Back to cover

World Bank Group Gender Strategy Mid-Term Review

Management Comments

Management Comments


Management of the World Bank Group institutions thanks the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) for the report, World Bank Group Gender Strategy Mid-Term Review. We appreciate the timeliness of this evaluation. We want to reaffirm the Bank Group’s strong commitment to gender equality and enhancing women’s voice and agency. Closing gender gaps continues to be one of the special themes under the 19th Replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA), the capital increase commitments, and a key Bank Group priority, with emphasis on deepening the implementation of the World Bank Group Gender Strategy.

World Bank Management Comments


Management welcomes the recognition that “management across senior levels of the World Bank and IFC [International Finance Corporation] demonstrate commitment to the gender strategy and push relevant concepts and practices downward” and that “operational staff who participated in IEG interviews and focus groups expressed their personal and professional commitment to the principle of addressing gender disparities.” Helping client countries close gender gaps is a corporate priority, widely embraced equally by management and shareholders, appropriately reflected in both the Corporate Scorecards and the IDA Results Measurement System, and embedded in the management of operations.


Management is pleased to note that 65 percent of all World Bank operations approved in fiscal year (FY)19 were designed to close gender gaps and meet or exceed the gender target in all Regions. The gender tag is an important learning tool for World Bank task teams because it helps them identify entry points for closing gender gaps in operations, designing smart approaches to addressing them, and incorporating indicators to track progress in closing those gaps. The report notes that before implementation of the strategy, only 24 percent of World Bank projects that closed between FY12 and FY14 had applied a gender lens in analysis, action, and monitoring. During the strategy period between FY17 and FY19, projects receiving the gender tag increased by 16 percentage points (from 49 to 65 percent).


Notwithstanding this progress, management notes the opportunities identified by the report to ensure that implementation in the remaining time frame of the strategy is even stronger. Management agrees that World Bank gender tagging efforts have helped raise awareness and create incentives for staff to design actions to close gender gaps during project preparation. To build on this success and accelerate progress, management is already exploring tangible ways to (i) strengthen synergies across the Bank Group to increase coherence in country portfolios for greater country-level impacts; (ii) acknowledge and develop competencies for staff working to implement the gender strategy; (iii) promote the use of evidence in operations and policy dialogue; and (iv) maintain corporate monitoring and evaluation of implementation across the Bank Group. Furthermore, management has begun discussing the findings of this report with Regions and Global Practices (GPs) to identify additional steps to make the implementation of the remaining years of the strategy even more effective.


Management agrees with the report’s first suggestion to strengthen synergies to address country-level gender gaps in a more coherent manner and is pursuing a more systematic country approach. Increasingly, country portfolios have launched multiple operations across GPs to close gender gaps in areas such as maternal and adolescent health, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, women’s mobility and security, access to the internet and information, communication and technology services, women’s employment in technical positions, ownership of land and housing, access to financial services, and prevention and response to gender-based violence. This progress builds on a more systematic approach to closing gaps ushered in by the gender strategy to improve cross-sector approaches at country-level. By calendar year 2018, 27 of 36 Systematic Country Diagnostics highlighted gaps in all four pillars of the gender strategy, 20 of 21 Country Partnership Frameworks (CPFs) identified two or more gender strategy gaps, and 49 countries launched operations to close gaps in all four of the strategy’s pillars: human endowments, jobs, assets, and women’s voice and agency. An additional 42 countries addressed gaps in either two or three of the pillars. New modalities are also being developed in several regions to take a more strategic portfolio approach to closing country-level gender gaps, such as the Mashreq Gender Facility (a joint World Bank and IFC initiative), Gender Platforms in all South Asian countries, and the East Asia and Pacific Regional Gender Coordination Program. More countries, including Nigeria and Ethiopia, are establishing country-level innovation policy initiatives. Progress has also been supported by a steady increase in the share of development policy operations that tackle cross-cutting constraints to closing gender gaps through specific policy reforms.


Management agrees with the report’s second suggestion to define competencies for staff designated to support implementation of the gender strategy and will explore options that better acknowledge specific skills and functions. Many staff who work on implementing the gender strategy are not counted, including those in the Regional Gender Innovation Labs (GILs) and those in various GPs who produce knowledge products and analytical work, such as a jobs diagnostic or Human Capital Reviews. These staff may have specific expertise in gender analysis and diagnostics. Other staff have been trained to support colleagues on the gender tag within the GP and at the regional level but are not technical experts. Given that staff members have different competencies and play different roles, management is looking into ways to enhance the architecture for ensuring competencies and recognition of work programs.


