Our Work to Become an Anti-Racist Organization 10 September 2021 – Women Deliver

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Sign up here
This page has been updated. To see the updated version, click here.


Women Deliver's Transformation:

Our Work to Become an Anti-Racist Organization

For more than a decade, Women Deliver has championed gender equality, anchored in advocacy for sexual and reproductive health and rights. But we have fallen short by working towards more equality while also contributing to inequality and systemic racism, which cannot be tolerated. To fully deliver on our mission of health and rights for all girls and all women, we must and will build forward a Women Deliver that is global, diverse, and inclusive. 

Women Deliver is working to become an anti-racist organization, grounded in intersectional principles, fostering a culture of respect and inclusion for all. 

In building forward, we will embrace continuous learning, encourage feedback from staff, partners, and advocates, and be transparent and accountable in our own transformation. We will ensure our programming and advocacy approaches engage those most affected by changes to policies for gender equality and SRHR from the outset. We are grateful to current and former employees, Young Leaders, partners, and fellow advocates and activists who have offered testimonies, made recommendations, asked questions, and challenged us to reexamine our values, actions, and privilege. We are listening, we are acknowledging, we are learning, and we are taking action.  



  • First and foremost, we acknowledge and validate the testimonies of pain expressed by former and current staff. The third-party investigation into Women Deliver examined the range of issues that were raised, past and present, and the Board took action based on the investigation’s findings and recommendations. Additionally, Women Deliver continues to acknowledge that, in the past, we have failed to uphold our own values which has led to a deficit of trust among partners and staff. We are working to rebuild that trust internally and externally.


  • Recognizing that change must start with ourselves, we are examining and reforming our own structures and policies to create a more equitable and inclusive organization with increased diversity at all levels. And knowing that policies on paper won’t add up to change without a supportive, enabling environment, we are taking steps to build back trust, inclusion, and equity within our culture so that these changes are ingrained in our organization’s ethos. We are refining our policies to ensure that they lay the groundwork for a culture that enables us to live our values.


  • Transforming our work so that we are not reinforcing systems of white supremacy, colonialism, and racism, but actively dismantling them, is equally as important as changing internally. Intersectionality is the cornerstone of our revised Five-Year Strategic Framework and our programming. We are designing and implementing our strategy and programming in partnership with the people most impacted by our work, with a focus on strengthening and deepening our partnerships with women’s rights movements, youth-led and LGBTQIA+ organizations, and advocates representing the intersectional identities of girls, women, and underrepresented populations in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs).   


  • We are embracing continuous learning, and encouraging feedback from staff, partners, and others. We are committed to ensuring that all aspects of our transformation are transparent, and to sharing learnings to encourage others to transform. We are approaching this work with humility, while recognizing that there is no final destination in the work to become anti-racist and intersectional. This is a continuous process and will require continuous work; we are committed to regularly updating this transformation webpage to chart progress and hold ourselves accountable to the process of becoming anti-racist in everything we do.  


  • It is only in partnerships — and as a result of the contributions of many — that gender equality will be realized. We view partnership as a pathway to change in and of itself, and have incorporated partnership principles throughout our Five-Year Strategic Framework. As we do this work, we have to reconsider our partnership approachhow leadership partners with staff, how we partner with external organizations, and how we partner with the people who will be most impacted by our advocacy to create a more gender-equal world. Changes to our partnership approach start by being consultative in how we transform, and continue as a core organizational principle to create a better Women Deliver, a stronger movement for gender equality, and more sustainable changeAcross all partnerships, we are committed to acting as a bridge builder between diverse actors – with a particular focus on bringing country-level advocates’ perspectives to bare on a global stage and forming bidirectional connections – to help increase the accountability of decision-makers and foster more effective, holistic advocacy and programming at every level.  


