What are the main concerns and demands of FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders?

We want to achieve a FAIR SHARE of women in leadership positions in the international civil society sector. We collect data on the percentage of women in senior management teams and boards of the largest social impact organisations and call on them to achieve gender equality in their organisations by 2030. We track and share progress towards this goal annually with the FAIR SHARE Monitor. We also promote Feminist Leadership as an approach and tool to create transformational change in the sector’s culture.

How do you define a FAIR SHARE of women in leadership?

An organisation has achieved a FAIR SHARE of women leaders if it has:

  • At least 50% women leaders in senior management and the Board
  • Or a correspondingly higher proportion of women in leadership positions if there are more than 50% women in the workforce.
Why is a 50:50 ratio of women in leadership not enough?

In contrast to many other sectors, the proportion of women in the civil society workforce is on average higher than 50%. This should be reflected in the management and board positions of social impact organisations. Otherwise, this imbalance would suggest that a man has better chances to reach a leadership position than a woman. If we want to achieve gender equity, a 50:50 ratio of women in leadership positions in a sector where nearly 70% of the workforce is estimated to be women is simply not enough.

What is the FAIR SHARE Monitor?

The FAIR SHARE Monitor is a data-based accountability tool tracking progress towards gender equity in the social impact sector. Since 2019, we collect data on women on staff and in leadership positions at some of the largest and well-known international social impact orgaisations on an annual basis. We publish the results in the FAIR SHARE Monitor, creating annual ranking of organisations who have a FAIR SHARE of women in leadership. Learn more about our thinking behind the Monitor.

Currently, our database features over 70 international social impact organisations. In addition, we present a number of organisational Monitors, which include data of both the international secretariat and national affiliates or country offices.

In March 2020, we launched our first national FAIR SHARE Monitor for Germany. We intend to add many of the world’s key countries over the next few years.

To participate in the FAIR SHARE Monitor 2023, email monitor@fairsharewl.org

What is the FAIR SHARE Commitment?

In addition to sharing their gender data, all organisations are invited to sign the FAIR SHARE Commitment. Through this, organisations commit to achieving a FAIR SHARE of women by:

  • Achieving an adequate representation of women in leadership at the latest by 2030. This means at least 50% of leadership positions (Board and Senior Management Team) will be women. If women make up more than 50% of staff, the percentage of women in leadership positions will be aligned to the percentage of women on staff
  • Participating in the FAIR SHARE Monitor by reporting annually the figures and percentages of women in staff and in the following leadership positions: Board Chairs, Deputy Chairs and Board Members, CEOs, Deputy CEOs and Senior Leadership Teams

So far, 31 international and 23 German organisations have signed the commitment. Learn more here.

How does FAIR SHARE define the term ‘woman’?

While we recognise the exclusion of people who do not identify with either option in the gender binary, for the accuracy of our results, our data primarily focuses on individuals who identify as women. We see gender as a matter of self-determination, so our definition of ‘woman’ includes cis women, trans women and everyone who identifies as a woman. It does not include people assigned as women or girls at birth who do not themselves identify as such.

As a team, we are aware that we are in a constant process of unlearning the norms that have led to the exclusion and marginalisation of many. We strive to work together with our community and learn how we can be part of a just and inclusive movement for change. This approach should be reflected in our choice of language, thus we regularly review our terminology.

What about non-binary or gender non-conforming people?

While our previous Monitors did not capture data on non-binary or gender non-conforming individuals, we are committed to making the FAIR SHARE Monitor an intersectional tool that can meaningfully bring light to the complex realities of gender inequality in the social impact sector, and in so doing, can create awareness and foster action towards equity. We believe capturing gender data on identities that transcend the gender binary is an important step in this direction.

In 2023, we will start collecting data on non-binary staff in the social impact sector. This comes after consultation with members of the non-binary community and thorough reflections on how to collect and communicate this data in a way that wouldn’t jeopardize the integrity and privacy of individuals who entrust us with such sensitive information. Consequently, for the FAIR SHARE ranking, our analysis of non-binary data points will only be made public for organisations above a certain staff-size. Additionally, data provided by smaller organisations will be used to calculate the average representation of non-binary people in the overall sector, not in individual organisations. 

We are aware of the limitations that attempting to capture this data present, especially at the international level where differing legal and socio-political realities may hinder data collection. Nonetheless, we invite organisations who can, to join us in this process, and share their feedback as we continue to make the FAIR SHARE Monitor an inclusive, representative and valuable tool for tracking gender equity in the social impact sector.

How does FAIR SHARE understand the term BIWoC (Black, Brown, Indigenous women and women of colour?)

