Understanding the Imperative of Institutional Change for Gender Equality

by Tania Beard Dalberg Advisors

This article is a part of the Invest with Women: Strategies to Accelerate Progress series.

Organizations that are committed to gender transformation across any sector—from agriculture to health to climate—often neglect institutional change as a necessary condition for success. This means exploring several questions: Does senior leadership buy into and actively champion gender transformation within the organization? Are managers incentivized to create sex-disaggregated data to measure and learn? Are women key contract signatories and owners? This often feels beyond what clients ask us to do to help them make their sector programming gender- and power-transformative, but we have found that even planting these seeds as a first step can start a broader institutional conversation.

Gender transformation requires organizations to look inwards at their institutional setup to “be the change they want to see.” Many of the individuals we work with across our partner organizations have mandates focused on external programs or sectors rather than internal organizational development, making this feel far beyond their scope of sphere of influence. Therefore, we can help our partners to consider a range of options and walk with them on the journey, wherever they are. This might start with supporting gender programs or sector leads in advocating to leadership how gender and power transformation is an institutional imperative, not limited to specific departments within their organization. We can also identify key practical shifts that could be made by reconsidering whether a gender- and power-transformative approach is appropriate as a first step (in favor of a gender-aware approach). In some cases, moving from a gender- and power-blind approach (e.g., a lack of gender-based harassment or discrimination policies) to a gender- and power-aware approach (e.g., introducing basic gender-based harassment policies) may be enough to start. In the future, there could be opportunities to build towards a transformative approach, such as interventions to prevent and address violence gender-based harassment, and comprehensive gender-based harassment policies that are restorative instead of punitive.

“Gender- and power-transformative education means examining the overall education system and the gender and power dynamics throughout, not just girls’ experience of learning. This means moving beyond issues of ‘access’ or ‘individual learning outcomes,’ which while valuable in themselves will not address gender equality on their own.”

Tania Beard
Associate Partner, Dalberg Advisors 

Contact: tania.beard@dalberg.com 

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