Sep 12, 2022 | Rima Karim

Taking action for women’s leadership

Did you know that in the non-profit sector, women make up only 21% of CEOs at organisations with budgets of $25 million or more[1]? At BRAC International, while we have more than 70% women in the workforce, we are yet to achieve gender balance in decision-making levels: currently, we have 33% women in mid-level and 42% women in senior level positions.

Recently, BRAC International commissioned an action research on women’s leadership to understand the status quo and gaps in regards to promoting women leadership and women-friendly culture within the organisation. It also enabled us to identify required actions to be taken for addressing those gaps and challenges. HR and hiring managers were recommended to think ‘outside the box’ on how to recruit more women in leadership positions, coupled with a recommendation to systematise mentoring to support women on staff to develop their leadership capacities and prepare them for promotion. These combined efforts have already paid off, resulting in an increased number of women in senior leadership positions (see figure below).

One way in which we are institutionalising mentorship is by establishing the Women’s Leadership Development Programme, designed to address barriers women face in their leadership journeys by enabling them to strengthen their leadership capacity.

Here’s how it will work – the Women’s Leadership Development Programme will:

  1. Identify potential women leaders both at the Head Office, Regional Office and Country Offices.
  2. Invest in potential women leaders by providing them opportunities for development and career growth;
  3. Create a Talent Pool with potential women leaders who can be in the succession plan for leadership positions in the organis
  4. Set an annual target to fill managerial positions with women in the talent pool.

30 to 35 women staff will be selected as potential leaders and will receive opportunities to learn and grow through various methods, mostly experiential learning. They will also be guided and mentored to realise the goals they identify in their development plans. Upon successful graduation from the programme, a talent pool will be formed with candidates for a succession plan to fill vacancies at the senior leadership roles. For example, if a Country Director position is vacant, a member from the talent pool can fill the position. The programme, launched on International Women’s Day 2022, will be evaluated after one cycle is complete.

Shameran Abed, Executive Director of BRAC International adds the following: “BRAC International’s Women Leaders Programme will be another milestone in fulfilling our founder’s dream of a gender equal world. This programme will contribute to creating an inclusive and equitable workplace by embedding processes which support women’s needs, bringing a mindset change in recognising the contribution of women and giving them the opportunity to perform to their fullest potential”.

We look forward to learning from this experiment and sharing the results with you!

[1] Omaha, W.s.F.o., leadership conversations. 2012

BRAC is a Committed Organisation

28 international social impact organisations like CARE International, Oxfam International and Amref Health Africa have made the FAIR SHARE Commitment. In doing so, they pledge to participate in the annual FAIR SHARE Monitor and achieve gender equity in their leadership by 2030.

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