The African Development Bank (AfDB) has announced on International Women’s Day the launch of a major gender competition in order to promote gender equality in its operations.
“Following the successful internal idea competition in 2016 or ‘INNOPitch’, I am today officially launching a special 2017 edition of INNOPitch called ‘Gender INNOPitch’ to generate innovative ideas on gender mainstreaming,” said AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina. “Staff will be invited to submit ideas on mainstreaming gender in their work and seed funding of US $10,000 per idea will be awarded to the most innovative ideas that have the potential to generate impact on gender outcomes,” he added.
In an Op-Ed published on International Women’s Day, he recalled that “Sub-Saharan Africa will achieve gender parity in 79 years according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2016 published by the World Economic Forum.”
He urged all stakeholders (governments, development partners, civil society) to “close the gender gap in Africa with bold actions. We need more women as CEOs, in parliaments, as engineers, computer scientists, astronauts, and as Heads of State – traditional areas dominated by men,” he added.
The African Development Bank is taking bold actions to address the gender gap in Africa. Its Gender Strategy, “Investing in Gender Equality for Africa’s Transformation: 2014-2018”, seeks to strengthen gender mainstreaming in all its operations and strategies. In this regard, the AfDB is finalizing a Gender Marker System. This system will help AfDB ensure that gender is firmly taken into account in all of the Bank’s activities, and that the gender impact of projects is properly measured.
“We are doing better in mainstreaming gender into our Bank operations,” Adesina emphasized. “When comparing the years 2012-2013 to 2014-2015, the Bank has improved its performance in gender parity in job creation and gender-specific training for jobs. Gender specific impacts of a Bank’s operations by sector are becoming more equal between females and males, and is even higher at 60% in favour of women in education,” he wrote in his Op-Ed.
The AfDB is also implementing its Affirmative Financing Action for Women in Africa Program (AFAWA). AFAWA aims to catalyze and optimally deploy resources towards the objective of improving women’s access to finance. The goal is ambitious: through the mobilization of US $300 million, the AfDB aims to leverage an additional US $3 billion for AFAWA.
In a video statement posted on AfDB’s website, Jennifer Blanke, AfDB Vice-President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, is bullish about promoting gender equality. “The AfDB has the footprint and the capacity to influence real transformative change. We are committed to using our resources to promote positive action as well as accountability in favour of gender parity,” she said.
The Gender Strategy will also need to address AfDB’s own internal transformation to make it a more supportive, gender-responsive institution, valuing its female and male staff equally. “Presently, women represent one third of all AfDB’s staff, with one third in management, one third of professional experts and close to two thirds of support staff,” Blanke observed.
To increase the number of women at professional and management level, the AfDB has reviewed its recruitment process, ensuring significant representation of women in the long- and short-listing process. Other recruitment vehicles are being used to increase gender parity such as the Young Professionals Program, with the most recent 2016 cohort comprised of 60% women.
“At the Bank, we are working hard internally to close the gender gap. Of the recent Senior Management appointments I have made to run the business of the Bank in our five regional offices, 50% are women,” Adesina wrote in his Op-Ed.
The AfDB is indeed making great strides in terms of Senior Management recruitment. In addition to the women appointed at executive positions in the Bank’s five regional hubs, more women have been appointed at the Senior Management level including Presidential Advisors, the Senior Vice-President, Frannie Léautier, and Vice-President Jennifer Blanke.
“We must continue to work hard on this and are committed to attaining 50/50 by 2030,” said Blanke.
The AfDB has also reviewed its internal policies to improve the working environment such as providing breastfeeding facilities in offices and allowing mothers still breastfeeding to travel on official missions with their infants. The Bank has also introduced a women’s mentorship pilot program, “Crossing Thresholds.” This program has proven to be very empowering for women. It provides women in the Bank with an opportunity to develop their career in a structured and supportive environment.