International Women’s Day Sanctions Quiz

unfair steps
Marissa Ellis
Marissa Ellis

Diversily Founder


unfair steps

The theme for International Women’s Day in 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. It is a call to speak out, to step up and to take action. It is a reminder that the way we have always done things is not necessarily the way to proceed. We should be constantly challenging ourselves as to whether our actions are inclusive, and if not, how we can progress to creating a more equal world. 

Our purpose at Diversily is to inspire better business; business that is purpose-led, human-centred with diversity and inclusion at the core. We inspire inclusive action and challenge people to think differently. 

Today we are looking at financial sanctions. 


Sanctions are not gender blind but they are being implemented in a gender neutral fashion.

The financial services organisations spend millions complying with compliance regulations that require screening of customers and payments against sanctions lists. They are concerned with effectiveness and efficiency and reducing friction and cost in this process. They are implemented in a gender neutral fashion but the reality is that sanctions are not gender blind. 


We created this short quiz to encourage people working in sanctions compliance in the financial services industry to open up conversations and look at sanctions compliance through a gendered lens.  


Quiz Questions

Use this short quiz to open up conversations with your team. 

Question 1

What % of records on the OFAC SDN list of sanctioned individuals, where gender is known, are female?

a) Less than 10%
b) Between 10% and 30%
c) Between 30% and 50%
d) Between 50% and 70%
e) More than 70%

Question 2

How do economic sanctions affect citizens in the sanctions target country? 


a) Men and women are affected equally
b) Women are affected disproportionally more than men
c) Men are affected disproportionally more than women

Question 3

Sanctions could be used as a tool to address sexual violence in armed conflict. Is ‘sexual violence’ used systematically across sanctions regimes as an explicit designated criteria?

a) Yes
b) No

Quiz Answers

Answer to Question 1 is a)

Only 8.29% of records on the OFAC SDN list of sanctioned individuals, where gender is known, are female  (as of 7th March 2021).

Other interesting points of notes are: 

  • Female % of known records in ECC, SDN and UN lists ranges from 3.28%-9.78%.
  • Blanks gender field in records in ECC, SDN and UN lists range from 43%-91%. Much of the time gender is not recorded. 
  • We can’t tell if people are being added through association. For example we don’t know if these women have been added in their own right or through association with their partner or family members. 

Answer to Question 2 is b)

Economic sanctions have a disproportionally negative impact on women. 

According to this study, an average episode of sanctions reduces life expectancy by about:

  • 1.2-1.4 years for UN sanctions.
  • 0.4-0.5 years for US sanctions. 

The study also states that “We find evidence that women are affected more severely by the imposition of sanctions. The fact that sanctions are not ‘gender-blind’ can be interpreted as evidence that sanctions disproportionally affect (the life expectancy of) the more vulnerable members of society.”

The research in this area is limited but here are some interesting studies we found during our research. 

  • Article : The Humanitarian Impacts of Sanctions on Women states “ …all peace issues require a gendered lens in order to be adequately addressed.”
  • Study:  Women’s economic rights in Iran
    • “Economic sanctions have significant negative impact on women’s labor force participation. Economic sanctions inhibit valued functioning and capabilities of Iranian women.”
  • Study: The human costs and gendered impact of sanctions on North Korea
    • “The report highlights the case of women as one of the vulnerable groups differentially affected by the sanctions. The report concludes by raising concerns that the sanctions in their current form may not be reconcilable with internal law, especially humanitarian and human rights norms.”
  • Study: Sanctions as a gendered instrument of statecraft: the case of Iraq
    • “We conclude from the Iraqi experience that that the gendered effects of sanctions have considerable implications for sanctions theory”

Answer to Question 3 is b)

‘Sexual violence’ is NOT used systematically across sanctions regimes as an explicit designated criteria.

Despite the potential, sanctions is not being used systemactically as a tool to curb sexual violence in conflict. 

  • Report: The Use of UN Sanctions to Address Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (2018)
    • The report states that “The current approach is characterized by significant inconsistency across regimes, delay, and gaps. We conclude that the sanctions tool offers significant – and as yet largely unexploited – potential to advance women’s protection from sexual violence in situations of armed conflict. Sexual violence should be incorporated as a stand along criterion when adopting a new sanctions regime”
  • Article: Gender-Based Violence and Sanctions: A potential UN Security Council Framework
    • The article states that “The Security Council, unlike other UN bodies, is limited by Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter in its consideration of sexual and gender-based violations (SGBV) in sanctions regimes to situations where SGBV constitutes a threat to a peace, security or stability. Yet, there is very little clarity on what acts of SGBV fall within that definition. This lack of clarity has often made official reporting of violations and the resulting sanctions less comprehensive and gender-sensitive than would otherwise be possible.”

It should be noted that although the majority of victims of sexual violence are women, this is not exclusively the case. 


  • The sanctioned individuals are predominately male, yet it is the women of sanctions countries that are disproportionately affected.
  • Sanctions are not gender blind but are implemented in a gender neutral fashion.
  • Viewing sanctions through a gendered lens, capturing more granular data and tackling the underlying problems in new ways will provide insight and inspire action that is currently missing.

Driving Positive Change

It is clear from our research that more work is needed in this area. It is hugely complex and more over International sanctions are often not effective at achieving their overall aim as discussed here and here.

Lack of diversity is a part of the problem but diversity is also part of the solution. We need more women working in this space and people from across law enforcement, financial services, policy makers, technology etc working together, bringing different perspectives and solving these challenges in new ways. 

Please get in touch with if:

  • If you used this quiz to start an interesting conversation – we’d love to hear about it.
  • You have additional research and insight on the topic – we’d be happy to enrich this page with additional links.
  • You are working on a project or initiative in this space – we’d love to shine a light on the work already being done in this space.

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