While we appreciate that many of the challenges that WOMID aims to address are also relevant to men researching and working in international development, there are several reasons why WOMID has been established as a women’s initiative:
- International development is still a male dominated field especially in positions of leadership and power, and especially in developing countries. WOMID is committed to supporting women in changing this status quo By demonstrating that the disadvantages women face across the globe are not inevitable, WOMID’s women-to-women network rejects the status quo; WOMID responds to the challenges encountered by female early career academics and practitioners trying to work in development, and offers a way in which these challenges can be overcome.
- Women face a significantly higher number of considerations when working in international development, especially when working abroad in different cultures (Desai and Potter, 2006). These include (but are in no way limited to): safety, familial responsibilities, cultural sensitivities towards dress sense, the role of women in local societies, and other restrictions within patriarchal societies. We believe that having a platform to discuss these issues amongst other women facing them will be a valuable addition to the community.
- From speaking to many female colleagues, confidence issues are highly prevalent amongst women in international development and especially in early career academics. This affects a number of professional attributes and activities including, crucially, networking and ‘leaning in’. This is exacerbated by activities such as the perception of networking as unfeminine and frequently dominated by more powerful and confident men (see Sheryl Sandberg’s TEDx talk below for more on this).
Video credit: CC BY-NC-ND TEDx talks
- Given the unique challenges and considerations that women face, we believe learning from other women’s personal and professional experiences in these areas is a brilliant current strategy for addressing these issues.
We appreciate that men could equally benefit from a similar initiative. As WOMID is a young organisation, we are open to suggestions and collaborations on how this could be taken forward, including the possibility of expanding beyond the initial plan outlined here. Any male PhD students or post-doctoral researchers reading this who think they would benefit from a similar initiative, please get in touch! We do not intended to be a closed organisation and are actively looking at ways to ensure we feed our discussions back into the wider international development community.