Right before the winter break, 236 women and men from 105 different organizations and 46 countries around the world joined our International Dialogue on Gender-Responsive Leadership, to discuss an absolutely critical and often missing part of the gender equality puzzle: gender-responsive leadership.

After twenty years of struggling to achieve the commitments of the global women, peace and security agenda, we at the FBA have learned that executives and managers are essential to success. Not just as supporters, but as proactive drivers of organizational change towards gender equality. And we are not the only ones.

As part of its feminist foreign policy, the Swedish government recently identified leadership as one of Sweden’s top three priorities for implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. The European Union agrees, in their new Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment they call for the establishment of “gender-responsive and gender-balanced leadership at top EU political and management levels.”

Fantastic! But what does gender-responsive leadership actually mean? In search of a clear answer, we joined forces with Dr. Leslie Groves Williams, a senior gender and leadership expert that we collaborate with, and pulled together a team of bright and experienced women, peace and security specialists and leadership experts to do a deep-dive into the topic.

And here is our answer in brief: A gender-responsive leader is a person in an executive or management position who actively works towards equality between all women and men – both within their own workplace and through their specific area of work – by:

  1. Leading by example
  2. Setting priorities and strategies
  3. Communicating clearly and convincingly
  4. Managing and developing staff, resources and operations
  5. Holding self and others to account

When we presented this draft framework during the International Dialogue on Gender-Responsive Leadership, the participants questioned back. How are we taking intersectionality into account? How do we motivate leaders to become gender-responsive? And can this framework be applied at community-level in times of conflict? Excellent questions that will guide our final revisions.

Behind this joint vision are decades of experience – successes and challenges – from working with leaders in peace operations and civilian crisis management on gender equality. And we continued to learn from each other during the International Dialogue, with brilliant insights from representatives of the African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Stockholm University, Swedish Armed Forces and the United Nations.

Take the Swedish Armed Forces, who pioneered gender equality training for their highest ranking officials back in 2007. It is now a mandatory two-year training programme for top military commanders; the Gender Coach Programme – where participants attend monthly seminars, individual coaching sessions, develop action plans and are then expected to deliver concrete gender equality results. And they do!

So, what is next to make change happen? We are piloting the gender-responsive leadership framework through a 24-hour leadership development programme, sequenced over eleven weeks, with the United Nations departments responsible for peace operations and political and peacebuilding affairs.

Then another round of revision – drawing from feedback shared during the International Dialogue as well as from the leaders, gender experts and leadership specialists from key FBA partner organizations that make up our International Advisory Group. And this is just the beginning.

Before the end of 2021, we will launch an online multimedia resource hub on gender-responsive leadership. With your engagement, input and partnership – we look forward to making gender-responsive leadership a reality!

Watch the FBA International Dialogue on Gender-Responsive Leadership here.

Contact kristin.valasek(at)fba.se for more information, including to receive a copy of our draft framework and to sign up to our newsletter on gender-responsive leadership.