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3. How does gender mainstreaming work?

3.1 Conceptual premises

Gender is becoming a category by which decision-making processes are examined. Those adopting the gender perspective start out from the assumption that the living conditions to which political decisions are related have something to do with gender relations. In this context, analyses and findings of studies on women and gender are taken seriously which prove that gender relations very fundamentally determine social relationships, deciding the distribution of work, money and power. The results of gender stereotyping can be found in all areas in statistics and in descriptions of differences between the sexes. Analyses of these differences demonstrate that in most cases they are arranged hierarchically. This means that the positions and characteristics assigned and allocated to women are less valuable, less attractive and associated with fewer op-

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portunities than those assigned to men. Moreover, what women do in this society is generally of secondary importance, is less conspicuous and does not play a major public role. The division of socially necessary work into paid and unpaid, public and private and the gender-specific assignment of types of work are one of the essential mechanisms shaping gender relations that exist today. Gender relations are created and maintained by social and political structures, in other words by laws, insurance systems, how infrastructure is organized, by images and habits. This happens regardless of the gender of the social and political actors, behind their backs as it were.

Gender mainstreaming is a principle that places special emphasis on the importance of gender relations. The basic assumption behind the application of the gender mainstreaming principle is therefore that policies and decision-making processes in organizations deal with gender-stereotyped relations, but that the given relations can definitely be changed in favour of greater equality of opportunity between men and women. Where gender mainstreaming is practised it becomes transparent that decision-making processes have something to do with gender relations and in deciding where this is the case. However, the question of the direction in which gender relations should change has to be answered by a political objective.

Gender mainstreaming as a principle does not replace the political determination of these goals, so a prerequisite to applying the principle is also that the organization in question should have a clearly articulated gender policy. The direction of the decision-making processes cannot be clearly set until this normative sense of direction is provided. For example, the EU documents support a gender concept based on the equal distribution of gainful employment between men and women and the equal importance of such employment for both sexes. However, in Germany, in particular, concepts are also advocated which assume a gender difference and its continuation, consider the traditional division of labour between the sexes to be entirely functional and seek to preserve what is uniquely masculine and uniquely feminine. The question of which gender concepts become established in the goals of a political organization is left up to the political discourse.

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3.2 Responsibilities

The responsibility for applying the gender mainstreaming principle in an organization lies first and foremost with its leadership. Unless the leaders approve, support and advocate the modification of decision-making processes in their organization in terms of gender considerations, a process of this type will not work. The organization's leadership has to provide the financial, labour-related and organizational environment. From this perspective, therefore, we are talking about a classic top-down process.

The male and female participants who prepare, carry out and monitor the decision-making processes are those responsible for the application of the gender mainstreaming principle. No one in an organization may feel they are not committed to it. Herein lies another specific new feature of this principle: whereas previously women in particular have normally concerned themselves with so-called women's issues, when the gender mainstreaming principle is applied, the gender of those participating in a decision is completely insignificant. Women who repeatedly point out that there is something wrong with the gender relations and that women are discriminated against have also been held responsible for changing the situation. This changes when the gender mainstreaming principle is applied: everyone, regardless of gender, has to change the decision-making processes and eliminate inequalities in opportunities between the sexes.

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What this really means in specific terms is that for the first time men are now reminded of their duty in exactly the same way.

When an organization itself has undertaken to examine all decisions in its areas of expertise and work in terms of the impact on gender relations, that also affects each individual member of the organization in question. In practice, this means that all women's officers, experts and decision-makers have to know about the impact of their policy area on gender relations, formulate their goals, and be able to direct their decision-making processes accordingly. This ideal situation certainly does not exist in any organization, but it can be achieved through educational processes.

Besides having an expert responsible for gender policy, it has also proven beneficial in practice to appoint gender officers and, where necessary, a special department dealing with gender policy. The gender officers are specially trained experts who monitor and coordinate the decision-making processes in their field. On the one hand they are responsible for ensuring that these processes duly take place, but they can also intervene in them to provide helpful support. However, it is not they who prepare the actual decision-making processes themselves. Specific examination of policy content with respect to gender relations remains the job of the relevant experts. Even so, gender officers can apply their trained eye and their sound knowledge of gender relations to advise and encourage the participants in their special departments and provide them with thematic support by organizing working groups. A special gender policy department can also assume a function similar to that of the gender officers: the people working in this special department will be familiar with gender-related issues and can offer their knowledge, ability and advice and tackle conceptual work for the respective organization. In the Nordic countries the practice of bringing in "flying experts" has proven effective. These are mobile experts on gender issues who are taken on for specific issues or projects or who work within the organization for a certain period of time. They work intensively in individual special departments, serving in an advisory capacity.

