Our Journey, Our Quest
Motivated by a session of past AEA presidents (all white men) at the annual AEA Conference in Texas, a small group of feminists met to discuss ways to enable the voices of female evaluators to be heard. They drafted and widely circulated an open letter to then AEA President David Fetterman, to increase awareness of the lack of representation of female evaluators both in the field and in the conference program. Between 1993 and 1997, feminist evaluators collaborated to present AEA Conference sessions that highlighted the need to use a feminist lens when evaluating programs or services seeking to address gender inequality or inequities.
After four years of advocacy and persistence by feminists and gender advocates, AEA formally approved the Feminist Issues in Evaluation Topical Interest Group in 1997. At that year’s evaluation conference, the TIG sponsored four conference sessions, igniting the first of many conversations on issues in evaluation from a feminist perspective, and on the transformative power of feminist evaluation both within the profession and in the lives of women and men, girls and boys.
In 2002, active TIG members published a volume dedicated to Feminist Evaluation in the quarterly journal, New Directions in Evaluation, the first of its kind. In 2014, several members of our TIG led efforts on the writing and production of Feminist Evaluation and Practice: Theory and Practice. An intellectual contribution to the field and practice of evaluation, the book explores the ‘whats,’ ‘whys’ and ‘hows,’ of integrating feminist theory and methods into applied research and evaluation practice.
Over time, the scope of TIG discussions has broadened to encompass a wide range of feminist, gender equality, human rights, social justice, inclusion, and international perspectives. TIG-sponsored sessions have addressed issues for evaluation such as the relationship between gender analysis and feminist approaches; the development of feminist methods and theory; the importance of context and diversity with a feminist lens; and establishing gender-responsive approaches.
Increasingly, the Feminist Issues in Evaluation TIG plays an active role in the AEA’s annual conferences and within AEA itself. We have undertaken surveys on Feminist Evaluation, advocated for gender-balance on high level and expert panels and discussions, regularly sponsored Conference sessions, and convened a number of successful professional development workshops. With contributions and inputs from the membership, the TIG produces and disseminates a quarterly newsletter and curates a blog series – AEA365 Tip-of-the-Day – one week every year. We encourage you to visit the different pages of our website for previous editions.
In recent years, the TIG has sought collaborations with other AEA topical interest groups working on issues of social justice and inclusion, particularly around ethnic and sexual identity, special needs and international issues by co-sponsoring conference sessions. More recently, the TIG has developed a strategic collaboration with UN Women, a global champion of gender equality and the empowerment of women around the world, on EvalGender+. EvalGender+ is a global partnership that promotes the demand, supply and use of Equity Focused and Gender Responsive Evaluations. Please visit: http://evalpartners.org/evalgender for more information.
In recent years, we have welcomed many new members and hence new and diverse voices to our TIG. We have also seen a new generation of evaluators take on leadership roles and expand our earlier efforts. The persistence of gender inequality in the world today presents a major impediment to the achievement of sustainable development in all its dimensions – social, economic, and environmental. We, as an evaluation community, must continue our quest to provide credible, relevant and high quality evidence of what works to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment in an effort to inform the design and implementation of equitable laws, policies and programs. This is a particularly exciting time to be a feminist evaluator. Please consider engaging with us.