Brigham Research Institute Poster Session Site logo-1
Close this search box.

Jennifer Scott, MD, MPH




Assistant Professor


Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Brigham and Women's Hospital


Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Department of Medicine


Vandana Sharma, MD, MPH, Annika Gompers, MPhil, Siri Chilazi, MPP, Yimegnushal Takele, MA, Rose Molina, MD, MPH, Jocelyn Kelly, PhD, Negussie Deyessa, MD, PhD, Arsema Solomon, MA

Principal Investigator

Jennifer Scott, MD, MPH


Measuring gender bias in the workplace to improve gender equity in health and humanitarian programming: The Humanitarian Gender Study

The inclusion of sex and gender variables in research is an important step toward gender equity in workplace environments, workforce diversity and inclusion, and organizational effectiveness. However, there is limited evidence on gender biases among humanitarian practitioners and organizations and few interventions beyond standard training.

The Humanitarian Gender Study assessed how all genders experience and observe gender biases in the workplace and how these biases may impact organizational processes, health program design and delivery, and career advancement for women. The study utilized the Seven Areas Framework and adapted gender bias measurement tools that may be relevant to other health and service organizations. The learning from this study was used to develop low-cost ‘de-biasing’ interventions that could be applied in other organizations. Aligned with the “Break the Bias” theme of the 2022 International Women’s Day, this research advances evidence toward achieving a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.


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.

Research Context