Women, International Development, and Politics: The Bureaucratic Mire

By Kathleen Staudt | Go to book overview

7/The Inter-Amercian Foundation and Gender Issues: A Feminist View

Sally W. Yudelman

From 1972 to 1984 I worked for the Inter-American Foundation (IAF) as a representative, a director of the Office for Mexico, Central America and Panama, and a vice-president for program. IAF is a public corporation that was established by Congress in 1969 to support self-help projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. A small agency better known in Latin America and the Caribbean than in the United States, IAF has deliberately maintained a low public profile. Its only constituencies over the years have been the Congress and the organizations and groups it has supported.

This chapter tells how women have fared in a government agency that has always prided itself on being different--less bureaucratic and hierarchical, more participatory, responsive, and socially progressive. 1 It is a tale of three foundation presidents, and of changing times and an unsettling political climate. With regard to gender redistribution, it is a story of unfulfilled potential with the final outcome yet to be seen.

IAF, whose total staff has averaged sixty over the past sixteen years, has never had a women-in-development (WIDD) policy or program officer, but its track record on hiring professional women appears impressive, particularly in comparison with other donor agencies. The current president, selected by the board of directors in 1984, is a woman. I was a vice-president from 1982 to 1984. Women have been field staff (representatives) since 1972 and were office directors from 1979 to 1985, when that position was abolished in the course of a reorganization. The first general counsel and the first director of research were women. The personnel and budget and finance officers have always been women. Save for 1978-1980, there have been women on the board of directors since 1976.

With the exception of one brief period in IAF history, however, pro-

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