Turning the gender lens inwards: INASP’s Gender Audit


INASP staff demonstrating their commitments to being gender inclusive on IWD.

Blog post by Ruth Bottomley, Senior Programme Manager, Research Development and Support, INASP

Over the last few years there has been growing recognition within INASP that a commitment to incorporating gender considerations in our work is critical to meeting our mission to support individuals and institutions to produce, share and use research and knowledge, which can transform lives. This commitment to gender equity is clearly outlined in the INASP Strategy, but putting the commitment into practice can be challenging.

We realized that an important step towards helping us to meet this commitment was to turn the gender lens on ourselves to see how well we are addressing gender issues in our work. To do this, we decided to conduct a gender audit of our programmes over a period of six months in 2016.

We wanted the audit to:

  • explore how effectively the particular needs of men and women are accounted for in INASP programmes.
  • identify the gaps and challenges that need to be addressed.
  • enhance staff understanding of the importance of gender issues in the work that we do.
  • result in recommendations and guidance that could help to ensure that gender can be mainstreamed practically and effectively in current and future programme work.

The audit process

  1. Recruiting expertise: Fitting a gender audit into our busy day to day working lives was the next challenge. We decided that the best way to do it was to recruit a consultant to lead the work (in fact we had two excellent consultants who worked with us) and to use participatory methods which would involve INASP staff and some of our associates and partners to ensure sensitization and buy-in to the audit process as it proceeded. The very term, “gender audit” can appear confronting, and so we were keen to ensure that the process was conducted in a non-threatening, inclusive and explanatory way, which enabled all involved to raise any concerns and to build their own understanding and awareness.
  2. Facilitate organizational participation: Although we are a relatively small organization, we have three programme teams and three cross-cutting teams, plus a senior management group and several associates based in different countries who support our work. We also wanted to ensure that the perspectives of our partners were included in the process. To get the participation of all of these different actors required an internal coordination process which was provided by our Gender Working Group. This working group was established in 2015 and comprises representatives from across the organization. The group worked closely with the consultants, and acted as the main information channel regarding the audit process to the rest of the staff, the associates and partners.
  3. Develop an audit framework: The methodology for the audit was developed by the consultants in consultation with the Gender Working Group, and included the development of an audit framework identifying the main areas of enquiry, a document review, and focus group discussions and individual interviews with staff, partners and associates. Workshops were held with the staff both to introduce the audit process, to provide some gender sensitization, and to present and discuss the findings.

 Putting the recommendations into action

The audit provided recommendations across different areas of our work. Specifically, the audit recommended that we build on our existing good practices around gender equality, by:

  1. Encouraging shared responsibility for mainstreaming gender throughout the organization,
  2. Building opportunities for capacity building and knowledge sharing on gender both within our organization and our networks,
  3. Ensuring contextual gender analysis in programme planning and inception,
  4. Integrating gender dimensions into our existing Monitoring and Evaluation, capacity development and communications work.

The findings and recommendations were presented and discussed with the staff during the final workshop at the end of the process, and the Gender Working Group, with support from the consultants and in liaison with their respective teams, developed short, medium and longer term action plans based on the recommendations. The short-term action plan covers a six-month period from October 2016 – March 2017 and includes “quick-wins” in terms of relatively easy actions that can be implemented to boost our gender work and profile. The medium term plan is currently being developed and will lay out the key actions for the next year. The action plan progress is monitored by the Gender Working Group on a quarterly basis and the key milestones are included within the INASP Operational Plan.

It is clear that the focus on gender over the last year has boosted our knowledge and confidence regarding gender issues, and there has been a marked positive shift in thinking across the organization. Our own expertise is developing in how to address gender issues within our programme design, in our discussions with partners, and in the way we think and conduct our everyday work.

Some reflections

This gender audit was a first for INASP. Some of the reflections on the process gathered through the staff workshops and Gender Working Group discussions are as follows:

  • Having the support of INASP senior managers and our donors, DFID and Sida, was essential to enabling us to conduct the audit and to feel confident that we would be able to take the recommendations forward.
  • It was important that all INASP staff were involved in the audit process and understood the aims and objectives. The workshops and focus group discussions enabled INASP staff to be involved in the process actively, without taking too much time away from other work. The focus group discussions were particularly effective in enabling people to engage and feel comfortable to raise concerns and opinions.
  • Having external consultants facilitate the process was beneficial as they had the expertise to address any sensitivities and difficult conversations that emerged during the process.
  • The Gender Working Group served an important role as both the main internal liaison group with the consultants, and as the liaison with the different teams. The group continues to play a key role in advancing the gender work within INASP through the action plans.

The gender audit has given all of us in INASP a platform on which to build our future programme work with regards to gender, so that we can really begin to act on our commitment of promoting equity and addressing issues of power within the research and knowledge system. This process also helped us to think about how to approach gender issues with partners. ■

Find out more about how INASP supports gender mainstreaming in higher education.


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