From January- March 2016, a group of female aid workers carried-out a survey of their peers to better understand the experiences of women working in the humanitarian field. The survey sought to capture information about the demography of respondents in addition to four broad categories pertinent to issues facing female humanitarians, namely: (1) Discrimination and Harassment, (2) Sexual Aggression and Assault, (3) Reporting, and (4) Impact on Professional and Personal Well-Being. The 35-question survey captured both quantitative and qualitative information. Options were offered to respondents to share their experiences and some results were coded into qualitative data. The survey was conducted on SurveyMonkey in French and English, and participants were informed through word of mouth, social media, and professional networks. Survey methodology and analysis was guided by PhDs in qualitative and quantitative research. A total of 1,005 women from more than 70 organizations responded over a period of 50 days. Some of the results confirmed what the group had believed to be true from anecdotal evidence, other results were surprisingly positive, and still others worse than we had anticipated.
This survey is not meant to be an exhaustive evaluation of all gender issues internal to the profession, but rather an indication of how prevalent certain issues may be. Moreover, the survey is heteronormative and focuses exclusively on the experiences of female staff in relation to their male colleagues. We recognize that men can be victims of harassment and assault and women can also be perpetrators, but exploring these dynamics would have been too ambitious for this initial survey. We strongly encourage others to conduct further research to explore any key aspects or dynamics we have not included.
Discrimination is defined as a woman being treated differently than male colleagues in areas such as professional advancement, salary, professional respect, access to certain services, etc, due principally to gender.
There are other studies that have been published since our survey results that offer additional insights into this issue. They include:
"STOP Sexual Assault of Aid Workers" by Mazurana and Donnelly for the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University (2017)
"Safe Space Survey Report" by Deloitte for the UN (2019)
Qualitative results confirm that, after reporting, most women felt minimized, judged, or ignored. Two respondents shared instances of being fired after reporting. There were several examples of constructive results, including two instances of the woman being moved to a safer location.