Setting Strategic Gender Equality Targets

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This guide helps organizations prioritize actions and measure progress toward gender-equality at time-bound intervals.

Women represent half of the world’s employment potential, and effectively developing this talent will increase an organization's competitive advantage. A growing body of evidence demonstrates a correlation between gender diversity at the executive level and company performance. A recent study by McKinsey analyzed more than 1,000 companies in 12 countries and concluded that gender-diverse companies are more likely to outperform their national industry average in terms of profitability.

Despite the evidence demonstrating women’s value in the workforce, women continue to encounter structural barriers to participating in the world economy, particularly in industries traditionally dominated by men.

Successful Target Setting for Gender Equality  

Organizations can make strategic changes to promote gender equality that benefit its workforce and bottomline. Setting and articulating clear milestones enables an organization to define the incremental steps needed over a period of months or years to realize gender equality goals. It also allows an organization to monitor, evaluate, analyze, and determine whether gender equality initiatives are on track to achieve longer term impact. In order to strategically set targets and ensure resources are being used efficiently, it’s important to monitor progress towards each target to determine whether or not gender equality initiatives are helping the organization achieve its overall vision.

Through its Engendering Industries program, USAID created a practical guide to help organizations prioritize actions and measure progress toward gender-equality at time-bound intervals. It guides human resource (HR) professionals, diversity and inclusion officers, and senior leadership on how to set, monitor and achieve Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) targets. It also provides a useful checklist for success, resources, and examples of gender equality milestones and targets. 

This guide should be used alongside Delivering Gender Equality: A Best Practices Framework for Male-Dominated Industries, a USAID resource that helps organizations establish a roadmap for sustained progress in integrating gender equity throughout operations and corporate structures. The Best Practices Framework, which outlines over 130 actions known to increase gender equality in the workplace, guides the evidence-based implementation of strategic activities at each phase of the employee life cycle.

Using SMART Targets to Achieve Change

Establish a Baseline

An organization should conduct a thorough gender analysis of the current state of its organization and establish a baseline.

Ensure Buy-in and Input

Once the baseline is complete, the organization should establish the gender target with significant buy-in and input from diverse teams and senior leadership.

Plan to Monitor the Target

The organization should establish who is accountable, outline responsibilities, and determine how they will measure progress toward gender equality.

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Ryan Kilpatrick / USAID

Launched in 2015, USAID’s Engendering Industries program supports organizations in developing countries to increase economic opportunities for women and improve gender equality in the workplace. Expanding women’s participation in male-dominated sectors leads to tangible economic empowerment outcomes for women, such as formal employment opportunities and higher income. Increased gender equality also improves an organization’s business performance, helping companies meet their bottom-line by enhancing employee satisfaction, reducing turnover, and driving productivity. Well-functioning organizations are also vital in supporting stronger and more resilient economies. Through a customized best practices framework, demand-driven coaching, and a Gender Equity Executive Leadership Program, Engendering Industries builds the capacity of leaders to implement gender equality interventions that increase the professional participation of women and improve business performance.

Monday, October 25, 2021 - 12:15pm

Last updated: February 23, 2022