It’s no secret: Girls around the world face unique and greater barriers to success after school as entrepreneurs, in the workforce, and as leaders in their communities.
Last International Women’s Day, we shared the ways we’ve been working to build an expertise in gender, describing how we embarked on a research opportunity to maintain and build up gender justice as a priority across our organization as we scale. Over the past year, we focused on taking what we learned one step further, implementing a comprehensive gender justice strategy across our all of our key stakeholders: students, teachers, government officials, and staff members. Key components of this gender strategy include:
Gender mainstreaming in lesson plans
All Educate! lesson plans in Uganda and Rwanda were written through a gender equity lens and now emphasize the idea that entrepreneurship skills can be learned—not associated with personal attributes like gender. These curriculum updates directly impact over 19,000 students in Uganda and 6,000 students in Rwanda.
Teacher mindset shifts
Our research last year demonstrated that our gender equity teacher strategy in Uganda was effective in changing teacher perceptions. This year, we expanded on that strategy in Uganda and rolled out a similar strategy in Rwanda. Our goal is to develop an effective approach to training teachers in gender justice to ensure the sustainability of our strategy as we work with governments on education reforms. Targeted gender training for teachers has resulted in 409 schools in Uganda implementing a Gender Code of Behavior in their schools, through a participatory workshop where teachers co-created expectations around gender and committed themselves to ﬁve actions related to gender equity in the classroom.
Gender balance on our team
In 2016, we observed with concern that we had moved away from a 50/50 gender balance on our team, with more male than female members of our field staff. In response, we developed strategies to remove bias in the recruitment process, set gender ratios for staff recruitment, and trained our staff on gender equity. In 2017, these efforts paid off and we were able to get back to our gender balance goal, while also maintaining this balance as we scaled. Our current staff gender ratio is 59% female and 41% male with 80% of our top leadership positions held by women.
A culture of support
We developed an organization-wide Ethics Guide to promote a shared understanding of the values expected of all leaders and employees of Educate!, especially in regards to gender issues. In conjunction, we upgraded our travel policies for employees who are new mothers, began offering counseling services, encouraged men to utilize their full paternity leave, and continued improving our hiring practices to reflect our commitment to gender justice.
Overall, this has been a year of strong impact and learning as we’ve seen our gender equity strategy come to fruition across our organization, and across multiple countries. We’ve worked hard to shift gender perceptions in 25,000 students; 240 Mentors and Youth Leaders; over 1,000 teachers and government officials; and our hiring and office-based teams in Uganda. Along the way we’ve learned some important lessons that will guide our steps forward and help us continue to prioritize and make an impact on gender equity and justice across our organization and East Africa.
Curious to know more? Check out the recent Stanford Social Innovation Review Post “The Half-Truths That Have Sidetracked Girls’ Education”, which features Educate! as an evidence-based program that is improving the quality of education for girls, leading to measurable improvements in their life outcomes.