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 international civil society organisations (CSOs) and call on them to achieve gender equality in their organisations by 2030. We track progress towards this goal annually with the FAIR SHARE Monitor. We also aim to contribute to a new, feminist leadership culture in the sector.

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 CSOs. Otherwise, this imbalance would suggest that a man has better chances to reach a leadership position than a woman.

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, we seek the data of people who currently identify as women. We see gender as a matter of self-determination, so our definition of ‘woman’ includes trans women and everyone else who currently identifies as a woman. It does not include people assigned as women or girls at birth who do not identify as such.

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

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

We understand that ethnic and racial identities as 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 being racialised (considered racially or ethnically ‘other’ in a given context) which 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. 

What is the FAIR SHARE Monitor?

Through the FAIR SHARE Monitor, we publish data on women in leadership positions for some of the largest and well known international CSOs. Based on the data collected, we compile a ranking of organisations who have a fair share of women in leadership. We issued the first FAIR SHARE Monitor in March 2019. Currently, our database features 31international CSOs. In addition, we present a number of organisational Monitors, which include data of both the international secretariat and national affiliates or country offices. Our Monitor “Around the World” shows national organisations that have approached us to become part of the FAIR SHARE movement.

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 2021, email

What are the main results of the first FAIR SHARE monitor?

Based on our first data analysis, we can say:

  • The workforce in the sector consists predominantly of women; in the organisations that provided us with staff figures 58% of all employees are women.
  • The sector increasingly understands the need for gender equality in our sector: The vast majority (83.9%) of the organisations cooperated with us in compiling the data. This is 19.6% higher than last year. 48.4% of leading international civil society organisations have a FAIR SHARE of women leaders. This is an increase of 16.3% compared to last year.
  • But there is still work to do: a man is almost three times more likely to achieve a leadership position in the sector than a women.


How was the FAIR SHARE Monitor created?

First, we got in touch with the senior leadership of some of the largest and well-known international CSOs and asked 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 on to the FAIR SHARE Commitment also commit to data updates every year.

Second, we researched publicly available information on the websites and in annual reports of the organisations to the best of our knowledge and belief.

Third, we shared the data researched by us with the CSOs who did not deliver the data for their review and edits as necessary.

Fourth, we inserted the data in our Monitor, adhering to our aforementioned methodology.

In summary, this is how data is collected:

  • Wherever possible, we have used the data directly submitted by a CSO to FAIR SHARE.
  • Where data was not submitted directly by a CSO, FAIR SHARE researched it and has published only the data as verified by the CSO.
  • Where data was not confirmed by a CSO, FAIR SHARE has published the data researched by our team.

For the third Monitor we will be expanding our questions. We know that equality and justice can only be reached with an intersectional perspective. Thus, this year we will be asking organisations to give us information about the amount of Black, Brown and Indigenous women and women of colour (BIWoC) in their teams 

  • BIWoC in their staff  
  • BIWoC on their senior management team  
  • BIWoC on their board 

Organisations that cannot report this data will not be penalised. We provide the option to indicate that they do not have this data. We think of this a start to a much-needed conversation within the sector.  

When and how will the data be released?

The data from the current survey phase and the resulting findings are always presented at an event in March, which this year will likely be online. The results are also published on our website.

What is the data collection process for the FAIR SHARE Monitor?

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

  1. We begin the data collection in January 2021 by calling upon civil society organisations to participate via email
  2. Participating civil society organisations register in the FAIR SHARE Monitor database
  3. An employee of the respective civil society organisation enters their data in the FAIR SHARE Monitor database (we call this role a ‘contributor’)
  4. A person from the management team of the respective civil society organisation approves the data in the FAIR SHARE Monitor database (we call this role ‘approver’)
  5. The data collection process for the FAIR SHARE Monitor ends in February 2021
  6. We analyse the data
  7. We publish the data and our analysis on our website on 15 March 2021 as well as at an online event (details TBA)
How were the organisations for the FAIR SHARE Monitor selected?

We focused on the largest international ‘brands’ covering a wide variety of issues including poverty, children’s rights, environmental protection and humanitarian work within the international CSO sector. In addition, some organisations who wished to join the initiative approached us. 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 CSO Monitor – comprising data of 34 largest and well known CSOs. This year we will be adding 21 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 – Commitments from CSOs from all parts of the world who wanted to join FAIR SHARE. Currently there are organisations from Malawi, Nigeria, UK and Bangladesh

We endeavour to broaden our reach to key countries with large civil society sectors.

What is the FAIR SHARE Commitment?

We ask all organisations to 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 in our staff
  • reporting annually (by February each year) 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, 21 international and 36 national organisations have signed the commitment.

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:

  • If there are at least 50% of women on all organisational levels (the average representation gap, across overall staffing, senior management and Boards) and if 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 therefore 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 that eventually all organisations are fully led by women. However, given that for so long the norm has been that men 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 who have a lower percentage of women leaders?

We call for a FAIR SHARE and not for the highest percentage of women leaders possible. This means that also 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. We do want to appreciate these organisations and take especially 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 practise and the way forward. We therefore highlight them specifically 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 did 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 where we received data from a large number of organisations shows that for those 33 organisations we look at 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 they are listed in the FAIR SHARE Monitor or not?

No. 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. CSOs have a special responsibility to contribute to a more equal and just society and it should not be at their discretion whether they live up to this standard or not. Therefore, we have selected the largest organisations as the biggest levers for change to hold them to account. Organisations not yet listed are invited to join the Monitor voluntarily! Get in touch via

How does FAIR SHARE guarantee data protection?

We do not publish any personal data, but always and only the aggregated number of women at the different organisational levels. The holders of leadership positions are usually publicly available on the websites of the organisations.

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 will be collecting data on the number of Black, Brown and Indigenous women and women of colour. 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.

You call on all social impact organisations to achieve a FAIR SHARE of women leaders but only feature civil society organisations (or 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.

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

Having commenced in March 2019, the FAIR SHARE Monitor will be updated annually towards 2030. We aim to expand the FAIR SHARE Monitor to other countries in the coming years. In addition, we want to work with the committed organisations on shared strategies, best practise and peer exchange when it comes to gender equality and Feminist Leadership.

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 German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth as well as the Heinrich Böll Foundation, who has supported our work of the Action Circle. So far, most of those involved have worked for the association on a voluntary basis

How can I support FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders?

We are looking for strong partners and enthusiastic individuals who

  • 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

Have more questions? Write us at