Management agrees with the report’s third suggestion to enable staff to translate knowledge into practice to accelerate progress to close gender gaps, noting the role of the World Bank Gender Group in this regard. The Gender Group plays a critical role in disseminating lessons and good practices across the institution through its training and community of practice. The Gender Group also coordinates the Federation of GILs, which is developing models to better channel operationally relevant evidence to task teams and policymakers. The Africa GIL has had much success already, having embedded its evidence into 94 Bank Group operations and 21 external projects since its inception in 2013. GILs in other regions, the Development Impact Evaluation, and other units follow this model to translate knowledge into action. To showcase innovative operations, the Gender Group publishes a quarterly e-newsletter, which features insights and tips from recently approved operations to help task team leaders. Each GP has an online tool that provides practical and concrete examples of World Bank projects with a strong results chain for the gender gap’s analysis, actions, and indicators. Additionally, several Regions have dedicated webpages with knowledge products.


Management agrees with the report’s fourth suggestion to maintain and strengthen corporate monitoring during implementation. The World Bank already reports on results in the Corporate Scorecard and the IDA Results Measurement System. Indicators in the CPF results frameworks are more routinely disaggregated by sex and many more now include specific gender indicators, which are picked up in Performance and Learning Reviews at the midterm of the CPF and in Completion and Learning Reviews at CPF completion. Systems are in place for recording and monitoring country-level targets and results, and management agrees to enhance the use of these systems to track the closure of key gender gaps.


Management agrees with the report’s conclusion that fighting gender-based violence (GBV) is an important institutional priority that requires sustained efforts. The World Bank has been a leader among multilateral development banks both in terms of mitigating the risks of sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment (SEAH) and embedding broader GBV prevention and response in operations. In our work to mitigate SEAH risks, the World Bank is now the first multilateral development bank to disqualify contractors for failing to comply with SEAH-related obligations. World Bank efforts place continuous emphasis on screening projects for SEAH risks and include survivor-centric mitigation measures. Management is aware of the complexity of addressing GBV and notes that operational teams face challenges, including in approaching the issue with government counterparts (an update will be provided to the Board of Executive Directors on the GBV Action Plan later in the spring). On prevention and response, management would like to highlight recent progress in the portfolio. Since 2017, there have been 162 Bank Group projects that incorporated actions to prevent and address GBV. These operations cut across all GPs, reflecting the need for a multisector response to eliminate GBV, including in transport; urban planning and design; in fragility, conflict, and violence; and through community mobilization and promotion of behavioral change.


To address the risk of further widening the gender gap during the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic shock, World Bank operations intentionally focus on strengthening systems and designing investments that help countries rebuild with greater strength and equality. The World Bank’s COVID-19 response operations have embedded actions to address relevant gender gaps; such actions include expanding social protection systems to cover female informal workers, ensuring that the vaccine rollout not only mitigates the potential for sexual exploitation and abuse but also strengthens women’s roles and leadership in health systems, and facilitating working capital and credit lines for women-owned firms through financial operations. The Gender Group will continue to share good practices from ongoing operations with task teams in the GPs and regions.

International Finance Corporation Management Comments


IFC congratulates the IEG team on a well-written report, and we are pleased that IEG recognizes IFC’s private sector efforts in closing gender gaps. We welcome the learnings from the review and appreciate IEG’s recognition of our commitment to the World Bank Group Gender Strategy and the quality of our implementation. Over the past several years, we have seen this agenda become a corporate priority under IFC 3.0 and the capital increase, and it is widely embraced by both management and staff. It is also reflected in both the Corporate Scorecards and IFC’s Key Performance Indicators and has seen growing client demand.


We appreciate the positive recognition of IFC’s well-organized implementation of the gender strategy, of its active role in developing a coordinated model, of the support provided by its staff designated to support work on gender, and of the overall commitment from management and staff. Regarding the scope of the review, we note that it is limited to an internal operational focus and does not consider an external market or client focus. Given increased client demand for gender-smart solutions, management believes it is important and relevant to include market and client perspectives in the final evaluation at the end of the strategy period. We acknowledge the candid review and welcome the recommendations for (i) better connecting operations with expertise and knowledge; (ii) implications on resourcing and capacity building, and strengthening the mandate of gender focal points; (iii) enhancing monitoring and evaluation of implementation; and (iv) opportunities moving forward, particularly for improved Bank Group collaboration, to support a country-driven approach.


