Around the world, hundreds of international social impact organisations are working towards equality, justice and participation. However the underrepresentation of women in the sector’s leadership reflects a gap between the sector’s aims and its own structures and culture.
That’s why we built the FAIR SHARE Monitor: to annually measure the proportion of women on staff and in leadership in some of the largest and most well-known organisations. In doing so, we track progress towards a FAIR SHARE of women leaders by 2030.
The FAIR SHARE Monitor is a data-based tool to measure and track gender equity in the international social impact sector. Based on this data we either receive from organisations or research for them, we create a ranking of organisations based on who has a FAIR SHARE of women in their leadership and who doesn’t (yet). The first Monitor was published in 2019 and results will be published annually until 2030.
The progress, stagnation or regress of each organisation is measured and made transparent from year to year – making the FAIR SHARE Monitor a tool with which both individual organisations and the sector as a whole can hold themselves accountable to gender equity.
The numbers themselves are of course only the tip of the iceberg: the current inequality in leadership can be understood as a symptom of patriarchal and racist organisational and leadership culture, which has many other manifestations not captured here. While this data alone cannot dismantle those structures, it does provide some concrete benchmarks, as well as the means to start a broader conversation about the needed change in our sector.
You can also download a summary of our analysis as a PDF below.
67 leading social impact sector organisations were invited to participate in the FAIR SHARE Monitor.
We invited 67 organisations to participate in this year’s Monitor. The data collection consists of reaching out to the organisations and asking them to share the relevant data (see below) with us. If we do not hear back from an organisation, we research data for them via public websites and share it with them for confirmation.
According to the very few available studies, the average proportion of women in the workforce of the sector is about 70%. We thus assume this 70/30 ratio for women and men in staff when the organisation does not provide this data.
For some organisations, it’s difficult to find out the numbers of employees. This year, in order to ensure the accuracy of the data, we decided to remove 6 organisations whose data on staff we could not confirm. Thus, in total we have 61 organisations as part of our monitor, including 11 new organisations, representing 282,593 employees.
We collect the following data for the FAIR SHARE Monitor.
Participation faltered this year.
This year, only about a third of organisations (21) actively participated in the Monitor by sharing their data with us. This is the lowest participation rate so far: in 2019 the participation rate was 55%, followed by 78% in 2020, and dropping down to 45% in 2021.
This can have several reasons, including a technical issue which resulted in a shorter timeframe for data collection and/or the ongoing pandemic. We plan to reach out to Committed Organisations who did not share their data with us as promised to better understand barriers to participation.
The Monitor is by no means a final product – there are several aspects we would like to develop further.
Our current approach to data collection reproduces a gender binary in which “man” and “woman” are presented as the only two options for a person’s gender identity. We recognise this is far from the reality, and would like to explore how we can make the Monitor more inclusive and representative.
We also are aware that the term BIWoC and our approach to race is very Eurocentric and based on movements and experiences of people predominantly based in the Global North. In the future we will strive to make the Monitor more reflective of power imbalances that are dominant in a Global South context.
Lastly, in upcoming years we seek to include more foundations in the Monitor, as they hold powerful positions as donors in the sector and are not exempt from the need for accountability and transparency.
Representation gap may be shrinking but women still underpresented
The gap between women representation in staff and in leadership positions is decreasing: this year, while we found that women still make up the majority of the sector’s workforce (61%) they occupy 50% of leadership positions. Last year, women made up 63% of staff and 46% of leadership.
This figure is calculated with the number of board members, board chairs and the senior management teams and CEOs/EDS of all analysed organisations.
Boards painting a mixed picture
Nearly half of boards (27 of 61) have a woman as chair. While this may seem like a promising figure, it marks a 3% decrease since last year. Moreover, 52% of boards are made up of a majority of men, and only 15% are gender-balanced.
That over half of boards are male-dominated is by no means a desirable status quo, but there may be some signs of progress: in 2019, this number was even higher at 61%, while women majority was even lower at 29%.
Men have a higher chance to be promoted
This year, as last year, we found that a man’s chances of being promoted are twice as high as a woman’s.
This number takes into account the gender representation at the non-leadership level of each organisation, and assumes that if promotion is done fairly, a similar representation should be found at the leadership level e.g. if 60% of staff are women, and there is a fair chance of promotion between men and women, then there should be 60% of women in leadership. For more information, see our FAQ.
Nearly half of organisations led by a woman
While we still have a long way to go to equitable representation, we do see that 46% of the organisations are led by at least one woman – a slight increase from 43% last year.
