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We have long advocated for more widespread use of median income or median consumption to compare individuals’ material well-being between countries and its development over time. Unfortunately, finding up-to-date data had not been easy. While the data needed to calculate country medians has been available via the World Bank’s PovcalNet database for over five years, users had to enter a series of guesstimates for each country to find the income or consumption where the associated headcount was at 50% (aka the median). We have asked the Bank repeatedly to set its poverty data free and make the median more easily available. We even published our own, downloadable list of country medians to fill the data gap.
We are happy to report that the World Bank team that manages the (impressive) PovcalNet database has come through: as of October 1, the median monthly per capita income or consumption for each country is now part of the standard indicators displayed for any country query on PovcalNet (see screenshot below). We applaud the team for this update (and we thank Chico Ferreira in particular, our worthy colleague on the inside at the Bank).
Having relatively easy access to up-to date, official median income/consumption data is also exciting news for development professionals. The median offers researchers a more representative indicator for material well-being than GDP or GNI per capita. It is an easy-to-grasp measure that is also ‘distribution aware’: unlike GDP or GNI, the median will only rise if at least half of the country’s population is better off. Median income or consumption data can also be useful for development organizations, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, to complement existing indicators when it comes to assessing county needs and investment priorities.
Christal Morehouse, Alla Volkova, and Silvia Fierăscu of The Open Society Foundation (OSF) have just issued a fascinating report on the gender breakdown of speakers at 23 high-level conferences across Europe—including nine forums, six conferences, four meetings, three summits, and a games and an ideas lab (which adds up to 24 because the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is a Meeting at a Forum—doubtless why it costs $71,000 to attend).
The OSF team tracks 12,600 speaking roles between 2012 and mid-2017 and finds that across conferences with data for 2012 and 2016 there’s a welcome trend: 14 of the 15 conferences had a larger proportion of women speaking in the later year. But across the sample they still find that overall men occupied 74 percent of speaking roles and women only 26 percent. Women were better represented amongst keynotes and moderators than panelists—where only 24 percent were women.
Some gender equality leaders stand out: Chatham House had 44 percent women speakers at its 2016 London Conference, for example. Chatham House’s Laura Dunkley reports that the institution:
recently launched an internal gender awareness action plan. Covering three strands of Chatham House’s activities, the work will aim to build a toolkit for think tanks operating within international affairs…Specifically on convening and debate, Chatham House is committed to no all-male speaker panels at events and encouraging staff to uphold this commitment when speaking externally. Chatham House places equal importance on creating a greater mix of gender representation in participants, as well as ensuring events and workshops are designed to facilitate and encourage inputs and contributions from all participants.
We look forward to seeing—and learning from—this toolkit. And the OSF report is well worth reading in full both for the data and ideas on how to improve. But OSF doesn’t report on the proportion of European conference panels that are all-male—Euromanels, if you will. So we used the OSF’s dataset to calculate that.
Gender Breakdown of European Conference Panels
In short: the Euromanel is alive and well. Of the 2,282 panels in the database we looked at, 903 (or 40 percent) were all male. At the other end of the scale, 56 (2.5 percent) were all women. In the middle 280 (12.3 percent) were 50/50 gender-balanced (only possible on panels with even numbers of participants, of course) and 154 (6.8 percent) had more women than men but did have a man. Some comforting data: over time (between 2012 and 2017) the proportion of Euromanels has gone from 43 percent to 33 percent (though note that is over a changing set of conferences).
Thanks to OSF for quantifying and highlighting the conference speaker gender gap in Europe. Doubtless the situation is little different in the United States, and we’d love to see data on that.
Data notes: We used the OSF data on panel membership alone (excluding keynotes, moderators, and others), dropping panels that appeared to have only one panelist and a few observations that were potentially duplicate or where the panel name was too generic to ensure it was a separate event from other listed panels. You can download our code here.
Women’s equality and empowerment is a driver of economic growth and development around the world, and development organizations routinely include and espouse this goal as part of their missions and activities. But if you peel back the curtain, there are serious questions about whether—behind the scenes—development organizations are living up to these values in the workplace.
My colleagues Tanvi Jaluka and Charles Kenny analyzed a random sample of 30 US organizations (10 each from foundations, think tanks, and NGOs) that work on global development, and found that less than one-third of key/high-paid employees at the sampled think tanks are women, and that key/high-paid women appear to be paid less than key/high-paid men in all three of the sample groups. Some years ago, my then-colleague Victoria Fan and current colleague Rachel Silverman asked “who runs the global health world?” and concluded: not women.
The data is clear: there is more that we can all be doing, and it’s time to look inward.
First, development aid organizations need better workplace policies. One woman wrote to us on Twitter last week, telling us that she’s running a project that encourages Moroccan companies to adopt better maternity leave practices, but she has no maternity leave herself. That’s not okay. Every organization needs to look at their own policies and assess what needs to change to recruit, hire, and pay women equally.
At the Center for Global Development, we are taking a hard look at the makeup of our board, for example. We recently lost three valuable women leaders (Henrietta Fore to UNICEF, Dina Habib Powell to the Trump administration, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to an expiring term), so we’re starting more targeted outreach to new board members, hoping to better match our values to our board composition. We are also disappointed by the low male participation in any CGD event branded as relating to women; our stats are dismal. At non-gender-related events, about half of participants are male. At gender-related events, only 13 percent of the audience is male.
Elsewhere in the field, the World Health Organization’s great move to diversify its leadership was welcome (see here), although the fact that a merit-based competition was not part of those appointments left some with a funny aftertaste. It was exciting to see my former employer, the Inter-American Development Bank, obtain EDGE Certification and commit to parity last year, but it is disappointing that an organization can be certified when only six of 25 board members are women, and 10 of its 33 top leaders are women, with most of the 10 in charge of administrative matters. At the World Bank Group, Jishnu Das and co-authors find a gender wage gap between male and female professionals of about $27,400 between 1987 and 2015, mainly explained by men entering the WBG in higher paid positions and by differential rates of salary growth throughout careers favoring men. (The World Bank has also committed to parity.)
So there’s been progress, but there is much more to do.
Second, development organizations need to foster work environments that are safe spaces for women and people of all genders. The #MeToo movement and recent allegations against aggressors and their enablers at Oxfam and Save the Children are reminders that sexual harassment and exploitation occur in all sectors, and development is no exception. When it happens, organizations should be ready to take it seriously and respond quickly and fairly.
Finally, there’s the subtle stuff. It’s pointing out a problem when you see it, as in Alice Evans’ response to a mostly male list of “top development thinkers.” It’s taking—and upholding—Owen Barder’s pledge not to appear on male-only panels (we’re as guilty as everyone). It’s creating space for discussions like this to happen, and really listening to what people are saying. It is easy to become more aware, but not easy to change. Cultural shift and leadership is essential to make policies effective.
In that spirit of discussion, the Center for Global Development is hosting an event with Devex at 4:00 pm ET on Tuesday, March 6, called Practicing What We Preach, which will highlight practical ways organizations can live up to their promises for a gender-equal workplace. I’m honored to be joined by Alice Evans, lecturer in international development at King’s College London; Angela Bruce-Raeburn, formerly of Oxfam; and my colleague Cindy Huang, co-director of CGD’s Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy Program, along with Devex’s Kate Warren and Kate Wathen.
We hope you’ll be there too, sharing your tips and experiences and keeping the conversation going.