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Chennai, NFAPost: Arthan, a social enterprise that provides capacity building support to social sector organisations, recently launched an insightful report titled Women’s Leadership in the Development Sector (WLiDS), in collaboration with The Rockefeller Foundation.

The report is an attempt to understand the depth of challenges faced by women in the development sector, across their career trajectory. It also aims to serve as a guide to plan gender pathways within organisations in order for them to emerge as gender inclusive and gender transformative workplaces.

The study is based on interviews conducted with over 50 development sector women leaders, a survey completed by over 100 development sector professionals, secondary data and conversations with male leaders from the development sector.

It accounts for a number of unique challenges that women face at the workplace, both overt and driven by conscious and unconscious biases. The report also includes inspiring case studies based on the journeys of over 50 women leaders from the development sector.

Based on key findings, the report outlines actionable steps that organisations can take to make their workforce more gender inclusive and enable better representation and participation of women at the workplace. It aims to help individuals of all genders to understand how to ensure an inclusive workplace for everyone to thrive in and inspire women navigating their path to leadership, among other things.

Anchal Kakkar from Arthan, said, “For change and transition to happen in any sector, we need to walk the talk. The same is true of gender parity at the workplace. Not only is there a need to set up systems, policies and processes that promote gender equality at the workplace, but also to create ecosystems that enable the fair and effective implementation of these systems.”

“Much work needs to be done to increase women’s participation, and eventually, leadership in the development sector workforce, and we hope this report is a step, albeit a small one, in the right direction,” she added.

According to the data collected by Arthan, 76.2% women believe flexible working hours and policies are important to help them continue working efficiently, while managing both home and work. However, only 49% organisations provide any kind of flexible working options as of now.

The report is divided into two parts: Part A traces the trajectory of a woman’s life divided into different phases and the challenges faced in each along with suggestions of policies and practices organisations can implement to be gender inclusive; and Part B showcases the case studies of over 50 women leaders interviewed from the development sector, who share their challenges, learning and opportunities that made them the leaders they are today.

Findings from the report include the need to have strong gender policies and ensuring fair and strict implementation and internalisation of the same, buy-in from leadership to be gender sensitive, conscious efforts to hire and retain women by providing flexible hours, creches etc, offering these benefits to men and women so as to not reinforce gender roles, building self confidence in women so that they can be more assertive and so on.

The report mentions how approximately 88% of the respondents believe that women are at a disadvantage in the professional world, 57% believe that women are under-represented at senior leadership levels and 75% women faced biases while networking.

The report shares that steps that organisations can take to be gender inclusive include creating a culture of respect, ensuring gender inclusive recruitment process, reducing gendered review and reward, having progressive policies and supporting networking, mentoring and leadership training opportunities.

Apart from women supporting women, the report concludes how the issue of gender equality cannot be viewed only through a female lens. Men have an integral role to play in levelling the field. In an attempt to gain an understanding of gender nuances from men in the development sector, the report also identifies key points to ensure how men can be better allies.

The Rockefeller Foundation Managing Director-Asia Deepali Khanna said, “We need to ensure women’s empowerment is fostered through an inclusive mainstream economic agenda and social entrepreneurial solutions that offset gender-specific constraints. This report has shown that social enterprises hold great potential as a tool for enabling women’s empowerment. Recommendations drawn together in this report can act as a catalyst to increase the effectiveness of social enterprises as a model for supporting women’s empowerment.”

As next steps, Arthan aims to do the following:
● Continue dialogues on gender, inclusivity and women’s leadership in the development
sector
● Build a network of women leaders who can support each other
● Create a mentorship program for young women leaders
● Work on providing leadership capacity building support to mid-career women leaders
● Work on providing leadership capacity building support to women entering the workforce
● Work on providing leadership capacity building support to women leading grassroots
organisations
● Continue in-depth research work on the subject of women’s leadership in the development
sector

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