Towards a gender equal think tank

9 December 2019
SERIES Ideas, reflections and advice from future think tank leaders 17 items

Concepts like gender analysis, gender mainstreaming, gender budgeting and intersectionality are often bandied about. But how often do think tanks look within to assess their gender equality, or to understand how gender manifests and is integrated within research, governance, management and communication processes?

This article provides an essential checklist on gender for think tanks to assess where they are on the gender equality spectrum. It is designed as a tool to get think tanks talking about and engaged with gender equality issues.

Defining gender equality

The United Nations+ says that gender equality does not mean that women and men are the same, but that human rights, responsibilities and opportunities exist irrespective of whether they are born male or female.

Professor Savitri Goonesekere expands on this definition to describe what she calls substantive equality,+ eliminating discrimination and disadvantage by stressing the need to change institutional attitudes that perpetuate discrimination against women.

Creating a framework to assess gender equality

I decided to use the concept of substantive equality to analyse gender within a think tank. How could I, as a think tank programme manager, gauge my organisation’s performance on gender equality?

I created a framework to assess and score my think tank. The framework comprises 11 questions to engage senior management and staff to think about different aspects of gender within the organisation.

The idea is to, first of all, get people talking about gender. Second, to give a score that allows the organisation to get a sense of where it lies on the ‘gender equality spectrum’.

Some of the questions may be challenging to answer, but it is important for think tanks to ask them nonetheless. A gender-equal work place should be the norm, not the exception.

Such a checklist only works if respondents answer honestly, without bias of compulsion. I received full support from the senior management at my organisation, the Public Affairs Centre (PAC). The questions were answered by the Head of HR and Administration, since many of the questions are about organisational policies.

The questions were formulated after studying institutional good practice on diversity, and framed to cater to aspects of representation, internal policies, hiring processes, communication and even infrastructure.

Download the essential checklist on gender.