Placing Gender at the Heart of Evaluation
The gender impact of a development intervention may not always be easy to see, but it’s rarely absent.
Last month I wrote about the ongoing work at IEG to integrate gender into our evaluations and recently we had an opportunity to assess where we are and to start planning next steps.
IEG staff assess their gender awareness as "good". Sixty percent of those who participated in a recent survey say they regularly follow debates and discussions around the topic. Forty percent felt they directly addressed gender issues in their work. So, are these positive self-assessments being reflected in our work?
Hidden in plain sight?
There are times when the gender component in an evaluation is clear, such as in our evaluation of World Bank Group Assistance to Low-income, Fragile and Conflict Affected States. From the outset, the team working on this evaluation knew there would be a strong gender dimension. When assessing Bank Group interventions in countries where forced displacement, violence against women and families separated by conflict are common the need to integrate gender into the evaluation design is obvious.
But is there a need to assess the relevance of gender-sensitive impacts in an evaluation of interventions in resource-rich countries? It is if you consider that industries such as mining or oil extraction often require men to work away from their families, leaving women to run the home while bearing the brunt of any associated social costs.
The Bank's Oil, Gas and Mining Policy Division (SEGOM) has a gender and extractive industries program that works with governments, communities, and corporations to better address the gender impacts of these industries. Based on conversations our team had with this group, they integrated a specific focus on gender dimensions into the design of their Clustered Program Evaluation on Resource Rich Countries.
How about an evaluation of Investment Climate Reform, which in theory is creating a level playing field for all entrepreneurs, regardless of gender? One consideration here would be whether property rights, which are essential to promote a healthy investment climate, are skewed to the disadvantage of one group or another.
Whether confronted by discrimination based on gender, age group, religion or sexual orientation, the Bank Group's inclusion agenda requires us to evaluate whether its strategies and operations are mindful of opportunities to promote greater equality.
Making gender everyone's business without dulling the edge
Our survey tells us that there was a self-select bias, so that the positive responses come from those who are already interested in the gender dimension. What about those who are less sensitized to the issue? How do we get everyone to the point where no one assumes "gender-neutrality" without having asked some meaningful questions? We don’t want gender to become a mandatory box-ticking exercise. How do we create the right incentives to ensure gender dimensions are included in our work?
The stock-taking exercise showed us that there is a certain hunger for learning from each other, so a series of brown-bag seminars might provide the right forum. A community of practice within IEG and beyond could keep discussing the issues. Another way is to assess each of our major evaluations to determine whether gender is an important aspect and, if it is, to include it in the design. We do not expect everyone to become a gender expert, but they should know enough to be able to meaningfully draw on the expertise of our focal points.
Gender: an important part of the inclusion agenda
These are just two initial ideas that will be pursued through the "Integrating Gender" action plan of IEG. The main objective of this plan is to identify viable approaches to systematically integrating gender into our evaluations so that gender-relevant results are evaluated regularly and reported to decision-makers who should know about the results of the Bank Group. Without gender equality, achieving the twin goals – eradicating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity by 2030 – will be impossible.
Gender provides us with a focus through which we can strengthen our evaluation tools for assessing inclusion as the first step in adopting evaluation methods that systematically capture performance and results and that speak to growth, inclusion, and sustainability.