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Where Are All the Women? Campaign Questions Lack of Female NGO Leaders


8 March 2019 at 5:39 pm
Maggie Coggan
Major humanitarian organisations are backing a campaign calling on civil society organisations to match the low percentage of women in leadership roles with the high percentage of women in staff.


Maggie Coggan | 8 March 2019 at 5:39 pm


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Where Are All the Women? Campaign Questions Lack of Female NGO Leaders
8 March 2019 at 5:39 pm

Major humanitarian organisations are backing a campaign calling on civil society organisations to match the low percentage of women in leadership roles with the high percentage of women in staff.

The Fair Share Campaign, launched in Germany, has gained support from more than 10 of the largest international organisations including Oxfam, CIVICUS, Plan International, CARE, and most recently, Amnesty International.   

To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, the campaign will release a data monitor, detailing numbers of women leaders, with data from the organisations which have signed up to the campaign.  

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International general secretary, said in a video shared to Twitter that all areas of society, including NGOs, needed to be held accountable in the fight for equality.

“On average, 70 per cent of positions in NGOs are held by women, but that is not matched at the very senior levels,” Naidoo said.

“The same is true of the International Secretariat at Amnesty International, which I lead.”   

He said he would commit to increasing the number of women in senior leadership and board positions at Amnesty International.

“Our aim is to have 70 per cent of these positions occupied by women by 2030, ideally well before then,” he said.

While World Vision Australia has not signed up to the campaign, its CEO Claire Rogers told Pro Bono News the campaign was admirable and that having women in senior leadership positions was vital to the impact an organisation could have.     

“I think it’s absolutely essential that organisations get it right because I don’t think they can do the job properly [without women],” Rogers said.

“Women and girls in poverty contexts face unique challenges, and so having women work in the space, who have that ability to really understand the issues, will then ensure that our programs work well. It’s vital they are leading the charge.”

She said the issue was no worse in civil society than any other sector, but an effort still had to be made.

“You need a board that’s got good gender representation, and makes sure you have pay equity across your organisation, which is what I first looked at when I became CEO, and we did have that,” she said.

“You’ve also just got to hire women if you want to change anything. In our leadership team, 60 per cent are women, and I’ve watched them then hire women into senior positions.”  

She said encouraging a culture of speaking up when something wasn’t okay was also important to address problems around discrimination when they arose.

“There needs to be a willingness and an openness in the culture to actually talk about this stuff,” Rogers said.

But she also said it was important to not “over-correct” the problem, because to change wider attitudes on the issue, men still needed to be at the table.

“In development, we work in very conservative cultures, and one of the challenges here is that men in conservative cultures listen to men, who could articulate a case for change,” she said.

“So it’s definitely vital for women to be in senior positions, but we need men at the table as well.”


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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