On this International Women’s Day, we feel it is important to talk about the issue of gender. A little over a year ago, the media revealed sex scandals involving employees of NGOs, raising the issue of sexual violence and Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) in the sector, and questioning more generally the environment in which humanitarians work.

Sexual harassment, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation are promoted by inequalities between women and men in many societies and even more so in our workplace. The rampant sexism in society permits these behaviors, and it would be unrealistic to think that the humanitarian sector is spared. To overcome this, it is necessary to take into account the question of gender in a cross-sectional way, at all levels.

The issue of gender is very often approached only through the prism of the salary or access to employment, but the whole work environment must be assessed.

  • We sometimes associate a certain level of responsibility with availability, and therefore overtime, and even if an evolution can be observed regarding this, it is often the mother who takes care of the children at the end of the day in the home;
  • A high workload and long working hours can discourage applications by women;
  • The adequate conditions to allow parity in an organization are not all tangible;
  • Sexist behaviors, however frequent, may go unnoticed and go unpunished because they are considered to be “normal”, and they are not identified as sexist and inappropriate.

We do not take the time to study these facts, to consider the number of occurrences, to question the behaviors of the employees.

Indeed, a number of sexist behaviors are tolerated because they are considered to be done in humor. Comments on the way female colleagues dress, jokes about a behavior considered to be typically feminine such as “she must have her period”, “women are often competitive with each other” must not be tolerated. A study [1] by Western Carolina University shows that sexist jokes reinforce sexist behaviors and beliefs. Beyond the fact that they are offensive and that they have no place in a professional environment, they trivialize the seriousness of sexism and encourage the behavior of people who consider that women and men are not equal.

There is the impression that women and men are given the same opportunities at the time of recruitment, but everyone has gender-related prejudices. Around the world, both women and men are raised in patriarchal societies, and it is therefore not easy to identify these prejudices and question them. One wonders if a woman will have the capacity for this position, the resilience under difficult conditions, the firm hand that is considered necessary; so many features that are considered more masculine. On the contrary, for some positions we will seek flexibility, ability to listen, sensitivity, characteristics that we consider feminine. These are sexist prejudices. Their consequence is the virtual absence of women in some positions, safety management being one example. An imbalance that is not justified. Humanitalents ensures that the issue of gender is taken into account in each of its HR projects. It is a component that must be integrated into every HR procedure, tool and practice. Once this framework is established, it is necessary to ensure its application and penalties for misconduct. The environment will be truly gender-balanced only when women are listened to, respected, and action is taken against those who display sexism or violence against them. Setting the rules is a first step, but they will only be useful if they are known to all and applied rigorously.

[1]https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071106083038.htm