MSI Chooses to Challenge Workplace Inequality

MSI’s EDGE Advisory Council consists of Keith Brown, Ellen Yount, Kwashie Strong, Jessica Ngo, and Laurel Bradley. 

We’ve all read the sobering statistics and wondered about our own workplaces. Based on 2019 median earnings of full-time workers, women on average earn $0.82 on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. African American women and Hispanic or Latina women earn even less -- $0.63 and $0.55 respectively.

Additionally, the impact of COVID-19 continues to reveal how women’s employment on average is more insecure than men’s: since the start of the pandemic, women lost 5.4 million net jobs compared to 4.4 million lost by men.

MSI knows the importance of women’s employment as one component of advancing gender equality and inclusion through our projects around the world. Women’s paid employment strengthens their financial security and can expand their decision-making opportunities and is essential for the positive growth of local and national economies. For example, our work in Iraq – the USAID-funded Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response (GRPR) Learning and Pilots activity – provided women participants with skills outside of traditional gendered occupations, such as knitting and sewing, by focusing on digital skills and photography.

But what about in our own company? What is the status of gender equality in our own pay structures and pathways to career advancement?

MSI is taking on the challenge to change by looking inward.

As a company, we are committed to fostering an organization that takes equality seriously. We want to ensure that we’re practicing the principles we implement abroad, such as creating equitable structures and safe workplaces. MSI firmly believes that it is our responsibility to choose to challenge ourselves to make a more gender-equal world.

MSI has a long history of work on gender issues. Today, more than 55% of our staff are women; that number has changed over our 40-year history. Our leadership structure is also almost equally balanced between men and women, with women serving as sector leaders, Chiefs of Party in the field, and vice presidents. Most recently, we have taken steps to remove the potential for gender bias, such as reforming our pay structures.

But we know that there is always more work to be done. Gender bias plays a considerable role in creating and continuing unfair and unequal practices, exerting a strong influence on how and when women, and particularly black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) women, are hired and/or promoted for professional development opportunities.

Today, in honor of International Women’s Day, MSI is answering the call to take action for gender equality. We are “choosing to challenge” by examining our own policies, practices, and procedures to ensure that we’re contributing to a more gender-equal world and workplace.

To that end, MSI is enthusiastic to announce that we have launched the EDGE gender equality certification process. EDGE benchmarks organizations against four internationally accepted standards of gender equality in the workplace, providing us with an opportunity to learn and reflect on how we perform against those standards and among our peers. It challenges us to be better and helps us address two specific questions:

  1. Are our pay structures, policies, and promotion opportunities gender-equitable?
  2. Do our staff view them as such?

While the standard EDGE certification does not delve deeper into intersecting variables such as race, nationality, and age, which are important elements of intersectional gender data, it is an opening. It will allow us to start a larger conversation around factors that contribute to gender equality.

We’re excited to move forward with this process to learn about any potential gaps in our policies and practices and to see how we are benchmarked among our peers. More importantly, we are eager to learn about staff perceptions on equality in our diverse, shared workplace.

We also look forward to taking the information from this process and the resulting action plan and using these tools to continue our company’s conversations and progress towards positive change. We are confident that this process will not only improve our workplace but also our overall work to promote more equitable, peaceful, open societies.

  1. The Wage Gap: The Who, How, Why, and What to do.” Fact Sheet.  National Women’s Law Center. October 2020.
  2. Boesch, Diana and Phadke, Shilpa. “When Women Lose All the Jobs: Essential Actions for a Gender-Equitable Recovery.” Center for American Progress. February 21, 2021.


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