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World Bank Group Gender Strategy Mid-Term Review

Chapter 6 | Conclusion

In response to the question “How well is the implementation of the gender strategy positioning the World Bank Group to close key gender gaps?” this review finds that the World Bank Group Gender Strategy has commitment and recognition across the organization and among development partners, which is a precondition for success. The organizational commitment, when backed by appropriate expertise, helped translate new knowledge directly to operations, for example by GILs, the Transport and Water Global Practices, and IFC. IFC’s Tackling Childcare: The Business Case for Employer-Supported Childcare in Myanmar provides context-specific evidence and recommendations that were translated into practice (IFC 2019c). Country teams such as Bangladesh and Vietnam have established substantial coherence with country programming related to gender gaps. However, task team leaders, project leads, and investment officers need support to overcome limited familiarity with a gender gap approach. These implementation challenges, the review finds, can be addressed through an enhanced country-driven approach to coherently address gender gaps led by country teams with the IFC and World Bank gender groups and staff designated to support work on gender providing context, sector, and gender expertise. Certain constraints need to be overcome to better position the World Bank and IFC to enhance the implementation of the strategy, and specific enablers can assist; these are the subjects of this conclusion.

Constraints and Enablers in Implementing the Gender Strategy

The gender strategy advances an enhanced, country-driven approach that contributes to the closure of gender gaps, yet individual projects have frequently been used to address those gaps. The implementation of a country-driven approach differs across the sample of countries examined. The enhanced approach requires that operations, supported by policy dialogue and diagnosis of gender gaps, align with CPF objectives in a manner that helps close those gaps. In the sample of countries examined in this review, the approach to addressing gender gaps ranges from stand-alone projects to the collective use of multiple Bank Group instruments. Part of the reason that individual projects are emphasized in the World Bank may be the pressure for a project to count toward gender-tagging targets set by Regions and Global Practices. CPFs include discussion of gender gaps identified in SCDs and other diagnostics, yet there is inconsistency in how these gaps are reflected in CPF results frameworks, as well as how they are prioritized in the country portfolio. Without such prioritization, the diverse projects tagged and flagged for gender in the portfolio can appear to be “sprinkled” rather than strategic.

Country teams are able to develop a coherent country-driven approach and resolve the tension to meet corporate commitments within frameworks of regional and country support from staff designated to support work on gender. East Asia and Pacific, Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia have substantial regional and country support via focal points and IFC gender leads. In the remaining Regions, this same level of support is at the discretion of individual country directors and managers. The efforts in the Vietnam country team began before the current gender strategy, suggesting that many years of effort are needed to develop a country-driven approach. The Vietnam country team has also prioritized gaps to be more strategic in its efforts, a practice also used by the country teams in Bangladesh, Egypt, Kenya, and Peru. In such cases, country directors and managers, supported by the commitment of regional management, provide strong leadership, clearly communicate the priorities to task team leaders and investment officers, and identify resources.

Coordinating staff designated to support work on gender and ensuring the consistency of their functions is critical in implementing a country-driven approach. Staff designated to support the gender strategy, for example, are critical connectors in implementing the strategy, but the criteria for selecting them are unclear. Moreover, these staff often have insufficient time to complete required functions, their professional development opportunities are limited, and current performance management processes offer little recognition for their efforts. In implementing the strategy, IFC’s GBG organizes and coordinates the work of focal points and others through proactive outreach, which was consistently appreciated by IFC staff and management. Three-year implementation plans (GSIPs) guide these efforts. In the World Bank, no unit has responsibility for institutionally coordinating staff designated to support work on gender or ensuring the adequacy of capacity and time allocation. The selection and professional development of, for example, gender focal points in the World Bank is ad hoc. Moreover, the professional development pathways are inadequate to enable a sector expert to develop gender expertise or gender experts to develop industry or sector knowledge; there has been little formal planning to help retool staff to serve in different roles.

Developing and maintaining a gender gap approach requires additional effort to connect staff to relevant knowledge. Task team leaders, project leads, and investment officers reported that understanding the gender gap approach requires considerable effort, which they are sometimes unable to provide, as they face other corporate mandates (such as climate, fragility, and environmental and social compliance) that compete for their attention. Consequently, though evidence has been produced in relation to gender gaps, it does not always translate into practice because operations staff find the evidence inaccessible, overly technical, and of limited operational relevance. Specific gaps in knowledge—for example, on GBV or sex-disaggregated mobility data in the transport sector—can also constrain practice.

