“We all have a responsibility to shape a better tomorrow for all of us, and this includes a more gender-equal world. I am exceptionally proud of our journey on gender equality and inclusiveness, and I hope many more SAIs will join these efforts.”
—Einar Gørrissen, IDI Director General
by Camilla Fredriksen, Einar Gørrissen, Siri Hellevik, Alain R. Memvuh Lindouyou, Petra Schirnhofer, and Tonje Fremstad-Waldron, INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI)
Gender equality is necessary for flourishing societies and growing economies, and its positive effect has been proven by research. For example, according to the Norwegian Ministry of Finance, if women participated in the country’s labor market at a lower rate—specifically, at the average rate for industrialized Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries—then Norway would lose the equivalent of the value of the entire Government Pension Fund Global, one of the world’s largest funds.
It is therefore in the interest of all countries to ensure everyone has equal rights and opportunities. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is even a specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5), one that cuts across all sustainable development. Yet, to date, no country in the world has achieved gender equality.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence, economic crises, and care deficits, with disproportionate effects on women and girls. Inequalities have widened between different groups of women and men based on disability, race and ethnicity, income, age, and more.
In an effort to monitor the responses of governments worldwide to tackle the pandemic, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and UN Women initiated the COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker. The tracker shows that many governments have taken individual positive measures to support women, girls, and gender equality, but overall, responses are insufficient and uneven. To fight poverty, enable sustainable development, and ensure fair government responses to the pandemic, we cannot neglect gender equality.
Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) have an important stake in this effort, as organizations and through their audit work. SAIs can make a positive mark by actively contributing to greater equality in their countries, and by making gender visible in their organizations and their audit work. SAIs can also demonstrate the costs of gender inequality. For example, gender-based violence has enormous individual and economic costs.
However, the INTOSAI Development Initiative’s (IDI) recent 2020 SAI Global Survey and Stocktaking Report, with a special Gender Annex, shows that many SAIs do not see gender equality as an important issue. Globally, gender balance among SAI staff is tilted the higher one climbs up the career ladder. In 2020, only 29 percent of SAI leaders and 39 percent of senior management were female.
Moreover, less than a third of SAIs globally have strategic plans with objectives related to gender equality, and only 10 percent inform their planning by conducting gender analysis. Globally, there is slow take-up of audits that contribute to gender equality, with exceptions such as the Organization of Latin American and Caribbean SAIs (OLACEFS) region and a number of SAIs across the globe. Furthermore, very few SAIs have developed capacities in gender equality.
Through its 2020 Gender Strategy and updated Gender Policy, IDI aims to take its gender engagement a step further. Together with other stakeholders, such as UN Women, International Budget Partnership (IBP), Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation (CAAF), IDI supports SAIs in becoming more gender-responsive organizations and conducting audits that contribute to gender equality.
At the same time, IDI wants to lead by example as an organization itself. A recent effort to build equality more firmly into the upcoming INTOSAI Strategic Plan is an encouraging step.
IDI has a dedicated gender team, consisting of an IDI Gender Focal Point and four internal Gender Champions aligned with the different organizational entities. Here’s what they have to say about their work and IDI’s support for gender equality:
- United Nations, Global Issues: Gender Equality
- European Institute for Gender Equality, 2014, “Estimating the costs of gender-based violence in the European Union: Report”
- International Labour Organization, 2019, “Women in Business and Management: The business case for change”
- McKinsey & Company, 2007, “Women Matter: Gender diversity, a corporate performance driver”
- Michael Kimmel, 2015, Ted Talk: “Why gender equality is good for everyone—men included”
- UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), “Estimating the Economic Cost of Domestic Violence”
Cover graphic: Knut/AdobeStock
Spotlight graphic: 4zevar/AdobeStock