunities and advancement in an organisation. Successful reviews should be based on staff contributing to and ensuring a supportive, gender equal, inclusive and non-discriminatory work culture. Acknowledgement of actively leading and promoting such efforts is especially important for those in management or leadership positions.

It is important that accountability principles for gender equality be applied at all levels of an institution. Differences in potential consequences and level of responsibilities should however be taken into account.

Several DAC members have noted that when everyone in an institution is considered to be accountable for gender mainstreaming, there is also a risk that nobody is truly accountable.

Implementing the OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life has brought together lessons around accountability and mainstreaming throughout government and public services, which can also be applied to development institutions. The lessons learned have included using oversight institutions and advisory bodies mandated to monitor gender equality and mainstreaming policies, and to play an important role in accountability. These might include parliaments, audit institutions or independent oversight institutions, which have a unique view of government and can provide neutral, objective evaluations on policy formulation, implementation, evaluation and outcomes. The OECD Recommendation notes certain pitfalls to avoid, including:

  • Oversight responsibilities within government institutions rather than independent bodies – thus compromising reliable results.

  • Oversight and advisory institutions have vague/weak mandates and authority for monitoring gender equality strategies.

  • Oversight and advisory institutions are inadequately staffed and resourced.

  • Gender equality strategies’ monitoring efforts are conducted without a clear analytical and measurement framework, producing results that are not robust and comparable over time.

  • Monitoring efforts are vague or not conducted regularly (OECD, 2018[6]).

Determining what constitutes feminist principles of accountability is an important issue to explore. DAC members may, for instance, pursue “insider-outside” strategies with outside feminist advocates calling for accountability, while inside, feminist advocates push for specific changes that have proven to be effective (Rao and Sandler, 2021[3]).

DAC members need to carefully consider their accountability frameworks for gender equality, including what mechanisms can best support specific objectives.

Development partners have tended to separate internal organisational culture issues, such as abuse of power and discrimination, from gender equality development policies and programmes. However, recognition is increasing that “walking the talk” is an essential ingredient for organisations committed to gender equality and empowering women and girls. Staff behaviour is in part reflective of institutional structures and organisational processes and culture. Internal organisational culture and values can increase organisational capacity to support gender equality in policies and programmes (OECD, 2019[10]). There are several existing accountability frameworks on which DAC members can draw.8

DAC members should reflect on the interaction between trust and absence of impunity as critical factors in support of gender equality accountability in institutions. Other issues to take into account include the importance of fair accountability and distribution of responsibilities for all levels of staff; and the link between organisational culture and accountability.

Creating trust in an organisation’s culture and in its reporting and accountability systems is of crucial importance. Transparency in terms of how an organisation, and in particular its management, handle misconduct and discrimination in the workplace, has been noted as essential both within organisations and in terms of external communication. The reported chain of consequences in the organisation and ensuring accountability and the action required to address misconduct is thus important to communicate to both staff and partners. However, power imbalances, impunity, undue privileges, hierarchy and inaction by management remain significant factors in many institutions, among both DAC members and other organisations. This can reduce trust in an institution and its policies, procedures and practices.9

An institution can reinforce the importance of accountability by showing that an action will lead to a predictable outcome. Clarity in this domain leads to trust in the policy and the tools. It is essential to illustrate concretely to staff and partners that “If I do this, this will happen”. This is important both for positive encouragement, and for disciplinary measures such as dismissal and criminal charges for misconduct, or negative consequences for management if they fail to support or act as required. While this can apply to specific misconduct engendered by power imbalances and gender inequalities, this principle can also be extended to any failure to uphold responsibility for mainstreaming gender equality. Staff surveys and focus group discussion can be helpful in addressing organisational culture (Lokot, 2021[11]). It is important to build an internal organisational culture of openness to critique, and to consider gender, age and any other factors that might impact someone’s willingness to critique (Peace Direct, 2021[5]).

One manifestation of a lack of organisational culture supporting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is ongoing SEAH. This is at its core an abuse of power, often fuelled by structural power imbalances, gender inequalities, poverty and various forms of discriminatory values and practices. It is also important to recognise that the intersection between gender, race, and identity have an impact on how sexual abuse takes place in international development (Peace Direct, 2021[5]). The deeply concerning recurrences of incidents of SEAH perpetrated by staff and other actors in the international development and humanitarian sectors has accelerated the urgent need for better accountability and protective measures, and for organisational change supportive of greater gender equality.10

The DAC Recommendation on Ending Sexual Exploitation Abuse and Harassment in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Assistance (2019) provides a framework and calls for organisational architecture to support gender equality amongst DAC members, by addressing power dynamics and discrimination within organisations that can cause harm.

The DAC Recommendation points to the need for a coherent, collaborative approach to achieve a holistic internal and external organisational change.