  • We launched our 2021-2025 Strategic Framework with support from SRI Executive and KORE Global. Over the past year, we’ve worked to ensure that gender equality, defined as the equal access to power, dignity, justice, rights, health, and opportunities for all persons, particularly girls and women in all their diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) identities, and intersectionality – taking into account how race, class, and gender identities create overlapping, intersecting, and interdependent systems of discrimination and oppression – are the guiding forces behind all aspects of our revised Strategy and our work over the next five years.
  • We are strengthening and deepening our partnerships with a wider community of women’s rights organizations and movements, youth-led and LGBTQIA+ organizations, and advocates representing the intersectional identities of girls, women, and underrepresented populations in low-and middle-income countries. Our Five-Year Strategic Framework highlights and prioritizes the importance of co-creation and collaboration with partners, especially at the country level, throughout all of our programs.
  • We are continually acting on the over 140+ recommendations provided by our staff, Young Leaders, and intersectionality and DEI experts, which we refer to as "Our Transformation Roadmap.” The recommendations in the Roadmap were determined through our Transformation Task Forces, which covered DEI, intersectionality, fundraising, strategy implementation, communications, and partner engagement. On a quarterly basis, we identify and act upon top priorities identified collectively by staff.
  • Women Deliver’s Board of Directors and staff charged leading global executive search firm, Perrett Laver, to assist us in finding our next Board Chair and CEO. Perrett Laver finds outstanding leaders who bring diversity and vision to mission-driven sectors in over 70 countries globally. They have a diverse network from which to attract talent and a track record of placing women of color in executive positions. With their help, we hope to find the new leaders of Women Deliver — leaders who inspire us, are driven by our shared goal of a gender-equal world, challenge the status quo, share our strong commitment to diversity and anti-racism, and understand where we’d like to go next as an organization.
    • On the week of 10 May, 2021, Women Deliver Board of Directors launched a global open call for a new Board Chair and a Board replenishment. In addition to finding our next Board Chair, Perrett Laver has helped us broaden the Women Deliver Board so that our Board continues to be as diverse as the populations we serve. 
    • In June 2021, Women Deliver’s Board of Directors launched a global search for the next CEO and President of the organization.  
    • It is critical to us that we embark on a recruitment process that is inclusive, highly participatory, and applies a feminist and intersectional lens. Already, staff have been engaged in the recruitment process with Perrett Laver, through interviews, focus groups, and surveys. The Board has formed a search committee that includes representatives from our staff, the Women Deliver Young Leaders Program, partner advocacy organizations, and our funding partners to ensure that the entire process allows for input from many different perspectives and reinforces the foundation we have laid for the future. For all positions, nominations from staff, partners, and advocates are encouraged. 
  • Building forward a Women Deliver that is global, diverse, and inclusive will not be possible without the full and informed involvement of all staff, at every level. Over the past several months, our organization has evolved significantly. In July 2020, we expanded our Coordination Team (our former leadership team) to include representatives from junior- to mid-level staff. In November 2020, in response to a call for a change in leadership and greater diversity within our senior team, all those in former leadership positions stepped down or are currently completing transition work for a defined term. In December 2020, as part of our commitment to becoming a more global, diverse, and inclusive organization, we dissolved our previous top-down organizational structure. Today, we are a flatter organization, in which the majority of our staff serve as leads for one or more streams of work. Together, these leadership roles, which are occupied by more people with diverse backgrounds and experiences than ever before, work together and transparently on key decisions for the organization.
  • With partners, Women Deliver committed to co-creating most inclusiveaccessible, diverse, and consultative Women Deliver Conference in 2023 (WD2023) in June 2021. We commit to a number of goals to ensure that WD2023 is representative of all participants including youth participation on 100% of conference panels, offering financial support as needed, and providing accessibility services. We will implement an innovative platform, in-person and virtually, ensuring that communities traditionally underrepresented in global convenings have access to networking, skills-building, and funding opportunities. 
    • In August 2020, Women Deliver led an international survey, which we refer to as a Global Community Consultation (GCC), to gain insight into the most pressing issues for girls and women globally, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on convenings, and how WD2023  can catalyze collective action for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). We are grateful to the nearly 4,500 advocates — spanning 166 countries, generations, and sectors ⁠— who shared their thoughts and feedback to help us design the next Women Deliver Conference. 
  • Consistent with our desire for our governance and operational structures to reflect a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization, in May 2021, we, the Women Deliver Board and staff, jointly developed a staff representative role and appointed a staff representative to the Board of Directors. The staff representative will attend all regular meetings of the Board of Directors on behalf of all staff.  
  • In August 2020, the Transformation and Engagement Working Group (TEWG), led by Women Deliver Young Leaders, developed and administered a survey, in partnership with KORE Global, in order to better understand how Women Deliver should update its programmatic approaches, activities, and leadership opportunities to better center, support, and elevate young people while challenging systems of patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and other problematic structures.  
  • In February 2021, the TEWG published an outcome document outlining findings and recommendations from the survey and related focus groups around tokenism, inclusivity and equity, trust, accountability, and more. Women Deliver is actioning the recommendations from this document now through summer 2021.  
  • In addition, a new Alumni Committee consisting of former Women Deliver Young Leaders from around the world was formed. The Alumni Committee will be charged with holding the organization accountable to the TEWG recommendations, building on existing recommendations, and charting the path forward for the Young Leaders Program in lockstep with Women Deliver’s overall transformation.  
  • We co-created a more collaborative, trust-based, and mutually beneficial sub-granting process for Deliver for Good partners based on feedback from partners in Kenya and Senegal. This new process was co-defined to meet all organizations’ timelines and needs and to avoid unfunded gap periods. Deliver for Good partners led the development of the scope, budget, and monitoring and evaluation processes for their contracts and defined the activities they wished to conduct within the strategic remit of Deliver for Good. In line with feminist principles, Women Deliver has committed to being clear and transparent in all communications about the contracting process, including when we do not have information or answers and/or are experiencing delays due to external factors. We also built a runway across all project plans to ensure that partners would not feel the impact of any unforeseen delays that are out of our control.    
  • We are achieving clarity around our shared understanding of the actions needed to become an anti-racist organization in practice, and exploring decolonizing, with a similar approach to our recent work on principles of intersectionality. In September 2020, in partnership with Kelli McLoud-Schingen, we held a workshop with all staff to begin to unpack what it means for Women Deliver to be anti-racist and decolonizing. We recognize that justice is an ever-changing aspiration and are committed to working each day to move closer toward it through our programs and as an organization. In April 2021, we collaboratively added a number of ethical communications standards to our internal and external communications to reflect our transformation learnings and to begin to decolonize the language we use. As we continue to learn, we will add to these standards.
  • We have developed an updated Compensation Philosophy strategy along with FAQs for staff and managers related to salary bands and have conducted trainings on these practices. Additionally, we have added salary ranges to all job postings on our Careers Page and a full overview of our benefits package, which includes 100% employer-paid coverage for medical, dental, and vision insurance, on our Benefits Page. 
  • We updated our Donor Engagement Policy in August 2021. Women Deliver seeks funding from a variety of supportive partners, including corporations, foundations, and individuals who are essential to its success. Accordingly, Women Deliver only accepts funding from partners that are compatible with Women Deliver’s vision, mission, and strategic priorities, and who exemplify good business and ethical practices.  
  • We have refreshed many of our internal policies — including our paid parental leave and bereavement leave policies. We have also adjusted year-end performance reviews to omit compliance with “values” as a metric of evaluation, and documented both our hiring process and feedback/grievance process. We also improved key HR processes for hiring and promoting staff, developing talent, and increasing transparency to mitigate bias and promote opportunities among all staff.
  • Aligned with our commitment to create more opportunities for two-way feedback for staff, all staff members participated in co-designed mid-year conversations in August 2021. Supervisors and direct reports jointly held space to discuss performance over the last six months, check in on ways of working, and reflect on future aspirations. Teams were able to take this opportunity to acknowledge changes from over the last year and recommit to their work and mission of the organization. Conversations were documented for accountability.  
  • We have held regular town hall-style meetings with Women Deliver Young Leaders and Alumni to maintain an open two-way dialogue and answer questions in March 2021, June 2020, and August 2020. Following the release of investigation results, our Board of Directors and Women Deliver staff also held town hall-style meetings with donors, partners, and stakeholders. Additionally, program teams met with partners and sub-grantees to discuss concerns and elicit recommendations.  
  • Women Deliver worked closely with ReadySet, experts in DEI, from December 2019 through the end of 2020 on our transformation priorities, Ally Skills Training, the review of existing HR policies, an overall DEI assessment, and the creation of optional discussion spaces for continued sharing, with emphasis on supporting Black colleagues and colleagues of color.  
  • We worked with The Paradox of Leadership, experts in leadership development and coaching, since 2018 — and extended their work with us to include all-staff trainings in July, August, and September 2020 on Navigating Change, Self-Care, Energy Management, and Motivation & Stress Management. 
  • We have expanded our mental health offerings to include additional mental health days and service offerings from Headspace. 
  • We are committed to remaining transparent in all of our communication with our partners, funders, and community on our transformation, including one-on-one calls, town halls, and via our website, social media, and Women Deliver newsletter.
  • Staff co-developed Women Deliver’s COVID-19 Return to Work Policy. Staff members provided input towards the decision to 1) re-open our New York office in September 2021, 2) launch a hybrid model in which staff have the option of telecommuting and in-person work, and 3design the operational aspects involved with making the office as safe as possible for employees. Staff maintain the option to work from a remote location as we make the transition to working in person. 