We understand that ethnic and racial identities are not always clear-cut or fixed, but rather fluid, complex and context-dependent (For example, the widely understood definition of Blackness in Brazil may differ from the definition of Blackness in Canada). For that reason, we do not provide ‘one-size-fits-all’ definitions of these terms; any definition we might develop would require deciding who to include in or exclude from certain categories.

Therefore, for the purposes of data collection for the FAIR SHARE Monitor, we invite participating organisations to report the number of staff who self-identify with these terms. As there are organisations that do not collect such data, we also give organisations the option to state this during data collection.

We recognise that the term we are applying ‘BIWoC’ is not free of critique, yet it best captures the experience of “those negatively racialised or racialised as ‘other'” (source: Equinox) in a given context. And this is what we aim to collect data about. Due to histories of colonialism, the majority of social impact organisations have their headquarters in the Global North; hence, this is the context or perspective from which we ask participants to self-identify with the term ‘BIWoC’ or not.

Making the FAIR SHARE Monitor a more inclusive and intersectional tool will be an ongoing process of learning and adapting, and we expect to continually refine the Monitor based on feedback from the organisations we work with. 

Why does the FAIR SHARE Monitor only focus on women in leadership and does not include any other diversity aspects?

Women are half of the population and deliver most of the work in the sector. Thus, we focus on the largest under-represented group in the leadership of these organisations for which data is available. As a first step towards intersectionality the FAIR SHARE Monitor 2021 collected data on the number of Black, Brown and Indigenous women and women of colour (BIWoC). We understand that more diversity in terms of age, race, sexual orientation, religion, social background or nationality in the management and governance levels of civil society is vital for a credible sector and want to contribute to this necessary cultural change with our initiative. Therefore we also advocate for an intersectional approach in our sector with other activities, such as the Feminist Leadership Project and the Action Circle.

Furthermore, we recognise that men are also not a homogenous group and may experience discrimination according to their ethnicity, religion or sexuality (for example). However, FAIR SHARE’s mission is to measure and call attention to the position of women of all racial/ethnic backgrounds in leadership positions in the NGO sector specifically. We believe this approach can complement the work being carried out by peer organisations who focus on other forms of discrimination. See, for example, the Racial Equity Index.

What were the key findings of the latest FAIR SHARE Monitor?

Based on our data analysis, we can say that:

  • The workforce in the sector consists predominantly of women. Our latest data collection showed that 62% of all employees were women.
  • The FAIR SHARE Index has seen little improvement in 2023, with 48% of leading international civil society organisations having a FAIR SHARE of women leaders.
  • And there is still work to do: a man is 1.9 times more likely to reach a leadership position in the sector than a woman, and only 33% of women in leadership positions are Black, Brown, Indigenous women or women of colour (BIWoC).

Find the results and analysis of our most recent data, the FAIR SHARE Monitor 2023, in this report.

How does the FAIR SHARE Monitor work?

Each year, we get in touch with the senior leadership of some of the largest and well-known international social impact organisations and ask them to provide us with the following data about their organisations:

  • Total number of their staff
  • Total number of women in their staff
  • The number of women and men on their senior management team
  • Total number of women and men on their board

Note: Organisations who sign the FAIR SHARE Commitment also commit to data updates every year.

For organisations who do not submit their data, we research publicly available staff and leadership figures on their websites and annual reports. This researched data is then shared with organisations for review and edits where necessary. 

All data (submitted and researched) is then analysed and a FAIR SHARE Index and ranking is generated for each organisation.

Results are later published on our website and during an online event.

We know that equality and justice can only be achieved through an intersectional approach. As a result, in 2021 we started collecting information on the proportion of Black, Brown, Indigenous women and women of colour in their teams. In 2023, we are adding a non-binary option to our data analysis in a commitment to make the FAIR SHARE Monitor more inclusive and representative of the complex realities of gender inequity in the sector.

We think of this data as a start to a much-needed conversation within the sector, rather than a requirement for participation in the Monitor. We provide organisations with the option to indicate if they are unable to provide this data, with no repercussion on their FAIR SHARE Index or ranking.

How does FAIR SHARE conduct research?

When organisations do not provide us with their data, we find it important in terms of accountability that the process doesn’t just end there. That’s why we take it upon ourselves to research the relevant data via publicly available sources such as websites – i.e. looking at photos of their board and management team.

We are aware that assuming someone’s gender based on a photo is not a perfect process. Someone presenting in a typically ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ way does not necessarily mean they identify as such. However, we have to work with the information we can find to hold organisations accountable for change. Moreover, we do give them an opportunity to confirm this researched data.