The resources provided to increase the supply of evidence and its inclusion in project design are useful in addressing gender gaps. Research produced by the GILs has reportedly helped advance the understanding of gender issues. By 2019, 110 impact evaluations were in progress in the Africa, South Asia, and East Asia and Pacific GILs. These were mainly randomized control trials focused on providing high-quality knowledge about gender gaps (UFGE 2019). The gender tag and flag create an incentive to use evidence in project design based on the criteria of the tag or flag. IFC’s AIMM system also provides an incentive for considering gender gap evidence by providing a higher project score.

Current measurement priorities give limited attention to implementation and evaluation. This review found limitations in reporting during implementation on project indicators and on the measurement of voice and agency and of specific human endowments at the project and country level. In addition, few tagged and flagged projects had planned evaluations outside of routine reporting processes. Together, these risks highlight a lack of attention to the implementation and monitoring and evaluation systems. This lack of attention could mean that at the end of the strategy period, the Bank Group will have limited evidence on its contributions to closing gender gaps.

Monitoring commitments and projects generates ongoing attention to gender gaps. The World Bank and IFC both measure progress on closing gender gaps through reporting on commitments and on the tagging and flagging of project designs. The number of indicators measuring gender gaps in the World Bank Corporate Scorecard has risen from 4 to 10—mainly sex-disaggregated—indicators. Respondents in both the World Bank and IFC consistently reported that the required measurement of IDA commitments continues to focus the attention of staff and management on gender.


Drawing on these enablers and constraints, this review suggests four opportunities to enhance the implementation of the gender strategy. Opportunities have been defined for each area of the theory of action (see figure 1.1).

Strengthen synergies among Regions, Global Practices, industry groups, and country teams to develop coherence in the country portfolios. Good practice examples show that country teams can coherently implement priorities when focal points are resourced to support operational teams. The gender groups can assist in enabling this process by sharing lessons from efforts between the World Bank and IFC, such as childcare and women’s labor market participation. Significant challenges were reported by informants in addressing GBV, suggesting a potential area for joint effort by the World Bank and IFC.

Define and maintain standards for staff designated to support work on gender in the Bank Group at the regional and country levels, with the Gender Group exercising an enhanced coordination role. Implemented standards would enable greater consistency across staff who support the gender strategy. Standards should be articulated for the selection, professional development, resourcing (both human and financial), and performance management of staff designated to support work on gender, drawing on practices in the East Asia and Pacific, Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia Regions. Enhanced coordination by the Gender Group entails actively supporting the implementation of the standards, providing guidance, and managing knowledge across Regions. IFC, for its part, is well organized in its approach to implementing the gender strategy, although it could provide additional support to investment officers in the development of client demand.

Enable staff tasked to support closing gender gaps, task team leaders, project leads, and investment officers to work jointly on generating evidence to amplify the use of knowledge on meeting country and global priorities. This review highlights that when groups with different expertise work together, there is an effect on implementation beyond the use of evidence in a single operation. Task team leaders, project leads, and staff designated to support work on gender, for example, reported that in jointly generating evidence, they were able to translate it into other operations and share examples with internal and external stakeholders. IFC efforts could focus on identifying and documenting examples of gender-flagged IS, especially in Infrastructure and in Manufacturing, Agribusiness, and Services. The importance of emphasizing joint working arrangements for evidence use by operational staff has been confirmed in both the academic literature (see, for example, Goldman and Pabari 2020; Lemos and Morehouse 2005; McCormack et al. 2002) and in evaluations of gender and diversity by the Inter-American Development Bank (2018, 43).

Maintain corporate monitoring and ensure attention to the monitoring and evaluation of implementation in both IFC and the World Bank. Mobilize the gender groups of the two institutions, as well as staff designated to support work on gender, to develop capacity and support monitoring and supervision during implementation. Commission outcome-focused evaluations and, potentially, impact evaluations in both IFC and the World Bank related to the closure of gaps at the country level, global level, or both.