  • We are committed to hiring more Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+ and other underrepresented groups and to strengthening the diversity of our recruitment pipelines, including for our open senior focal positions. In the long-term, we are committed to recruiting and hiring people globally, and particularly people from low-and middle-income countries, who may not possess U.S. work authorization without sponsorship. 
  • Our transformation is a cross-team priority, and staff at all levels are fully and equally engaged in building forward Women Deliver. For example, we’ve incorporated cross-team panel interviews into the hiring process of all potential new hiresagendas for our weekly all staff meetings are developed collaboratively by the full staff, and staff at every level lead our weekly staff meetings. We will continue to incorporate cross-team opportunities in all of our work.
  • As a staff, we are continually setting clear guardrails to ensure that workloads remain manageable and checking in on each other’s bandwidth. For example, each team has shared their key processes with all staff, and that they are flexible and can change as needed to be most efficient and productive to all. Every week, each team shares their key priorities with all staff. At the end of each staff meeting, we ask each team to share what they need help on or if they could give help to other teams. 
    • We have developed an internal, volunteer-based staff bandwidth and mental health group, which will begin to meet in Q3 of 2021. 
  • We are in the process of revising our Personal Policy Handbook, Media and Digital Engagement Policy, and performance management system so that staff has clear and transparent guidelines to help support their own advocacy and growth within the organization. 
    • We are designing a management training for all staff in Q4 of 2021. 
  • As we noted above, we view partnership as a pathway to change in and of itself, and have incorporated partnership principles throughout our 2021-2025 Strategic Framework. We are currently in the process of mapping context-specific partnership principles for our work with diverse actors, including advocates, youth, funders, and the private sector in alignment with our transformation. 
    • With the support of an expert partner, we will be hosting internal partnership training sessions for all staff in Q4 of 2021. 
  • We are improving diversity and inclusion in programming and participation at all Women Deliver conferences and convenings. Specifically, we are working to prioritize diversity, inclusion, and accessibility from day one of the planning process by:
    • Ensuring physical and virtual accessibility to programming and speaking opportunities 
    • Securing safer spaces for participation 
    • Expanding translation and interpretation 
    • Ensuring meaningful youth engagement and co-leadership  
    • Engaging women’s rights organizations and movements, youth-led and LGBTQIA+ organizations, and advocates representing the intersectional identities of girls, women, and underrepresented populations in low-and middle-income countries 
    • Elevating and centering voices from underrepresented communities 
    • Developing robust digital and virtual programming to engage a wider audience 
    • Creating financial support wherever feasible, from scholarships, to honorariums, to tech stipends 
  • Transforming ourselves and our sector is a continuous process that will require continuous work. Each quarter, we are taking stock of lessons learned and charting our path forward by identifying priority actions outlined within “Our Transformation Roadmap” to address during the next quarter. Our current quarterly focus is on updating our partnership and communications principles. The next update to this page will occur in August 2021.


