Gender biases can be conscious or unconscious, and manifest in subtle and obvious ways. In the workplace, gender bias influences program design, implementation, evaluation and organizational processes, policies and decision-making, and may impact health and humanitarian programming. Addressing gender biases among humanitarian practitioners and organizations could promote equitable and inclusive humanitarian responses. However, there are limited data on gender bias and few interventions designed for global health and humanitarian organizations beyond standard training programs.
Based on evidence and consultations, we developed a framework describing seven workplace areas that may be influenced by gender bias and adapted existing gender bias scales. An online global survey of humanitarian practitioners was conducted in 2020-2021 (N=177, 134 women, 39 men, 4 another gender) to measure prevalence of gender bias and its effects. Descriptive statistics were calculated using Chi-square or Fisher’s exact tests to compare indicators by gender. Qualitative examples of gender bias shared in the survey were categorized using the framework and coded.
Overall, 57% of respondents (64% of women, 31% of men, 75% of individuals of another gender, p<0.001) reported experiencing gender bias. The most common areas where gender bias was reported include day-to-day work, field-based work, interactions with affected populations and organizational processes. Respondents reported negative effects of gender bias on their organizations’ programming (47%), their own well-being (43%), career progression (40%), earnings (35%), and work productivity (32%). In total, 85 qualitative examples of gender bias in the workplace were recorded.
This research suggests experiences of gender biases are common among our sample and negatively affect humanitarian practitioners, programs, and organizations. Beyond inclusion of sex and gender variables in programming, organizations providing humanitarian assistance should implement actions to measure and address gender bias. Our findings could inform interventions to create more inclusive work environments and humanitarian programming.