As we begin a new year, researchers at CGD are looking forward to sharing new findings and policy proposals through our newsletters, podcasts, and publications. But one of our primary ways of communicating our work is through the events we host. Unfortunately, since the launch of CGD’s gender and development research program, we’ve noticed something about who attends what events, and it looks like nearly half the audience we’d like present when we talk about gender equality is missing in action.
We analyzed participant data from 12 gender-related events and 12 randomly-selected (but similarly-sized) non-gender-related events hosted by CGD, and the evidence is very clear: men aren’t showing up for gender equality. At the 12 non-gender-related events, 47 percent of the participants were male. At gender-related events, only 13 percent of the audience was male. The non-gender event with the lowest proportion of men had higher male participation than the gender event with the highest proportion of men. See the tables below for comparison.
This isn’t a problem unique to CGD, of course. When Emma Watson launched the campaign “HeForShe” to enlist men in the struggle for gender equality, she noted that when Hillary Clinton declared that women’s rights were human rights in Beijing in 1995, only 30 percent of that audience was male. It’s a small sample, but from the data above, it doesn’t seem like there’s been much improvement (if any) in making gender meeting audiences more gender-balanced.
Why do we need men to show up to discussions about gender?
In the US Congress, 80 percent of our lawmakers are male. In NATO, 12 out of 14 principal officials are men. In the United Nations, 90 percent of envoys are male. By and large, our policymakers, advocates, and lawmakers are men. But if men don’t participate in gender-related discussions they can’t act on what they learn.
And conversations about gender affect men, too. When we talk about gender, we’re not just talking about women. We’re talking about the way socially constructed norms constrain the opportunities of women and men, girls and boys—albeit through different pathways. The consequences of gender inequality affect everyone—while the gains from achieving gender equality are clear. From increasing the labor force participation rate to fighting HIV/AIDS, there is plenty the gender and development field has done—and can continue to do—for both men and women. Even interventions that particularly target women, like ending sexual and gender-based violence, have to involve men and are proven to benefit men and women alike.
Despite institutions like the United Nations and the European Commission affirming their commitment to engage men and boys, the truth is that there simply aren’t enough men—at the very least in Washington—showing up to listen and engage when discussions focused on advancing gender equality are held. Our colleague Owen Barder rails against all-male panels. At meetings about gender we face the risk of all-female audiences.
If any men out there are still looking for a New Year’s resolution, what about committing to attend an event discussing one of the myriad development issues related to gender? You’ll be most welcome.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.