Celebrating our #1 position on the FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders Monitor

Dear members and allies, 

CIVICUS has just been recognised as the top-ranking organisation in the annual FAIR SHARE for Women Leaders Monitor. Here's a look at the inspirations that propelled us towards this important outcome! 

1. Women make up nearly 2/3rds of the civil society workforce, but hold less than 1/3rd of its leadership positions 

Launched in 2018, the  ‘FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders’ campaign advocates for a greater share of women leaders in the senior management and Boards of civil society organisations. This call is based on the analysis that while women make up nearly 70% of the civil society workforce, they hold less than 30% of the top leadership positions. The Fair Share campaign rightly reasons that the lack of diverse voices in decision making roles undermines the impact that civil society has on critical issues of equity and justice, while also undermining our ability to safeguard our workforce and beneficiaries from abuse. 

2. A growing number of organisations are sharing evidence of their progress towards the FAIR SHARE commitment 

The FAIR SHARE commitment requires organisations to take steps to ensure that by 2030 or earlier, the percentage of women leaders (senior executives and Board members) is on par with the proportion of women staff. Participating organisations report each year, indicating the status of women staff across the organisation and how this compares with the percentage of women in leadership positions. This data is reflected in the FAIR SHARE Monitor updated annually to measure women’s representation, hold organisations accountable and generate shared strategies for the achievement of the Fair Share goal. 

3. A FAIR SHARE journey begins with an honest assessment of failures in women’s representation in leadership

CIVICUS signed up to the Fair Share commitment in March 2019. I was less than two months into my role as Secretary General when we signed up. Two factors contributed to fast-tracking our decision to endorse the commitment: the  full support of our then Board Chair, Anabel Cruz, and an internal survey analysis on women’s leadership undertaken in 2017. According to this report, a mere 16 percent of management and leadership roles in the organisation were held by women. Not surprisingly there was initial skepticism about our ability to rise to the challenge posed by the campaign. Eventually, this was replaced by enthusiasm for the proposed plegde and a push to meet and expand the required commitments required before 2030. 

4. We made progress in small but consistent increments... and braved a fair share of attacks! 

Our progress on staff-related roles was made possible through a series of internal measures undertaken since 2019. This included updating our policies for recruitment and remuneration to be more transparent and equitable, undertaking an in-depth Racial Justice review exercise across 2020 and 2021, which resulted in a time-bound action plan to address gender and racial equity as joint priorities; and moving to a learning-based performance appraisal system aimed at unlocking leadership at all levels. The greater challenge for us in this period was reflecting the FAIR SHARE commitment in our governance roles. The CIVICUS Board is almost entirely elected by our members. Despite a high number of women candidates applying and being short-listed in subsequent election cycles, this aspect of our commitment shifted more gradually. In at least one cycle, significant opposition to the FAIR SHARE commitment was raised by members who felt that their ability to compete for Board roles was being disadvantaged by the pledge. 

5. We remain committed to expanding the FAIR SHARE commitment and diversifying women’s leadership  

We continue to learn how to do better at creating workplace conditions that support women in their leadership journey. The integration of remote and flexible working practices during the pandemic has, for instance, been a key driver in attracting and retaining more women from racially and culturally diverse backgrounds. The recruitment of an Equity and Engagement Officer and creation of a refreshed mandate for an internal Diversity and Inclusion Group are other initiatives taken to ensure we focus attention on the intersections between gender, race and other forms of structural discrimination. Ultimately, the greater inclusion of under-represented groups in our workplaces is as crucial to our effectiveness as the strategies we create to address imbalances of power in the wider world. 

(Lysa John is Secretary General of CIVICUS. She is based in South Africa and can be reached via her Twitter handle: @LysaJohnSA



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