We often hear that the future of a globalized economy is female. To me, that means that not only is gender equality fair, but it’s key to success – from global business to household income. Gender equality is paramount to ACDI/VOCA’s impact worldwide. I recall well my first overseas trip as a corporate officer to Mozambique, which overlapped with International Women’s Day. I was energized to see how in Mozambique and all over the world our programs were observing the day with ceremonies honoring the entrepreneurial initiatives of women worldwide.

Gender equality is not simply a rote exercise; it should be the heart and soul of an organization’s day-to-day work, reflected both in its implementation as well as how it holds itself accountable in its own workings.

ACDI/VOCA’s all-in commitment to gender equality extends to the global development industry’s efforts to empower women and champion equality at all levels. As a member of the Gender Practitioners Collaborative, ACDI/VOCA coauthored and launched The Minimum Standards for Mainstreaming Gender Equality, a resource for organizations to recognize, adopt, and adhere to a minimum level of gender equality mainstreaming in their organizations widely and specifically in programs.

The Society for International Development’s Washington, D.C., Chapter (SID-W) is heavily focused on the vital importance of this topic. As a SID-W board member, I applaud the work done through SID-W’s Gender and Inclusive Development Workgroup, which is “committed to advancing the roles of women, men, girls, and boys in social, economic, and political development.”

And, last June, the Women Innovators & Leaders Network (WILD) organized its first-ever Forum to Advance Women’s Leadership in International Development. This year, WILD again convenes the Forum on May 14 in Washington, D.C., and ACDI/VOCA is again a champion-level supporter of this pivotal industry event.

Walking the Walk

Together with our outreach in the international development community, ACDI/VOCA is also committed internally in promoting gender equality. We joined a collective of international development nonprofits on InterAction’s CEO Task Force on Preventing Sexual Abuse, Exploitation, and Harassment. As interim president and CEO of ACDI/VOCA, I was a proud signer of the CEO pledge for the same cause. Building on that momentum, ACDI/VOCA launched our Harassment Prevention Working Group, ensuring that we seriously explore the issues and communicate progress to staff.

We are proud to have a woman as our board chair (Deborah Atwood) and another as president of our affiliate Tanager (Ana Bilik). We take great care to ensure not only women’s leadership at the top levels of the organization, but also gender pay equity and elevated opportunities for female leaders in our organization.

ACDI/VOCA launched the Women in Leadership eCornell certificate program in 2017. So far, more than 90 female staff across our worldwide programs completed courses under this five-course program. Through engaged discussion with their colleagues, the cohort is well positioned to recognize when there is a gender dimension at work and how they can out-strategize gender bias and their own habits to achieve better results.

And thanks to a MasterCard grant, last year we sent three of our emerging female leaders to a three-day leadership training. We walk the walk.

The Right Thing to Do

The momentum for gender equality continues to grow in the world of international development. Sustainable Development Goal #5 (Gender Equality) has made the issue high profile, and the U.S. government’s recent Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act asks the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to broaden its gender approach. USAID’s updated Global Food Security Strategy includes a strong gender objective to increase gender equality and female empowerment in its results framework.

Why all these initiatives? Because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do in terms of social and economic impact.

I’m committed to this cause for life. I’m committed for my colleagues and my peers, both men and women. And I am deeply committed for my own daughters and for their generation. And, I’m committed for the millions of ACDI/VOCA beneficiaries around the world.


Sylvia Megret

President and Chief Executive Officer