  • On 16 June, 2020, our Board of Directors announced it would appoint a third party to independently investigate the range of issues raised, past and present, and take appropriate action based on the findings of the investigation, which concluded in October 2020.  
  • Katja Iversen, Women Deliver’s CEO, issued a statement of apology and took a leave of absence until the conclusion of the investigation process in October 2020.  
  • The Board appointed Kathleen Sherwin, COO, as Interim President & CEO to help guide the organization throughout the investigation period.  
  • On 30 June, 2020, our Board of Directors announced the selection of Cader Adams LLP as the law firm charged with independently investigating Women Deliver’s culture and practices.  
  • On 18 September, 2020 we provided an update on the independent investigation initiated on 30 June, and on our Board’s review of the findings and recommendations from staff, Young Leaders, and intersectionality and DEI experts who had been consulted over the course of the prior months.  
  • On 28 October, 2020, following the publication of the results of Cader Adams LLP’s independent investigation and in response to the firm’s findings and recommendationsour Board of Directors issued a statement of apology as well as a roadmap of actions to improve Women Deliver’s workplace culture and guide efforts to become an anti-racist organization.  
  • On 28 October, 2020, Katja Iversen stepped down as Women Deliver’s President and CEO, effective 30 October. Our Board appointed Kathleen Sherwin as the Interim CEO and President of Women Deliver 


Good advocates identify problems, highlight solutions, push for commitments, and hold people accountable to their promises. That’s what we’ve strived to do for 10 years around the world, and what we must — and will — do to transform ourselves.



See previous updates here, here, here, here, and here.


News & Updates