How to reach gender equality

To-do-list to reach gender parity

According to research from private sector in the US, women are less likely to apply for a promotion until they are sure they have the experience needed for the role whereas men are more likely to apply earlier. As a recruiter you have to work much harder to ensure that qualified women are willing and interested to take a job compared to what it takes to get a typical male candidate onboard. When you on top of this add that the location of the job is in a hardship location this tends to make it even more complicated to attract women. The problems are known, but there are actually ways to improve the situation. In this article we provide tips how to reach gender parity at the UN and in International organizations 

In the System-Wide Strategy on Gender Parity, you can read that the goal of gender parity at all levels in the UN is a commitment that is now two decades old and is reflective of core values that are as old as the Organization itself. 

In many (if not all) International and Multilateral organizations the main obstacle to reaching gender equality and parity are internal politics, lack of innovation, and the perception of an unequal value based on gender. Many International Organizations have the flexibility to do something about this that is the private sector, due to national legislations, don't have. But many organizations lack innovative forces to bring opportunities into action. One (known) way of increasing the number of women in key positions is to use affirmative action and only allow women to be appointed to these posts. In most countries, private sector companies are restricted from using affirmative action based on gender, but International Organizations and Multilateral organizations do not have to follow national labor legislations for international positions, hence this could actually be a feasible strategy.

Also, in many Multilaterals and International organizations, you can even start the gender parity work during the candidate selection process. If women are underrepresented at a certain level then only women can be selected, if they meet the qualifications and have the required experiences for the job. This is also a unique opportunity for multilaterals and a clear short-cut for this sector.

We know that reaching gender parity is not a quick fix by implementing these initiatives, but could it be worth trying? Some might argue that the problem is not that organizations prioritize or rank men higher than women in a recruitment process. They might argue that a key problem is that so few qualified women apply to senior positions - especially in hardship locations. We agree, and we'll come to that!

Organizations don’t always report the whole picture

One reason that we believe is more important than others as to why male candidates only are slightly over-represented in diversity reports, is the fact that many multilaterals only focus at staff position when measuring and reporting on gender parity. We believe that many of these official reports are not showing the true picture in the organization.

Take UNDP as an example. In a recent report by UN Women, UNDP was positively recognized for their work with gender parity. From a staff perspective UNDP has reached a quite good level of gender parity. It is still male dominated at Senior level, and now even more with the appointment of Mr. Achim Steiner of Germany as Administrator, both positions at the very top of UNDP are male.

Although UNDP can be proud of their gender parity achievements for staff positions, it is only telling a small portion of the whole gender parity picture of UNDP. What does not show in the reporting is those categories of workers that are called non-staff, all their contingent workers holding Service Contracts and Consultancies, the ones that actually do a large part of the work. In 2016 the gender parity for Service Contracts were 80% male and 20% female, and this is the far largest group of workers in UNDP (3 out 4 workers in UNDP is a Service Contract Holder). Service Contract holders are running a majority of all UNDP’s projects in the field. Service Contract holders are the future talent pipeline for UNDP, a pipeline containing 80% men...

Implement this list and you will see results already tomorrow

We give our wholehearted support to the suggested way forward as outlined in the report from UN Women. We may however not be as enthusiastic about all of the action points. To achieve immediate results we especially recommend to:

  • Take an organization gender parity decision NOW, at all levels and all contract types, include contingent workers. Don’t let it be another year 2025 strategic plan. Who you have in your talent pipeline is key for achieving long term results.

  • In fact, an immediate decision might sound bold, but it is not. Plan after plan over the last decades has failed. So obviously 5-10 year plans don’t change managers’, recruiters’ or leaders’ behaviors in the present.

  • Problems that might appear in the far future are minor problems. Problems in the near future are big and need to be addressed immediately! Create an environment of urgency around gender parity!

  • Create a budget. To succeed with this change is not only at the expense of words from Senior Managers. It takes resources to make it happen. No dedicated budget, high risk of lack of results. Small dedicated budget, incremental results. The budget will be a clear indication of the importance.

  • Set and monitor ambitious targets and accountable managers! What gets measured, gets done!

How to: Attract, Source and Recruit Women

Your leadership team, your hiring managers, your recruiting team, your interview panels and each member of your HR program should all be accountable that recruiting, hiring, and retaining women is a prioritized goal for the organization.

Make your job advertisement customized to your target group - women

To reach a positive result in attracting and retaining women, it is important to identify and address organization culture issues and implement policies and work arrangements that are relevant. What is your organization's maternity leave policy? Do your benefits cover family planning and prenatal care? Is there an option to work from home? Do you offer onsite childcare facilities? Do you offer dual career programme? Are your field offices having restrooms for both male and women? Do the women need to shower together with men? Are women traveling alone to remote locations where they may be unsafe, or are you making sure that women are protected in their daily work?

Make sure that you communicate and share the information that is relevant for your target group to be attracted by the job (and your organization). What do your current women colleagues have to say and what do they believe is the teaser that will attract women? They have first-hand knowledge and experience of what’s working and what’s not in your organization and can provide suggestions on how to make the organization more appealing to other women employees.

Make it easier to promote women to positions of power in your organizations

When women are represented in the highest levels of your organization, other talented women will notice and follow. This goes back to the introduction, but many women appreciate having female colleagues as role-models to dare to take the same step themselves.

Use social sourcing to be visible in the social feed of desired women

To find many qualified women, focus your sourcing efforts on the places and channels where women are spending time and are easily reached. You should also make sure that you send and promote an appealing message that they will notice.  Do you want to increase the awareness about your organization as an attractive employer for women or do you want to attract them to a specific position? All this requires some preparation, but here is also where Impactpool can be the trusted partner you are looking for. Social sourcing efforts won’t exclude men from applying, but you can decide if they are being selected. Social sourcing is however extremely effective to increase the number of qualified women on the applicant list.

Remember, we have proven over and over that we can recruit women to all kinds of locations and positions. If your organization needs help to improve the gender parity in your organization, we are here to help.

If this topic interests you, we recommend you to read our appreciated report:  Are women paying a higher price for a UN career, a report that has been downloaded more than 10'000 times and has reached up to the Secretary General of the United Nations and is included in the UN Gender Parity Strategy.