Researching data for Black, Brown, Indigenous people and people of colour (BIPoC) is arguably even trickier. Race is socially constructed, meaning, for example, that ‘white’ means different things in different contexts. Someone perceived as white in Brazil may be perceived as a person of colour in the UK.

So how do we go about this when researching data on BIPoC for organisations who haven’t provided it? Due to legacies of colonialism, the majority of power and resources of the social impact sector are concentrated in the Global North – so we take this as our context in the research process, asking: is it more likely that this person would be read as white or as a person of colour in a country in the Global North? With this framework, we hope to also take into account how structures of white supremacy are reproduced (though not identically) outside of the Global North.

Again, this is not a perfect or even ideal process. But if we didn’t take this approach, we simply wouldn’t know how Black, Brown, Indigenous women and women of colour (BIWoC) are faring in comparison to their white counterparts when it comes to their representation in leadership. And we definitely do not want to let the sector off the hook in terms of intersectional gender equity.

What is the data collection and publication process of the FAIR SHARE Monitor?

The data collection process of the FAIR SHARE Monitor is composed of the following steps:

  1. Data collection starts in January with an email invitation to civil society organisations to participate
  2. An employee of the civil society organisation submits the organisation’s data on the FAIR SHARE Monitor database
  3. For organisations who do not submit their data, we research publicly available figures on staff and share our research with them to give them a chance to either confirm or edit the researched data.
  4. Data collection ends in February
  5. Data is analysed by the FAIR SHARE team
  6. Results are published on our website and during the FAIR SHARE Monitor Event online in April.


How are organisations selected for the FAIR SHARE Monitor?

We focus on the largest international organisations covering a wide variety of issues including poverty, children’s rights, environmental protection and humanitarian work within the international social impact sector. We also count a number of organisations who approached us to participate in the FAIR SHARE Monitor process. To date, our Monitor counts 80 international organisations, 30 of whom have already made the commitment to achieve a FAIR SHARE of women leaders by 2030. We aim to add further organisations in the coming years to show a wider picture of gender equality in our sector.

How many organisations feature in the FAIR SHARE Monitor?

Currently, our database features:

  • The International Monitor – comprising data from 70 of the largest and most well known international social impact organisations. This year we will be adding 10 new organisations to our monitor
  • Four Organisational Monitors – comprising data of the international secretariat and national affiliates of CARE, Plan International, Oxfam and Greenpeace
  • The ‘Around the World’ Monitor – comprised of commitments from organisations from all parts of the world who were interested in joining FAIR SHARE. Currently there are organisations from Malawi, Nigeria, UK and Bangladesh

Our aim is to broaden our reach to key countries with large social impact sectors.

What is the FAIR SHARE Index and how is it calculated?

The FAIR SHARE Index shows how well or poorly women are represented in leadership based on our criteria for a FAIR SHARE (see point 2 above). It takes into account:

  • Whether there are at least 50% of women on all organisational levels (the average representation gap, across overall staff, senior management and Boards) and whether there is a difference between the share of women in the total workforce and women in leadership (the FAIR SHARE Gap).
  • Both gaps are added to calculate the FAIR SHARE Index.

The lower the index, the more fairly women are represented in leadership. The perfect Index would be “0” but to acknowledge fluctuations in staff, we defined an index below 15 as a desirable FAIR SHARE. Over the years, we aim to measure whether an organisation’s FAIR SHARE Index improves or declines. The detailed figures for the Monitor 2020 can be downloaded here.

However, calculating the index this way meant organisations with more women leaders than the share of women staff received a negative score, and the higher the proportion of women leaders, the worse this score would be. For example, an organisation made up of 40% women staff and 60% women leaders would be penalised for this gap, even though it actually indicates a positive shift from the norm and a willingness to go beyond the minimum benchmark of 50/50.

In 2021, we adjusted the formula to ensure that a FAIR SHARE gap in favour of women (more women leaders than their share of staff) would not be penalised in the same way as a FAIR SHARE gap in favour of men (more male leaders than their share of staff). We do this by applying a 50% correction to the score of such organisations.

Our vision is not to have all organisations eventually fully led by women. However, given that for so long the norm has been for men to dominate the ranks at all levels, we understand gender dynamics skewed towards women as part of the process towards gender equality.

Why do some organisations who have a high percentage of women leaders score worse than organisations with a lower percentage?

We call for a FAIR SHARE and not for the highest percentage of women leaders possible. This means that organisations who have a much higher percentage of women leaders than women staff members score lower. We are aware that to achieve gender equality in organisations there might be a need to have more women leaders on top during a transformation phase, but we cannot incorporate this in our FAIR SHARE Monitor in a meaningful way. 

