It involves the integration of a gender perspective into the preparation, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, regulatory measures and spending programmes, with a view to promoting equality between women and men, and combating discrimination.
Gender mainstreaming ensures that policy-making and legislative work is of higher quality and has a greater relevance for society, because it makes policies respond more effectively to the needs of all citizens – women and men, girls and boys. Gender mainstreaming makes public interventions more effective and ensures that inequalities are not perpetuated.
Gender mainstreaming does not only aim to avoid the creation or reinforcement of inequalities, which can have adverse effects on both women and men. It also implies analysing the existing situation, with the purpose of identifying inequalities, and developing policies which aim to redress these inequalities and undo the mechanisms that caused them.
At European level, the EU Institutions are in charge of implementing gender mainstreaming, whereas at national level, it is up to the governments of Member States. However, it is not only the responsibility of specific individuals working in certain areas or units. While specific structures should be established and persons responsible appointed, the responsibility for implementing gender mainstreaming should be with the entire staff of public institutions, under the leadership of the management.
A political commitment for gender equality and a compatible legal framework are the basic conditions for the development of a successful gender mainstreaming strategy. In addition to concrete objectives and targets in the strategy, gender mainstreaming requires a clear action plan. Such plan should take into account the context, satisfy the necessary conditions, cover all the relevant dimensions, foresee the use of concrete methods and tools, set out the responsibilities and make sure that the necessary competences exist to achieve the anticipated results within a planned time frame.
Dimensions of gender mainstreaming
Gender mainstreaming requires both integrating a gender perspective to the content of the different policies, and addressing the issue of representation of women and men in the given policy area.
Both dimensions – gender representation and gender responsive content – need to be taken into consideration in all phases of the policy-making process.
Gender representation in policy areas
Addressing the issue of representation means looking at the representation of women and men as policy beneficiaries, as well as their representation in the labour force and in the decision making processes.
Women are beneficiaries of EU policies to the same extent as men. Yet, compared to men, they are significantly underrepresented in decision-making positions. By collecting information on the representation of both sexes as users/beneficiaries, the policy measures can be better targeted and their effects on different groups better estimated.
The representation of women and men working in different policy areas varies across policy sectors and according to the type of work or functions. For instance, women are underrepresented in the renewable energy sector (22.1 % of the workforce). They are generally employed in lower-skilled jobs (primarily in administration and communication), while more skilled and better paid jobs are primarily held by men. In the field of education, women are overrepresented as teachers at the levels of primary and lower secondary education, but their representation within decision-making positions is rather low, especially in tertiary education.
When there is an unbalanced participation of women and men in the planning and decision-making processes on policy actions, this may affect the outcomes that impact both women and men. Policies benefit from diverse perspectives: a more balanced representation of both sexes would bring in different experiences that may improve the decision-making process and overall results.