Gender equity is an increasingly discussed priority and cross-cutting theme within international development evaluation. Evaluation matters for gender equity because it allows us to assess whether a program is meeting the needs of all people – women, men, girls, boys, and gender-diverse people. Furthermore, it plays a crucial role in demonstrating the impact of programs on gender and builds the case for considering gender in development programs. Finally, by providing information and recommendations, evaluation could improve efforts to address the needs of diverse individuals and by extension, contribute to greater gender equity.
It is unclear, however, whether advances being made in evaluating the outcomes in this area are reflected in the scholarly literature. In this context, a fundamental question is: how is gender being addressed in the international development evaluation literature? In our new paper published in Research Evaluation, we aim to examine whether gender is incorporated in international development evaluation by using gender reporting in scholarly literature as an indicator for the integration of gender. Our intent is to highlight the extent to which scholarly evaluations are considering gender, identify areas of development programs where gender is well and poorly integrated, and reflect on opportunities to inform policy and practice aimed at fostering the inclusion of gender in development.
To answer this question, we searched the Web of Science™ Core Collection database along with nine evaluation-focused journals using variations of the terms ‘program evaluation’ and ‘gender’. A total of 2027 studies were identified, of which 70 met a priori inclusion criteria. We found that evaluations with a gender focus first appeared in the peer-reviewed literature in 1991. Publications steadily increased annually from 2011 onwards and peaked in 2017. While the number of studies that report on gender is growing, and nearly all studies included gender-disaggregated data, often only outcomes by ‘women’ and ‘men’ were considered without going further to consider larger questions of gender equity.
The reviewed articles were conducted in 55 countries, and regionally, many studies were conducted in Africa and Asia, and North America. In comparison, research in South America, Australia, and Europe was limited likely due to search criteria around LMICs. Several articles focused on Indigenous communities, of which two were from high-income countries.
Our results offer preliminary insights into how gender integration is taking place in the evaluation of international development programs. Assuming that the number of evaluations overall has remained steady, we find that gender reporting is limited but increasing, with a strong focus on programs that target women. Gender is reflected in the evaluation objectives in many articles and the findings reflect a degree of gender analysis in nearly all articles.
Exploring these trends also highlights key research gaps in this area. We call for future evaluation studies to pay more attention towards understanding the gendered experience across diverse groups of genders along with the larger socio-cultural-political context in which gender is constructed and contested. Through this, evaluations can become more gender-responsive, leading to gender-responsive programs, and ultimately improved development outcomes for all.
Lam S, Dodd W, Whynot J, Skinner K. (2019). How is gender being addressed in the international development evaluation literature? A meta-evaluation. Research Evaluation (online first).