“My country [Sweden] is a great example. When we had equality, the IT sector benefited from having both talented men and women — can you imagine?” she said, feigning surprise. “It’s a business case, it’s not just a right. We have all the reasons to take on leadership challenges.”
In her new role, Gornitzka will lead the committee that sets the rules for and evaluates official development spending. She came to the Development Assistance Committee after six years at the Swedish government aid agency, which she said set a high bar for women’s advocacy in development. Women make up about 70 percent of the Swedish development community, she said - a similar figure to the make-up of the charity workforce more widely, according to Agenda Consulting.
“We need to use that to build diversity, because as of now we’re not exactly mirroring the world we work in,” said Gornitzka. Despite the dominance of women in the development workforce, more than two thirds of charity CEOs are men.
Asked why women don’t make up a larger number of leaders in development, she said: “Sometimes, I think that we should say yes more often to leadership roles. If we say no, then we need to articulate why because we probably need to change that,” adding that “we have to work on” the reasons that women might pass up leadership roles.
“I was asked many times, ‘Well you’re the first woman in this position, what do you think that will mean?’” It’s a difficult question to answer, she said, because she’s isn’t sure “if it’s me being a woman or me being me.”
“I think my leadership style is a bit, perhaps, not average here,” she said. “My style is quite open, transparent... I’m team-oriented.” As a result, she added, “sometimes I underestimate power games and the formalities and the hierarchy... If it’s deliberate or subconscious I don’t know, but I think that I have a bit of a different leadership style.”
Still, Gornitzka is hesitant to brand her approach gender-related: “It’s too simplified that way.”
The message she hopes to convey to other women in the industry is that, “I want women to support each other in leadership roles,” she said. “It is not always the case.”
Molly is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in London, she covers U.K. foreign aid and trends in international development. She draws on her experience covering aid legislation and the USAID implementer community in Washington, D.C., as well as her time as a Fulbright Fellow and development practitioner in the Middle East to develop stories with insider analysis.
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