Walking the Talk: Incorporating DEI Into our Values, Policies, and Practices

The 2022 Global Health 50/50 Report ranked PSI, EngenderHealth, and Pathfinder International among the highest performing organizations in advancing gender equity.

And as experts from each organization share: the road to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) requires ongoing concerted efforts to keep organizations accountable to delivering on their commitments.

In a panel led by Renu Golwalkar, EngenderHealth’s Senior Director for Gender Equality and Social Inclusion, Kent Buse, Global Health 50/50’s Co-Founder and Co-Director, Marina Dalton Brown, PSI’s Manager, Insights and Exchange, Mohamed Ly, EngenderHealth’s Regional Director, West and Central Africa, and Crystal Lander, Pathfinder International’s Chief Strategic Engagement Officer share their experiences incorporating DEI into organizational values, policies, and practices.

Renu Golwalkar, Senior Director for Gender Equality and Social Inclusion, EngenderHealth: First, I want to introduce Kent Buse, a co-founder and co-director of Global Health 50/50. Kent, what prompted you to launch Global Health 50/50?

Kent Buse, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Global Health 50/50: Over many years, Sarah Hawkes, who is my partner, for full disclosure, and the co-director of Global Health 50/50, we came to understand that patriarchal norms and structures shape institutions, drive poor health outcomes for everyone, determine career pathways and narrow workplace norms.

Sarah and I wrote about the problems of gender blindness and global health for many years but found that our concerns didn’t incite any obvious change or action. We decided to do things a little differently. We adopted a different strategy.

First, in establishing GH 5050, we initiated a more systematic approach to assessing the gender related policies and practices of a large cross section of global health organizations and we created the first ever interactive Gender and Global Health Index.

Secondly, we enrolled an a-list group of experts to serve on an Advisory Council who would amplify our findings; people like Helen Clark and Katya Everson.

Third, we used eye-catching charts and infographics in an annual report to ensure our findings had an audience and hopefully had some impact, too.

And finally, we engaged with organizations whose policies and practices we wanted to see change. Organizations such as those on this panel – the high performing organizations, and the low performing organizations to work with them on improving their practices. In our most recent report, we named and shamed organizations that had not made any meaningful practice. One of them threatened to sue us and we saw that as progress in and of itself. In short, we established the transparency and accountability tool to drive systemic change across the sector.

Golwalkar: Thank you so much, Kent. It’s so inspiring to see this Gender Index which has become a guiding light in our sector and so many organizations are drawing inspiration from that.

Next, I want to go to Marina Dalton Brown. Marina is a manager in PSI’s Strategy and Insights Department. Marina, how do you track progress towards greater diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging within PSI? Is this difficult to measure concretely?

Marina Dalton Brown, Manager, Insights and Exchange, PSI: Thank you for facilitating this critical conversation. For those of you who may not know PSI, we are very keen on measurements when it comes to our programmatic implementations and initiatives. Our journey around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is no different. I will share three examples of how we do this.

One way is by gathering organization wide data through surveys around employee engagement, retention, career mobility and DEI and we compile that data in an organizational health dashboard.

Essentially, it’s a way to evaluate how our people are doing. This is critical for us.

We share these results transparently and openly within the organization at our quarterly performance meetings where we engage and solicit feedback from our staff. We want to be able to share this information so that the people factor of how we’re progressing is given as much gravitas and as much prominence as our financial and programmatic progress. Third, is that we are becoming more overt in sharing these metrics externally through blog posts from our President and CEO, Karl Hofmann.

The data shows that we’re on track to our 2025 goal around diversity, but we need to do more around employee engagement, inclusion and belonging. We know our metrics are not perfect, but we are on a journey. We want to increase and nurture safe spaces for honest conversation, while soliciting feedback so we can all do better.

Golwalkar: Thank you so much, Marina. I love the way your policies put people at the center of it and having those honest conversations. In EngenderHealth, we have internal staff transformation conversations where our teams reflect upon our own personal biases, prejudices, and stereotypes, kick-starting the journey for transformation.

