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Gender Equality in the Work Place


By Rachel Twine


Gender Equality in the Work Place: Do We Practice What We Preach? 


Gender equality is a fundamental part of international development, and if gender issues are not at the core of development frameworks, then, most likely, they are in some way integrated. In fact, throughout my university education women's social rights and, more broadly, gender, has always been at the forefront of my studies.


As a woman it is relatable, as (hopefully!) a future practitioner it is vital, and as a human being it should be normal. However, women of all ages, cultures and professions still face some barriers to equality with their male counterparts. 


When I was tasked with collating data of previous IMA International training programmes to find trends and patterns in participation, my initial thought was on the male to female ratio of those attending. So, I got to work, focussing on 5 key programmes that IMA run: Certificate in International Development, Knowledge Management, Monitoring and Evaluation, Leadership and Management, and Theory of Change.



I tallied the gender of every participant that has attended these courses over the past 17 years, bearing in mind that not every year has accessible data, and that course titles and contents have changed throughout the years. In fact, Monitoring and Evaluation appears to be the only course running consistently throughout, which I feel is important to disclaim at this point.


To my surprise (or perhaps actually I wasn't so surprised), in all of these courses, bar Knowledge Management, IMA has seen almost twice as many male participants than female participants over the past 17 years (as seen from Figure 1, below).

   Figure 1: Percentage of male-female attendance of each course over a 17-year period     


Breaking this data down into each individual year, showed that female participation and male participation follow similar patterns and fluctuations, but never quite reach an equal level - until 2017, which saw the number of female participants overtake the number of male participants for the first time. *


  *And as it currently stands, IMA's 2018 Summer Training Programme has just over twice as many women as men in the first week of training.


Anyway, back to the data...


Pessimists may label this as a "fluke", especially considering the fluctuations in participation numbers and the inaccuracies of the data. However, optimists would view this as a step in the right direction and hope that future training will see more equal numbers of male and female development practitioners attending.


However, being the slight pessimist that I am, my findings raised several questions with me:


- Do the positions that male practitioners hold in development organisations mean they require this type of training more so than women?


- Do male development practitioners have greater access to training courses and/or funding?


- Is it just by chance that more women have attended Knowledge Management training, or is the content in this course more relevant to their positions in organisations?


Yes, this data does need to be taken with a pinch of salt. There are inconsistencies within it - as there is with all data collection! And it is only a snapshot of a far bigger picture, especially with the focus being only on 5 training programmes within 1 organisation.



But it does make you wonder, do development organisations practice what they preach?


Are there still gender inequalities within development organisations, despite their constant campaigns to eradicate them in every other aspect of life?


A quick Google search shows me that this revelation isn't unique, and it's a concern among many development researchers and bloggers. The development industry is predominantly female, yes. But the leadership and decision-making roles still remain firmly with men, especially the larger an NGO becomes, leaving women to work mostly behind the scenes in the administration roles (


Perhaps with greater gender equality, especially within the top positions of organisations, women will have greater access to these types of training courses. Not only to benefit the development work they do, but to build upon their own career skills, and consequently persevere with closing the gender gap.

Women are capable of more than just contributing. They can and should be leaders, decision-makers and key influencers in the development field. It is hypocritical to push for other industries to strive for such equality, and not look introspectively at our own industry and accept the failings we have - or at least the improvements we should be working on.