Accountability for making actual progress, not just paying lip service to gender equality, is central to the initiative, and commitments need to be directly relevant to the specific challenges and opportunities of each Champion’s organisation.

Champions were asked to undertake two additional concrete and measurable (S.M.A.R.T.) institutional actions to advance gender equality, either in the executive management of the organisation or in its programmatic work . These actions could be drawn from strategy documents or work plans of the organization, existing work could be made more visible with a view to strengthening ongoing efforts, or new initiatives could be launched specifically due to the initiative.

Approximately 300 commitments were made by Champions in the first year of the initiative. Some deeply targeted, some aspirational, commitments fall on a broad spectrum depending on where each Champion’s organisation currently lies on its path to gender equality.

What are S.M.A.R.T. Commitments?

Specific; Measurable; Achievable (Action-oriented & Ambitious); Realistic (Relevant & Resourced); Time-Bound.

Champions reported on 156 commitments in the survey, with examples cited under specific categories below (each commitment could be assigned to more than one category).

Good Governance (26% of commitments)

  • Ensure that at least 30% of participants in IPU Assemblies are women, and that all decision-making structures of the IPU comprise a minimum of 30% women by 2017 and reach 40% by 2020. (IPU)
  • IFRC Strategic Framework on Gender and Diversity should be implemented by IFCR Secretariat, and adopted by at least 50% of its member National Societies for national application. (IFRC)

Leadership and Accountability (41% of commitments)

  • Create a Gender Equality Seal for the Union by the end of 2016. (IUCN)
  • Undertake a global survey and research on the situation of women in the world of work to identify aspirations, obstacles and innovative action. (ILO) Meetings & Conferences (30%)
  • Encourage gender balance among delegates and track and publish those numbers of female delegates attending the conferences. (ITU)

Organizational Culture (49% of commitments)

  • Gender equality and human rights e-learning series on mainstreaming competencies launched with 80% of new HQ level staff having completed the module by September 2016. (WHO)
  • Eliminate gender stereotypes in the allocation of responsibilities by assigning tasks based on the individuals’ skills, aptitudes and aspirations and not on sexual stereotypes. (Mexico)

Recruitment & Selection (25%)

  • Improve by 10 points the percentage of women in management level at the Permanent Mission by 1 Sept 2016. (Switzerland)

Work-Life Balance (19%)

  • Strive for a balance of work and family life for both women and men. We will, inter alia, avoid calling meetings in the early morning or late afternoon. (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden are working together to realise their commitments)

Interview findings indicate that many commitments were originally made in consultation with focal points in order to fully grasp organisational capacity and needs. In many cases, the design and formulation of these public commitments were used to reinvigorate, develop and/or improve gender policies and programmes. Focal points have found that the public nature of the leadership commitments has given them the additional mandate to push through pipeline activities and sometimes stretch them further. More specifically, the initiative has helped push the development of targeted action plans to ensure timely implementation of gender policies.

Overall, a significant number of first-year commitments have been met. Some of these commitments are being replaced, while others will remain in place to further build upon for even greater impact. Of the commitments that were not met, many related to Leadership & Accountability and Organisational Culture, which tend to be longer-term in nature. Going forward, it would be useful to break commitments into yearly targets so that tangible progress can be measured more easily. At the same time, only 1% of commitments were determined to have proven unfeasible. Of the commitments that were met, Champions stated that approximately half the time they encountered no major hurdles. Where obstacles were encountered, the primary explanation related to lack of resources or dedicated staffing. In interviews, several focal points also spoke of the need to get more buy-in from senior and middle managers in their organisations.