Let me go to our next panelist, Crystal Lander. Crystal is the Chief Strategic Engagement Officer with Pathfinder International. Crystal, Pathfinder has implemented policies related to hiring, personnel, budgeting, and more. How does applying a gender and DEI lens to your policies advance your goals for equity?

Crystal Lander, Chief Strategic Engagement Officer, Pathfinder International: Thanks, Renu. We looked at our policies and procedures to see what was keeping us from getting the kind of diversity and gender balance we’re looking for. We looked at our hiring practices, not only in the United States, but at all of our country offices. What was our leadership track? Why weren’t women stepping up to leadership? Were they missing something? Were they not being encouraged?

Many times, you see thatsomeone may mentor an employee who looks like them, meaning you may not have a lot of diversity in the pipeline. It was important for us to make sure that when we’re talking about an equitable workplace, we’re looking at what happens on the inside and how we’re bringing people in; while also making sure the staff feels like these policies are really working for them.

It’s a big part of what Marina said – you have to look at retaining and listening to staff. They have some of the best ideas on how to improve. We also reviewed our board practices by looking at the pipeline through an outside recruiting firm. One of the best things I can say is it’s not one thing. You have to do multiple things and it’s not a checkoff box. It takes a lot of hard work.

Golwalkar: Thank you, Crystal. I think it’s inspiring the way you have analyzed recruitments, women’s leadership and promoted that internally, that’s commendable. I’ll go to my next panelist, Mohamed Ly, Regional Director for Western Central Africa with Engender Health.

Mohamed, you’ve expressed that in several countries in the WC region, we see more men in leadership positions than women. Is this a concern and what are you doing to address it?

Mohamed Ly, Regional Director, Western and Central Africa, EngenderHealth: Thank you for allowing me to talk about this very important issue.

You’re right. In Western Central Africa, the question of women in leadership arises in all countries. The imbalance is also observed at decision-making levels, the state level and even in the private sector. The argument that had long been put forward was that there were not enough women who had the skills to fill these positions, or that women expressed little interest in these roles. It is clear these arguments do not hold, and that we have qualified and committed women to take on leadership roles in the region. Therefore, the major question is how we can remove the barriers that exist at the level of individuals, communities, laws and regulations.

Our work to address these issues starts internally as an organization. We are committed to increasing the number of women in leadership positions at Engender Health offices. For all positions we publish, we don’t just say women’s applications are encouraged but we ensure that by diffusion in the networks of women and feminist groups committed to women’s rights.

We also create an attractive work environment where there is no salary discrimination and where women, especially mothers, can benefit from flexible working hours and conditions. Additionally, when partnering with local and youth organizations, we ensure that women and girls are represented at the decision-making level.

Golwalkar: Thank you so much, Mohamed. Let’s go for a quick round of brief answers for one final question. Kent, what’s the change you’ve seen through the Global Health 50/50 initiative that you are most glad to see and where is the biggest area for improvement?

Buse: Over the past five years we’ve seen a 25% increase around commitments to gender equality and a similar increase in relation to workplace gender equality policies. I think the biggest challenge is getting organizations to walk the talk. I think that it’s not one thing, it’s many things, but we need to start with policies. I want to end by saying inequity is not inevitable. Change is possible, as the organizations on this panel can attest to. So, let’s all make that change.

Golwalkar: Thank you, Kent. To my other panelists what piece of advice can you offer on making organizations more diverse, equitable and inclusive?

Dalton Brown: My advice is to be strategic. Change is not going to happen overnight. Be intentional and be tactical about where you want to see change, measure it over time and stay the course.

Lander: Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right away. Recruiting people is one piece of the puzzle – having them stay is another that we need to focus on.

Ly: I agree, change takes time. We need to learn from each other to make sure that we have a community of practice to address this issue.

Golwalkar: I’ll end with one final tip from my side. Just start. We continuously find areas where we can improve and the more we engage with our teams and partners, the more ideas we have about how we can improve. Thank you so much, Kent, Marina, Crystal, and Mohamed for sharing your wonderful insights with all of us today.

Watch the full interview here.

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