IFC’s approach to supporting the closure of gender gaps is underpinned by multiple IFC instruments (research, investment, advice, and peer platforms to scale learning), collaboration with internal and external partners, as well as a programmatic approach connecting the global, regional, and country-level efforts in closing gender gaps. With this is in mind, management considers it important to assess how different regions, sectors, and industries vary in approaches and lessons in implementing the strategy.


It is important to recognize the IFC Gender Group’s entire mandate, as it plays a role not just in the coordination of the strategy but also in delivering client-facing gender operations. Extensive work has been done from the inception of the gender strategy, and includes, for example, research on the business case across a number of sectors and themes together with operations, peer learning platforms, innovative product development and client delivery, advice and support to operational colleagues, inputs to country strategies and diagnostics, and emphasis on building external communications and buy-in from the market. Building on this experience, IFC will place even more emphasis on targeted internal communication to facilitate better knowledge uptake by staff.


We acknowledge and agree with the finding that emphasis on project-level gender-flagging may be at odds with promoting a more multisectoral country-driven approach. We agree with IEG’s assessment on the need for a more holistic country-driven approach. IFC will leverage its experience in designing multisectoral country gender programs, such as that in Sri Lanka, and replicate this approach together with the World Bank in other countries. Additionally, management infers that beyond a high-level desk review, the Country Private Sector Diagnostics (CPSDs) and IFC country strategies were not fully part of IEG’s analysis in terms of how gender is or could be integrated, particularly since the analysis used a limited sample of countries. As the CPSDs and IFC country strategies are vital tools for assessing our country-level approach, we believe the findings to be somewhat limited in their applicability. To support its country-based program design, IFC will continue to integrate gender more systematically in its country strategies as well as the CPSDs.


The report refers to the need for greater uptake in IFC’s operational departments outside of IFC’s Gender Group and acknowledges programs such as the Financial Institutions Group’s Banking on Women. We agree and appreciate the need to broaden IFC’s operational gender footprint, particularly in terms of investments, but the level of effort that has been made to start embedding gender programs in other industry units beyond the Financial Institutions Group should be recognized. Broad uptake will take time, but compared with the period prior to the gender strategy (that is, before 2016) when industries had very limited gender capacity (for example, dedicated attention of staff or consultants and products), the situation has vastly improved because all IFC industries as well as other departments such as the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) team and Sector Economics and Development Impact team, now have some resources and support available through IFC’s industry gender focal points (as the report states, 27 focal points). IFC will continue its efforts in building capacity and incentives of its gender staff in supporting colleagues.


We acknowledge and agree with GBV being an area where more focus may be needed. Addressing GBV, including bullying and harassment, is an important topic for IFC. In this regard, it is important to consider the role of IFC’s ESG team, which addresses GBV from a compliance and risk perspective, as well as the role of the IFC Gender Group, which addresses GBV from an advisory perspective. Both roles are important in addressing GBV, and efforts are underway to continue to build expertise to further deepen our response. For instance, the ESG department recruited a global GBV expert in FY20 to address some of the issues already highlighted in the report. IFC will continue working on workplace GBV prevention and response by further exploring opportunities with our clients to create more respectful workplaces, strengthening internal capacity, raising staff awareness, generating research and knowledge, and adding to the existing business case on why it matters.


Although we note the Bank Group’s COVID-19 response was not considered in the review due to timing, it is vital to reflect how COVID-19 could potentially affect implementation of the World Bank Group Gender Strategy. Preliminary evidence suggests that the pandemic has magnified preexisting gender inequalities, therefore making it even more important to understand how our investments and advice can contribute to closing gaps between women and men. IFC’s ongoing COVID-19 response across investments, advisory, and analytics reflects a gender focus, and we are proactively working on preventing further deepening of inequalities, particularly in terms of finance, care, employment, and entrepreneurship. In addition to several dedicated COVID-19 gender guidance notes and project engagements with clients, IFC and UN Women have published a report together that highlights how private sector companies can support women amid the pandemic. IFC is working in partnership with the World Bank and other development finance institutions to further our understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on women and men and to translate findings into support for our clients, enabling them to address widening gender gaps.