Embedding SEAH standards and policies in existing systems is an approach that has proved beneficial for various DAC members. It involves building on existing government policies on, for instance, discrimination, anti-corruption, child protection and feminist foreign policies. The fact that political and internal will exists to support such policies is helpful in advancing new perspectives in an organisation. In developing policies and standards, a broader participatory discussion and process, involving departments or units beyond those focused on gender equality, has been successful in clarifying laws, norms and values for staff. A DAC member shared one cross-departmental example, where the Ministry of Justice and the national police authority engaged in gender equality discussions with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at an early stage of the development of SEAH policies and standards (see Chapter 1).


[9] Carucci, R. (2020), How to Actually Encourage Employee Accountability, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2020/11/how-to-actually-encourage-employee-accountability (accessed on 12 October 2021).

[1] Elroy, G. (2019), Bureaucratic gender mainstreaming – what’s not to get excited about?, https://www.fba-bloggen.se/2019/10/08/bureaucratic-gender-mainstreaming-whats-not-to-get-excited-about/.

[8] ILO (2020), Empowering Women at Work. Company Policies and Practices for Gender Equality, International Labour Organization, https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_emp/---emp_ent/---multi/documents/publication/wcms_756721.pdf.

[11] Lokot, M. (2021), From the Inside Out: Gender Mainstreaming and Organizational Culture Within the Aid Sector, Frontiers in Sociology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fsoc.2021.664406.

[2] Navarro, N. (2007), Gender Mainstreaming and Organisational Change for Gender Equity, Agència Catalana de Cooperació al Desenvolupament, UNDP Regional Centre LAC, https://www.americalatinagenera.org/es/documentos/centro_gobierno/FACT-SHEET-5-DQEH2707.pdf (accessed on 8 October 2021).

[12] OECD (2019), DAC Recommendation on Ending Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Harassment in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Assistance: Key Pillars of Prevention and Response, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-5020 (accessed on 26 April 2022).

[10] OECD (2019), Enabling Women’s Economic Empowerment: New Approaches to Unpaid Care Work in Developing Countries, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/ec90d1b1-en.

[6] OECD (2018), OECD Toolkit for Mainstreaming and Implementing Gender Equality: Implementing the 2015 OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life, https://www.oecd.org/gender/governance/toolkit/toolkit-for-mainstreaming-and-implementing-gender-equality.pdf.

[7] OECD (2016), 2015 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Public Life, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264252820-en.

[4] OECD (2014), From ambition to results: Delivering on gender equality in donor institutions, https://www.oecd.org/dac/gender-development/fromambitiontoresultsdeliveringongenderequalityindonorinstitutions.htm.

[5] Peace Direct (2021), Time to Decolonise Aid. Insights and lessons from a global consultation, Peace Direct; Adeso; the Alliance for Peacebuilding; Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security, https://globalfundcommunityfoundations.org/resources/time-to-decolonise-aid-insights-and-lessons-from-a-global-consultation/.

[3] Rao, A. and J. Sandler (2021), Charting a Transformative Path to Gender Equality, OECD.

[13] USAID (2017), The Gender Integration Continuum: Training Session User’s Guide, PACE (Policy Advocacy Communication Enhanced), https://www.igwg.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/17-418-GenderContTraining-2017-12-12-1633_FINAL.pdf.

For information on institutional approach to staff engagement with gender mainstreaming, the paper “Untangling Gender Mainstreaming: A Theory of Change based on experience and reflection” produced by the Gender and Development Network (GADN) Gender Mainstreaming Working Group, draws on learning from staff responsible for gender mainstreaming in nine international NGOs and explores the concept and practicalities of gender mainstreaming (see https://gadnetwork.org/gadn-resources/2015/3/6/untangling-gender-mainstreaming-a-theory-of-change-based-on-experience-and-reflection.

Designed for course writers, staff and practitioners responsible for course assessment and evaluation, the Commonwealth of Learning’s “Learning Resources Gender Evaluation Rubric” is a tool for assessing gender-responsiveness of course development, revision, delivery, assessment and evaluation and for conducting assessments to gauge progress (see: http://oasis.col.org/bitstream/handle/11599/3491/Learning%20Resources%20Gender%20Evaluation%20Rubric.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

As noted in the Full Report Review of Corporate GE Evals 2015.pdf, “While gender equality and empowerment of women institutional results are undoubtedly important as results in their own right, they can also play an important role in improving effectiveness towards gender equality and empowerment of women development results or even development results more broadly. Yet, there was limited information available to support this assumption or understand the nature or extent of such linkages or how such linkages could be forged or strengthened”.

Insider-outsider strategies: The International Center for Research on Women’s annual report card on the UN Secretary-General, advocacy to create UN Women, and the work of the Women’s Major Group and other networks to secure aspirational targets and indicators in the SDGs are examples of insider-outsider strategies that have yielded promising results.

