‘Gender mainstreaming’ is an approach which pursues policies aimed at creating and strengthening gender equality on all social levels. The concept of gender mainstreaming was first discussed in 1985, at the Third United Nations World Conference on Women held in Nairobi. The Treaty of Amsterdam (1999) made gender mainstreaming the official goal of the European Union’s equality policy.
In its Article 7 the Austrian Federal Constitution requests equal rights for women and men: “The Federal Government, the Provincial Governments and the local authorities are committed to actual equality between men and women. Measures taken to promote factual gender equality in particular by eliminating actual inequalities are permitted.”
A mandate for the administration
The lack of gender equality is a fact; men and women can be concerned by political and administrative decisions in very different ways. The guiding principle of gender equality obligates political actors to analyse the different interests and needs of women and men in all their plans and to make their decisions in a way which promotes actual gender equality. Such way of acting does not only improve the accuracy and quality of political measures, but also the citizen acceptance of the outcome.
Actual gender equality is promoted effectively where the work of the entire federal administration is consistently oriented towards the guiding principle of gender equality. Therefore, gender mainstreaming is a mandate for the top of the administration just as much as to all employees to take account of the differing interests and life situations of women and men in the structure, in the design of processes and workflows, in results and products, in communication and public relations work and in control from the start.
What’s the difference between gender mainstreaming and women’s policies?
The gender mainstreaming approach differs from explicit women’s policies in that both genders are to be taken into account when designing plans. It does not address “women-specific” problems or policy areas in isolation, but looks at both men and women alike so a gender-sensitive perspective can be integrated into all socio-political and economic areas.
How can gender mainstreaming be put into practice?
The list of measures comprises gender-neutral statistics, cost-benefit analyses by sex and gender roles, and the preparation of gender analyses. Particularly important is the “3 R method” which checks each political measure according to the three categories of representation, resources and reality.
First, a gender analysis examines, for example, whether and in which ways women and men in their diversity are concerned by the specific measure. Such a gender analysis may give rise to measures for women’s advancement which are particularly important where factors of women’s discrimination need to be abolished. However, it is also possible to take suitable measures to support men if this fosters equality, such as, for example, encouraging men to take paternal leave.