From Talk to Action: Making Strides on the Women and Leadership Resolution

July 2021

Erika O’Halloran – GLOW Red Secretariat and Canadian Red Cross

Josefin Edberg – GLOW Red Secretariat and Swedish Red Cross


In December 2019, the entirety of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement came together in support of the Women and Leadership Resolution. The Resolution stresses a deep concern for under-representation of women in governing bodies and senior management positions across all Movement components and in humanitarian organizations in general. GLOW Red (The Global Network of Women Leaders in the RCRC Movement) has taken the lead on reporting on this resolution.

Overall, this blog post acts as a reminder of the Women and Leadership Resolution, and the need for all Movement Partners to be working towards the objectives outlined in the resolution. The blog post highlights two milestones achieved: the establishment of the Women and Leadership Resolution Working Group and the release of the RCRC Movement-wide research piece How Diverse Leadership Shaped Responses to COVID-19 within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The Story

In December 2019, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement made an important step towards gender parity. Recognizing the importance of having diverse women leaders represented throughout all levels of decision making in the RCRC Movement, Movement partners  and states unanimously agreed to commit to  Resolution 5- Women and Leadership in the humanitarian action of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.

The resolution urges Movement partners to increase the representation of women from different backgrounds at all decision-making levels and calls for Movement partners to reach out and actively identify women leaders investing in these women through mentorship and leadership development. Additionally, the resolution calls for Movement partners to reach gender parity by 2030 and collect sex segregated data to ensure that we can monitor progress. The resolution also has a research component and encourages Movement Partners and states to invest in research to provide an evidence base on the value of women’s leadership. Read all the commitments in the resolution here.

The Women and Leadership Resolution lays out some excellent action points that need to be taken to ensure that women are adequately represented in leadership positions throughout the RCRC Movement. The question remains- what do these high level asks in the Women and Leadership Resolution look like in action? In a Movement filled with intelligent, passionate, and capable women with years of experience working throughout the RCRC Movement, why aren’t they being promoted to leadership positions? These overarching questions are difficult to answer but are essential to understand and address barriers and move forward towards gender parity.

In terms of what commitment to increased women’s leadership looks like in action, GLOW Red is collecting this information with the establishment of the Women and Leadership Resolution Working Group. This group, made up of representatives from throughout the RCRC Movement, is committed to collecting and sharing all actions taken to implement the Women and Leadership Resolution. This could be anything from initiating leadership trainings or mentorship programs, to defining gender equality objectives, implementing policies, or changing statutes making sure more women are included in decision making processes.

The group has co-created a reporting mechanism and meets on a quarterly basis to discuss steps moving forward. With the first meeting held in March 2021, the group remains open to any RCRC Movement staff or volunteers who are interested in advocating for women’s leadership, please reach out to GLOW Red for a detailed Terms of Reference. In the future, the group hopes to share best practices and lessons learnt from Movement partners on the road to gender parity, with a focus on culturally specific solutions recognizing the intersectional nature of women throughout the RCRC Movement. Have a solution that has worked for your Movement component? Please share it with us.

In addition to working groups, having an evidence base supporting the importance of women’s leadership is essential. We are happy to report that in collaboration with the Humanitarian Advisory Group (HAG), IFRC and ICRC, the report How Diverse Leadership Shaped Responses to COVID-19 within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has recently been released. This report highlights the fact that the diversity in the RCRC Movement is a strength, but there is a need to work together to take proactive steps towards inclusion at all decision-making levels. The research showed that leaders in the International RCRC Movement perceived that personal attributes and characteristics influenced their leadership approach, but that having a diverse range of people around the leadership table is not enough: effective decision-making requires that everyone is able to speak and have their views heard. Leaders from different parts of the RCRC Movement expressed concerns that certain attributes, such as gender, age, ethnicity, or length of service, could affect how much weight was given to different voices. We encourage you all to read this research and pay particular attention to steps that can be taken to ensure diverse leaders are represented throughout the RCRC Movement.

Ultimately, Research and Working Groups are not enough to ensure that the RCRC Movement adheres to our commitment to increasing the representation of women, from all different backgrounds, in leadership positions. To walk the talk, proactive steps must be made by every Movement partner, and an intersectional lens must be used to identify both the Movement wide and the culturally specific barriers that are prohibiting women from taking on leadership positions.

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