However, in 2021 we adjusted our formula to ensure that a FAIR SHARE gap in favour of women (more women leaders than their share of staff) would not be penalised in the same way as a FAIR SHARE gap in favour of men (more male leaders than their share of staff). We do this by applying a 50% correction to the score of such organisations.

We do want to appreciate these organisations and leverage their experiences and best practices to share with other organisations. We are convinced that these organisations are leading the transformation towards gender equality and aim to learn from and with them about best practices and the way forward. We therefore specifically highlight them in our Monitor analysis. 

You estimate that a man is about three times more likely to achieve a leadership position than a woman. How did you calculate this number?

We first calculated the likeliness of women to make it to the top within individual organisations by dividing the percentage of women on staff by the percentage of women in leadership. We did the same for men within one organisation. Next, we divided the result for women by the result for men to calculate the comparative advantage for men. Based on the results by organisations we calculated the average figure across all organisations listed in the Monitor.

Why do you estimate the number of women on staff at 70% for organisations who do not submit data?

For the organisations that did not provide or confirm any data and where there was no public data available, we estimated the proportion of women in their workforce at 70%. According to the very few available studies, this is the average proportion of women in the workforce of the sector. However, our 2020 Monitor, for which we received data from 33 organisations, shows that for those 33 organisations the average number of women on staff is about 60%. The more data we collect over the years, the more accurate our averages will become.

Can organisations choose whether to be included in the FAIR SHARE Monitor?

No, all organisations who are invited to the data collection are included in the FAIR SHARE Monitor. Organisations that do not submit their data will be invited to confirm or edit the publicly available data we will research on them. If this researched data isn’t confirmed by organisations, it is published as such.

While it is possible for organisations to unsubscribe from our Monitor mailing list, unsubscribing does not withdraw an organisation from the data collection process, and subsequent ranking and publication.

Gender equality is a key objective for our societies; it is listed as one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and many countries have introduced laws on gender equality. Social impact organisations have a special responsibility to contribute to a more equal and just society and whether they live up to this standard should not be at their discretion. For the FAIR SHARE Monitor, we have selected the largest organisations as the biggest levers for change to hold them to account.

Organisations who are not yet listed are welcome to join the Monitor voluntarily! Get in touch via monitor@fairsharewl.org

You call on all social impact organisations to achieve a FAIR SHARE of women leaders but only feature NGOs in your Monitor. Why?

Our ambition is to reach the entire sector working on social justice, human rights and gender equality, including foundations, social businesses and other actors. Our leaders also come from a variety of backgrounds, for example women entrepreneurs. As we expand the Monitor, we will feature more organisation types to reflect this ambition.

How does FAIR SHARE guarantee data protection?

We do not publish any personal data, but only the aggregated number of women at the different organisational levels. Leaders of organisations are usually publicly presented on their organisations’ websites and this is the information we use when researching organisations who do not submit their data to us.

You can learn more about this in our privacy policy

What are the next steps for FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders?

The FAIR SHARE Monitor will be updated annually until at least 2030. We will continue exploring how we can make it a more intersectional tool, and also aim to expand the Monitor to other countries in the coming years. In addition, we work with Committed Organisations on shared strategies, best practices and peer exchange when it comes to gender equality and Feminist Leadership. Recent initiatives include the Women Leadership Lab pilot in Germany and an eight-week webinar series on Feminist Leadership. We hope to continue and build on this work going forward.

Why and by whom was FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders founded?

The idea of FAIR SHARE came from several meetings between women from the development sector who were shocked by a series of reports on sexual and power abuse in the sector, and who wanted to make a difference. Since then, we have systematically started to build a movement with, for example, the Action Circle who leads our voice and strategy, the Chief Advisers who lend their expertise and network to FAIR SHARE and the many individuals who subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media. FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders e.V. is a charitable non-profit association registered in Germany. Read more about us here.

How is FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders financed?

The foundation and start-up phase of our organisation was supported by the feminist philanthropist Ise Bosch. Our work in Germany is supported by the Demokratie-Stiftung Campact, the BMW Foundation Herbert Quand and the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. The Heinrich Böll Foundation supports our international work on Feminist Leadership. 

We are actively seeking new partners to expand both the FAIR SHARE Monitor and our Feminist Leadership projects. If you see potential for a collaboration, please contact sophia@fairsharewl.org.

How can I support FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders?

We are looking for strong partners and enthusiastic individuals to:

  • Join our commitment to a FAIR SHARE of women leaders by 2030
  • Support us financially via a one-time or reoccurring donation to ensure our long-term operations
  • Volunteer their time and skills to support us with research, translations, communication or fundraising

Interested, or have questions? Write to us at hello@fairsharewl.org