This includes organisations that have a co-leadership structure, though this appears to still be the exception to the rule: currently only 8% of organisations led by a woman are implementing co-leadership (including those that have more than 2 CEOs). Could this be a missed opportunity to reimagine our understanding of leadership and make these top leadership positions more accessible?
One step forward, one step back?
In general, both boards and senior management teams paint a slightly mixed picture when it comes to equitable representation. There was an increase in gender-equitable boards from 11% to 15%, but boards are still slightly more likely (52%) than SMTs (48%) to be male-dominated, and there are more senior management teams made up of mostly women (43%). A notable distinction is that there are no boards with no women, but 7 organisations (9%) had no women on their SMT.
With the FAIR SHARE Monitor, we aim to capture the state of gender equity in our sector. However, to paint as detailed and accurate a picture as possible, we must take an intersectional approach and consider how other factors, in addition to gender, can impact women’s ability to participate in decision-making. That’s why last year, we took a step towards intersectionality by collecting data on Black, Brown, Indigenous women and women of colour on staff and in leadership (read more on that here).
BIWoC make up only around a third of women leaders
Leadership positions in the 45 organisations analysed here consist of about 1214 people, of which 567 women. Of these women leaders, only 181 (32%) are women of colour. This marks little change since last year, when that figure was 30%.
Out of all leadership positions in this data set, only 15% are held by BIWoC.
BIWoC missing on senior management teams
Senior management teams appear to be even less diverse. While only 15.6% of the included organisations have no women on their SMT, almost triple (44%) had no BIWoC.
This was by no means an exhaustive addition, but due to the way in which development and aid organisations perpetuate colonial relations, we believe race is a particularly relevant addition to the Monitor – and we hope this quantitative data can contribute to the growing discourse around the experiences of women of colour in the sector.
Of the 61 organisations included in the Monitor, 45 had data on BIWoC. Below are the results from this data set.
Only a handful of organisations led by BIWoC
Out of 45 organisations, 21 are led by women, but only 4 (19%) of those women are BIWoC. This marks a 5% decrease from last year.
Few BIWoC chairing boards
While nearly half of boards of these 45 organisations are led by a woman, only 9% of those women are BIWoC.
About half of organisations have a FAIR SHARE of women leaders
At 31 organisations with a FAIR SHARE, this is the first time that the proportion of organisations with an equitable level of representation has surpassed 50%. In 2019, the first year of the Monitor, only 42% of organisations had a FAIR SHARE Index of 15 or less.
Does an organisation’s size impact its FAIR SHARE Index?
The FAIR SHARE Index shows how well or poorly women are represented in leadership based on our criteria for a FAIR SHARE. The lower the index, the more fairly women are represented in leadership.
We are interested in exploring how various factors, such as number of staff, impact the FAIR SHARE Index. Analysing this for the first time this year, we see a large difference between very small (1-20 staff) and very large (1001+ staff) organisations. There is also a large jump from 2 to 16 between organisations with 1-20 staff and those with 21-50 staff.
Those who have committed to gender equity fare better
78% of organisations who have made the FAIR SHARE Commitment to achieve gender equity by 2030 at the latest – and share their data with us annually for the Monitor – currently have a FAIR SHARE, compared to 51% of organisations overall. Read more on Commitment at the bottom of this page.
Overall, little progress since last year
Of the 61 organisations included in this year’s Monitor, 56 participated last year. To measure progress or regress, we considered a change in the index value of at least 10%, either upwards or downwards, to be significant. While 6 organisations improved their FAIR SHARE Index, shrinking the gap between the proportion of women staff and proportion of women leaders, 6 saw that gap grow, and 38 (62%) remained unchanged.
The average FAIR SHARE Index has been improving over the years, starting at 26,5 in 2019, down to 21,3 in 2020, and now at its lowest rate of 20,3. This year the average FAIR SHARE index is still well above a desired level (see our FAQ for more details on the FAIR SHARE Index). However, this is due to large discrepancies, with some organisations having the perfect FAIR SHARE Index of 0 averaged with the highest index standing at 59,4.
These 27 international social impact organisations are frontrunners in the journey towards gender equity in the sector.
For there to be transformative and long-term change in the sector, we need leading organisations to model that change – and there 27 organisations are doing just that. By making the FAIR SHARE Commitment, they have pledged to achieve gender equality in their leadership by 2030 at the latest and to share their data with us annually for the FAIR SHARE Monitor. 22 of these organisations, or 75%, currently have a FAIR SHARE of women leaders.
In our new publication, Leading for Change, ten of these Committed Organisations share how they are working towards gender equity and experimenting with Feminist Leadership. Learn from Restless Development on their co-leadership pilot, Skateistan on their girls-first policy, CARE International on their Gender Network, and much more.