Does the ADB have a problem with women?

When I tweeted this picture from the ADB's 7th International Policy Advisory Group meeting yesterday, I did not anticipate that it quickly became one of my most re-tweeted Tweets in a long time:
Even Jeffrey Sachs felt compelled to join the conversation after my colleague Raul Pacheco-Vega took up the tweet:





Any high-level development meeting that features contemporary buzzwords like innovative, inclusive or resilient in its description feels a bit strange when the participants comprise a very homogeneous group in terms of sex, gender, age and dress code.

And ADB is not a ‘first time offender’: Some time ago I already ‘reported’ a similar incident with an #allmalepanel:


Quick C4D fix: Don’t publish such pictures
As much as I like to propagate open communication that authentically captures an organization’s work and culture I also think that such communication needs to keep a larger (digital) audience in mind. In short: Even if you were not responsible for the invitation list, maybe refrain from publishing a group photo with 25 men-or send it to participants privately.
Similarly, it may be an idea to ‘embed’ the one picture of the #allmalepanel in a set of photos that also capture the audience, mingling around the panel etc. for hopefully a bit more diversity.
Don’t get me wrong: These are not ‘solutions’, but more like damage-control measures; if you work for large organizations chances are that you will be faced with an all-male situation somewhere down the line.

As an international organization, the ADB relies on member states and Asia’s institutional networks
But I don’t just want to finger-point at the ADB here-as an international organization they have to work with their members, i.e. member states/governments, official organizations and the Asian banking and financial industry among many others.
Unfortunately I didn’t save the picture, but I came a across a graduation photo from a professional course on public management leadership in Thailand recently and the group was equally homogenous.
In some ways, the ADB events are representative of large parts of elite corporate and policy-making structures in Asia, even if these dynamics seem to changing slowly (see Asia's women bankers making inroads). In short, the ADB should try harder and do better-maybe connect with Women in Finance Asia?


Is there a ‘way forward’?
I hope that the ADB will not resort to ‘special interest events’ around gender, youth or disability, for example, so they can post pictures of women, young people or wheelchair users. The challenge is to bring together diverse groups at the same event and ensure interaction or participatory listening exercises for a very modest start.
From a communication for development perspective I wonder whether the ADB could be more explicit about these challenges and organize critical blog posts or a participatory photo/video event where different groups show how (un)representative #allmalepanels are and how it harms everybody in the quest for innovative, sustainable development.

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