In September last year, Itad joined the HeforShe global campaign for gender equality. We took this decision with the intention of strengthening our gender focus, both in our monitoring and evaluation work, and in our internal operations. Since then, we have certainly not been idle!
To map out a way forward, we decided to review how gender currently features in Itad and use this as a basis to build on. We called this process our ‘gender snapshot review’, and what followed was a fascinating process, which took on far greater momentum than we had ever anticipated. We started with fairly modest ambitions, knowing how challenging discussions around gender can be in most organisations, but these evolved and grew as the process took shape.
The Gender Snapshot Review Process
We knew from the outset that the snapshot review was going to be tricky, as it needed to explore who we, Itad, are, as much as what we do. It had to be light touch, but also participatory. We were also aware that it needed to engage people with varying degrees of gender awareness, some already gender specialists, and others who’ve possibly never thought about gender issues before. Building knowledge and awareness of gender had to be part of the review process itself, rather than left as a discrete activity we include in the ensuing action plan.
With the expert guidance of Penny Plowman (an Independent Organisational Development Consultant), our Gender Equality Working Group settled on 4 main strands to the review:
As we took forward the review, two things were most striking. Firstly, staff openness and willingness to engage. For some in the organisation this was the first time they had thought about what gender is and how it shapes their lives. Experienced consultants, confident in their technical area, were suddenly asked to reflect on something that it is so normal that we don’t even notice it – and they weren’t always sure what to say. Thankfully, this didn’t impede their participation. There was an overriding openness amongst all staff to share, learn and see where the process would go. It’s this attitude which has, to a large extent, made the snapshot review such a success.
Secondly, the review process surfaced gender experiences of staff that previously were hidden, or ‘contained’ within private discussions. Suddenly, it was legitimate to talk about gendered experiences, and to ask what is acceptable and appropriate language and behaviour in a values driven organisation like Itad. It felt revolutionary. As one of my colleagues observed “we never [normally] talk about anything personal”.
So what did the review reveal? A number of things…
Where do we go from here? At the end of the review, we agreed a set of 6 action points which will embed a commitment to gender equality much more centrally with Itad’s work and its operations.
These agreements are timely, as Itad launches a new business plan which will drive a new phase of growth for Itad. A commitment to gender equality will lie at the heart of this ambitious programme of change. Exciting times ahead!
By Claire Hughes, June 2016
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