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17 January 2018
CEDAW in DC: Gender Equity Roundtable
By Farah Faroul, UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee

On November 30, 2017, the UNA-NCA CEDAW in DC Committee hosted a gender equity roundtable at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. The roundtable was both an educational forum and a planning session for an upcoming stakeholders’ meeting with the office of the City Administrator. Representatives from several local women’s rights organizations attended the event to learn more about the proposed gender audit of D.C. agencies and to share ideas for advocacy efforts. The roundtable began with a panel discussion featuring key members of the CEDAW in DC committee: Karen Mulhauser, Chair of the CEDAW in DC Committee; Karen Foreit, a senior health researcher; and Karine Lepillez, a senior gender and social equity consultant.

Background History of the CEDAW in DC Initiative

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. The treaty requires States Parties to take appropriate measures including enacting legislation to promote equal rights for men and women in all economic, social, civil, cultural and political fields. The United States signed the treaty in 1980, but remains one of only six UN member countries that have not ratified it.

In February 2015, the UNA-NCA board voted to form the CEDAW committee to support legislation implementing CEDAW principles in DC. In March 2015, Councilmember David Grosso introduced Bill 21-0114, “Local Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Amendment Act of 2015.” All members of the DC Council co-sponsored the bill. If passed, the bill would have required all DC agencies to undergo gender analyses by collecting internal disaggregated data relating to gender metrics and evaluating their programs, services, employment practices and budget allocations for evidence of gender inequality. The Office of Human Rights (OHR) would make recommendations for corrective actions for agencies that lack gender equity. However, the bill failed to receive a hearing or a vote during Council Period 21.

In March 2017, Councilmember Charles Allen sent a letter to City Administrator Rashad Young suggesting an alternative to legislation through the District’s Performance Management System. He requested that Administrator Young require all subordinate DC agencies to include gender metrics in their annual performance plans, which are used by both the Mayor and the DC Council to make budget allocation decisions. In August 2017, Mr. Young replied that his office would convene a stakeholders’ meeting with the Mayor’s Office on Women’s Policy and Initiatives (MOWPI), the Mayor’s Commission on Women, the Office of Human Rights (OHR) and D.C. Human Resources (DCHR) to establish effective measures to achieve gender equity within the District. Ms. Jennifer Reed, Chief Performance Officer for the DC Office of Performance Management, has since assured representatives of the CEDAW in DC committee that civil society representatives will be invited to the stakeholders’ meeting, but no date has been set.

Panel Discussion

Karen Mulhauser started the panel with an update on the Committee’s advocacy efforts for implementing CEDAW in DC. She explained the new proposal to use D.C.’s performance management system to capture relevant gender data, and the upcoming stakeholders’ meeting proposed by City Administrator Rashad Young. 

Karen Foreit provided an overview of D.C. government operations. The D.C. government is made up of nearly 90 agencies employing nearly 36,000 people. Each D.C. agency is expected to complete its annual performance plan and submit it to the Office of the City Administrator. However, nineteen of the eighty-eight agencies that were supposed to file reports (22%) did not have reports posted on the City Administrator’s website for FY2016.

The D.C. Human Resources (DCHR) website shows a 947-page listing of all employees with their salaries and starting employment dates. Gender and race are missing from the listed data due to federal and D.C. privacy laws. However, D.C. may be able to release the data in disaggregated form without personally identifying information.  CEDAW Committee members with gender analysis and research experience are willing to offer their expertise free of charge to D.C. officials to develop a system for conducting the gender analyses of D.C. agencies.

Karine Lepillez gave a presentation on how gender analyses are conducted in other countries and the resources available to organizations that wish to perform gender audits. The International Labor Office (ILO) and InterAction are two organizations that provide resource materials on how to conduct gender audits.

Ms. Lepillez described her gender audit experience in Pakistan for USAID, a process that lasted 8 months. She mentioned that it is important to start with a baseline from which to establish measures to achieve gender equity in an organization. A gender audit usually requires a team of 3-4 people, lasts 2-3 weeks in a small agency, and involves interviewing staff. It is usually followed by a workshop to validate findings and develop an action plan.

Ms. Lepillez also discussed 5 key areas of gender analysis: 1) gender expertise and capacity; 2) mainstreaming of gender equality; 3) gender equality in communication; 4) equality in decision-making, staffing, human resources and organizational culture; and 5) perception of achievement on gender equity. Ms. Lepillez also mentioned gender minimum standards for organizations to follow for promoting gender equity. These gender minimum standards include: adopting a gender equality policy, developing organizational culture and capacity for gender equality, conducting and utilizing gender analyses, using gender and age disaggregated data, developing gender equality indicators, and ensuring accountability. Ms. Lepillez also suggested additional gender metrics for agencies such as disability, gender identity, national origin and locality (ward) within the District.

Planning and Strategy Session

The panel discussion was followed by a planning session for participants to ask questions and discuss strategies to advocate for the gender audit of D.C. agencies. There was consensus that it would be helpful to convene additional educational forums regarding gender equity. Each forum would be centered around a specific issue, such as sexual harassment or women in leadership. D.C. officials could be invited to speak and participate in the conversation about how best to implement the gender audit initiative.

The roundtable event ended with many participants requesting additional information on the gender audit process of D.C. agencies and promising to help with advocacy efforts. This brings the CEDAW team a step closer to having more organizations join the growing coalition of sixteen supporting organizations that are committed to achieving gender equity in the District of Columbia.

How to Get Involved

The UNA-NCA CEDAW in DC Committee welcomes your participation and support!  Please let us know if you are interested in joining our monthly planning meetings, volunteering to host or speak at a gender equity roundtable, or joining our growing list of supporting organizations.  For more information, contact Karen Mulhauser at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it