Few international entities working in international development, humanitarian aid, or similar sectors, are systematically implementing gender-sensitive procurement (GSP) in their own
operations, a rapid survey of 40 such multilateral, bilateral, and non-profit organisations conducted for this report shows. Of the 15 organisations that responded with information by email, the reported practices stand as follows: 3 organisations do not implement GSP and are not considering it (though one mentions gender mainstreaming as the alternative approach adopted); 2 are considering it; 3 are considering it and have piloted it; 2 have adopted it and are implementing it through pilots or ad hoc projects; 4 have adopted it and are launching it organisation-wide (2 with firm goals, 2 on a voluntary basis); and 1 has adopted and implemented it organisation-wide for several months. The organisations that have piloted or fully applied it have overwhelmingly chosen a model where they primarily seek to increase sourcing from women-owned or women-controlled businesses. Because implementation remains in its infancy across the board, there is little evidence on results, be it self-reported or external, and there is no comparative evidence contrasting the effects of different models or implementations.
Gender-sensitive procurement is one important way to advance gender equality and women’s rights in local, national, and international economies, as noted by the UN High-Level Panel on
Women’s Economic Empowerment (HLP-WEE, 2017b, 2017a). Certainly, there are worldwide debates and contestations about the outsourcing of public goods and services, particularly in
light of negative effects on quality and equality in public services, especially for women’s and girls’ rights (Bretton Woods Project, n.d.; Nyeck, 2015; UN Women, 2017). Distinctly though,
procurement practices have also been widely criticised for producing and reproducing biases against women. Women-owned businesses globally “earn less than 1% of the money” that large
corporations and governments spend on products and services, according to research by WEConnect International (Vazquez & Frankel, 2017, p. 9).
Within this, large international aid actors are major spenders on procurement. For example, in 2016, the United Nations (UN) spent US$17.7 billion on purchase of services, goods and civil
works (UNGM, 2018). Yet, most of these actors have not yet implemented gender-responsive procurement policies and practices that would significantly and systematically redress gender
inequalities. Many have pledged to advance gender equality in their own operations, including through procurement, and have sometimes produced guides and data that encourage private
and public entities to adopt GSP (Chin, 2014, 2017; Harris Rimmer (ed.), 2017; Kirton, 2013; O’Rourke, Leire, & Bowden, 2013). However, rapid research conducted for this report found a
dearth of information on GSP that would be publically and easily available from these actors. Even data from the email survey is limited, self-reported, and often preliminary.
The following main findings emerge from the emailed data gathered in this rapid research:
- Increasing sourcing from businesses owned and/or controlled by women is by far the most common model used. It is the main approach both among respondents considering GSP and those that have piloted or adopted GSP.
- Other frequent models that respondents mention, alongside or instead of the above, include: sourcing from suppliers that internally advance equality or empowerment for women (e.g. good gender balance in their workforce and/or teams, good representation of women at all levels, and/or good gender equality policies); or sourcing from suppliers that commit to recruiting a percentage of women for the awarded contract.