For an example of an organisational (and system-wide) accountability framework, see the UN system-wide Action Plan (UN-SWAP) on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women: https://www.unwomen.org/en/how-we-work/un-system-coordination/promoting-un-accountability/un-swap-results/2020.

The content of training for capacity building and knowledge management for gender equality and women’s empowerment will vary based on the training’s purpose. It is good practice to ensure that all participants in a training have a base-level of knowledge pertaining to the content. In some cases, the content may also be built on the successes and failures that DAC members and practitioners have identified within their system or area of work. To provide practical examples of the content of training, these activities have been drawn from USAID’s “The Gender Integration Continuum Training Session User’s Guide” (USAID, 2017[13]).

The “Vote With Your Feet” exercise facilitates the understanding of participants’ own experience with, and internalised beliefs about gender, and how these impact their views of programmes: http://www.igwg.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/FG_VoteWithYourFeet.pdf.

In the activity “Gender and Related Terms”, participants are given the opportunity to learn about specific vocabulary that, for the sake of group learning and dialogue throughout the training, should be understood and accepted. This also allows participants to explore how terms such as “gender” and “empowerment” have different meanings to different people: http://www.igwg.org/training/developing-a-shared-vocabulary.

EngenderHealth’s activity “Act Like a Man, Act Like a Woman” encourages participants to consider gender norms and roles with which they may or may not be familiar, as well as the consequences of not following these prescribed norms and roles: https://www.igwg.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ActLikeAMan.pdf.

The gender equality continuum (Chapter 1) can be used as the frame for gender equality training. In the US Agency for International Development example, training participants are divided into smaller groups reflecting on different programme examples and placing these along the continuum, from “harmful” to “transformative”. After the exercise, they are asked:

  • Why did your group place it here? What elements/information in the scenario helped you determine where to place it on the continuum?

  • Did everyone in your group agree on placement? What elements generated the disagreement? What elements did everyone agree on?

  • Was there any information missing or not clear that would have helped you determine where it resides on the continuum? Did any of you extrapolate from what was in the project scenario description? Can you explain any assumptions you made?

  • Did any of you think about the “intent” of the project when it was designed, versus the actual outcome? Did this influence where your group decided to place the project? How?

  • Do you (larger group) agree with where the project is placed? Why? Why not?

  • If groups with the same scenario description did not agree on where it belonged on the continuum, ask the other group with the same project what they think.

  • Do you think their argument has merit? For blind, exploitative, and accommodating scenarios: What changes can you make to move this project towards transformative?

  • Do any of you think your project description could have resided in more than one place? Why?


← 1. Ten DAC members indicated having fewer than five members of staff dedicated to gender equality at headquarters level. Six DAC members indicated having more than 10 staff, four of which had gender equality teams of more than 25 staff.

← 2. Thirteen DAC members noted that they have at least one focal point for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls per embassy or country office. Some members noted that they may not have staff dedicated to gender equality at all offices, but identified specific focal points in certain embassies or country offices. Similar to the range of responsibilities at headquarters, at country-level, some DAC members reported integrating the responsibility for gender programming to staff as one part of their overall portfolio (even if they are not fully dedicated to this issue). The way that this is formalised varies. At least one member reported that no staff was dedicated to gender equality outside headquarters.

← 3. Some DAC members indicated having gender equality champion positions that are high-ranking government officials, usually at ambassadorial level, with portfolios dedicated to gender equality. Some DAC members also indicated having gender equality champions at mid-level rank within ministries that oversee foreign affairs, or development co-operation agencies. A smaller number of DAC members identified that their champions are personnel with portfolios that are not fully dedicated to promoting gender equality, but gender equality is a significant component of their role, or high-ranking officials who have affiliations with global movements such as “She Decides” and “HeforShe”.

← 4. Thirteen DAC members reported having an organisational network of focal points within staff dealing with gender equality.

← 5. Seventeen DAC members indicated that they have institutional capacity building, knowledge management and learning initiatives to address gender equality in place. Most commonly, these took the form of courses, modules and training (15 DAC members), toolkits and learning packages (4), access to technical and expert support (4), internal networks (4), information-sharing platforms (4) and informal organised discussions (1).

← 6. Most DAC members noted that the most effective approaches to capacity building, knowledge management and learning on gender equality were in person and regular training and opportunities for peer discussion and exchange.

← 7. Twelve DAC members noted the inclusion of the use of incentive systems in some form for leading or promoting work on gender equality within their institutional frameworks.

← 8. Existing accountability frameworks include but are not limited to: the United Nations’ System-wide Action Plan (UN-SWAP) on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, the Gender Equality Seal for Public and Private Enterprises supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organization Participatory Gender Audit, and the EDGE Certification.

← 9. Lesson learned from discussions in OECD DAC Reference Group on Ending Sexual Exploitation Abuse and Harassment.

← 10. https://www.un.org/preventing-sexual-exploitation-and-abuse/

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at https://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions.