Thought Leadership

How Diverse Is the Global Development Sector? Let’s Find Out.

By 30 March 2021 No Comments

The saying goes that you can only manage what you can measure – you can only address a problem when you truly understand its scope.

Yet, despite it being a problem in our sector for decades, there is surprisingly little understanding of the lack of diversity, equity and inclusion and the dearth of women leaders at US-based development and humanitarian organizations.

That is changing as we speak. WILD, working with several partners, sent out the inaugural BRIDGE survey on March 15 —the first ever sector-wide survey aimed at Benchmarking Race, Inclusion and Diversity in Global Engagement headquartered in the USA.

Disseminated to around 400 global development organisations headquartered in the US, it will provide a diversity snapshot of organizations’ staff, leadership, and boards, as well as provide details on the types of strategies and approaches organizations are taking to improve DEI.

Why Now?

Our sector has problems – racism, a legacy of colonialism, white supremacy and leadership teams that do not represent the diversity of people in our sector, or those we help.

The killing of American citizen, George Floyd, a year ago, was a catalyst for many industries in the US to face its shortcomings in the areas of racial and gender injustice. The global development sector among them. Some organizations responded with tangible steps to change how they work, are led, and make decisions. Many organizations had already begun this work, and for others, this was the beginning.

But again, you can only manage what you can measure – and without a true understanding of the scope of the problem across the sector, we can’t make informed, sector-wide change.

This is what makes collecting the data so important now.

Why WILD?

In 2018, my organization, the WILDNetwork, launched a movement to advance women’s leadership, equity, diversity and inclusion in the global development sector. The BRIDGE survey is a natural evolution of our work to support women in the global development sector to scale their impact and thrive. 

I am looking forward to sharing the BRIDGE survey results as part of the opening session on the “State of Our Sector” at the 2021 Women in Global Development Leadership Forum, to a wide-ranging, impactful network of international development professionals committed to advancing women’s leadership, and sector-wide diversity, equity and inclusion. 

With the BRIDGE survey, WILD can reinforce our member’s voices calling for change across the sector with irrefutable data. But the survey itself is just a starting point. A measurement for the change we need to make.

What’s Next?

With the results as a baseline to gauge our success, the hard work begins. The advocacy, the engagement, the networking, the ideation and the innovation. This data will accelerate change we all know we need.

Global development companies – for profits, not for profits, donors and others – will be able to (and should) compare their own data to the industry benchmark and identify areas where improvement is needed.

At the sectoral level, the data will point to gaps where joint action is required to achieve meaningful and lasting change. And, as BRIDGE is released next year, and the year after that, the data will also provide a basis for mutual accountability – setting a standard.

Working Together for Informed Change

With a 25 year career working in the global development sector, I have seen our sector change, but also not change. I’ve seen women of color succeed, but to a point. I’ve seen the voices of women from the Global South being included, but not always heard.

I know that real change will only come at the hands of female and male leaders – professionals working in the global development sector – be it at donor organizations, NGOs, or companies. And to do that, women need opportunities to take their leadership skills to the next level, and to build a culture of inclusive leadership in our sector.

That’s why this year, WILD is proud to partner with Oxford HR in presenting this year’s Women in Global Development Leadership Forum – an event dedicated to advancing women’s leadership, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the global development sector – taking place 4-6 May, 2021. 

This year’s theme is a “Journey to Bold and Inclusive Leadership,” and women and men, at all stages of their careers, are invited to participate – to connect with experts and peers, and broaden their knowledge, skills, and networks across the global development sector. Live programming across 20 time-zones will make it a truly international gathering.

I warmly invite you to take a look at the program for this event. Through this partnership, Oxford HR is offering a 10% discount when you register for the Forum and use OXFORDHR at check out at www.WILDleadershipforum.org  

I look forward to building connections with you and the other 600+ participants representing 210 organizations from 55 countries. 

A note for US-based readers: The BRIDGE Survey remains open to US-based development and humanitarian organizations until April 15 – click here to participate. 

Fiona Macaulay, Founder and CEO of the WILD Network, works at the intersection of innovation, leadership and global development. She is one of the pioneering voices in the fields of social entrepreneurship and international development, committed to helping other women make their mark in the social change sector. Fiona founded WILD – the Women Innovators and Leaders Development Network- to support women in the global development sector to scale their impact and thrive.
Tim Brann

Tim Brann

Tim started working with Oxford HR in 2018, having graduated with a BSc in Product Design from Brunel University London. Although initially trained as a Product Designer, he has worked on a diverse range of projects across graphic design, 3D installations and website design and development. Tim has a keen interest in design as a tool for positive social change, especially among children's social care, and has pursued this through previous work for the GravityLight Foundation, small not-for-profit startups, and now at Oxford HR.