If the management of an organization has undertaken to apply the gender mainstreaming principle, then organizational conclusions must also be drawn and the appropriate resources committed: gender officers need time and resources to perform their job and the special gender policy departments have to be adequately staffed to do their work. Similarly, all persons acting in an advisory capacity or serving as coordinators need the authority to input their knowledge into the relevant work units and must be granted access to the relevant decision-making processes.

The gender mainstreaming principle cannot be introduced and implemented in an organization without extensive advanced training for everyone. All employees must be given opportunities to take part in continuing education and training courses, especially managerial staff. The degree of obligation, intensity, duration and frequency of such training courses can be decided according to the circumstances involved. Without them, no such process can be carried out.

The widespread scepticism about gender training stems from the fear that it involves psychological manipulation and intrudes upon personal privacy. This fear is unfounded since gender training always involves the specific task at hand and its linkage with the analytical knowledge about gender relations. It may be the case, however, that the willingness to take note of the findings of studies on women and gender must first be awakened. As long as the issue of one's own gender role predominates, there are barriers and resistance. In such cases gender training courses can help bring a bit more rationality to decision-making processes and eliminate obstructions as to how gender relations are perceived.

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The contents of a gender training course

  1. Introductory round on the gender issue
    Each participant attempts to reflect on the significance of the issue of gender relations in his or her work and tries to articulate his or her expectations of the training course.

  2. Presentation on the gender approach
    The significance of gender relations and the meaning of the gender mainstreaming principle are explained.

  3. Working groups on the subject: How is the gender aspect important to my work?
    The areas where gender aspects play a role in individual areas of specialization are explored in greater detail.

  4. Presentation of results and discussion

  5. Working groups with monitoring instruments on the question of how gender aspects can be integrated
    This stage of work fleshes out the meaning of the gender aspect. Analytical tools are jointly developed or applied, criteria are described and checklists are drawn up.

  6. Agreements and work assignments
    The gender training ends with the specific formulation of voluntary undertakings, work assignments or project concepts to be fulfilled in the future on the basis of a clear schedule and sequence.

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3.3 Methods of analysis and monitoring from the gender viewpoint

The term 'gender controlling' is ambiguous. On the one hand it denotes the principle of generally monitoring all decision-making processes in terms of their gender-related implications, in which case it means the same as 'gender mainstreaming'. But the same term also refers to the procedures used to examine whether gender relations have been properly taken into account and whether certain objectives have successfully been attained. In this sense gender controlling is therefore part of the gender mainstreaming process, namely that of evaluation.

Generally speaking, an upstream evaluation is more effective than a post-hoc evaluation. This means that the issue of gender relations is not merely raised when decisions have already been taken and all that can be done is check their impact. Instead, the evaluation can kick in early on in the decision-making process and be performed in parallel through all stages of that process. The methods used in the gender mainstreaming process and which are designed to improve the decision-making processes can be broken down into analytical, consultative and participatory techniques (Bösenberg 1998).

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Analytical techniques:

The 3-R method has proved effective in Swedish municipalities. The 3 Rs in question are Representation, Resources and Realization, these being three categories in which each political measure is examined.

1. Representation

This entails an examination of how many women and how many men are affected by a measure and how many women and men participate in it.

2. Resources

The way in which resources – i.e. money, space and time – spent in the course of the measure are divided between the sexes is examined. Where money is concerned, resource flow analyses can be performed on a gender-specific basis. As for the use of space and time, the analysis ascertains how men and women occupy and are allotted space and what use they make of their time.

3. Realization

The causes behind the representation and resource distribution found between the sexes and the possibilities for changing them are investigated. If the reasons for the existing situation are known, conclusions can be drawn for future action.

This method has proven highly effective in local government in Sweden. For example, it has resulted in very different levels of municipal support for boys and girls in a sporting context, in different social welfare benefits for men and women, and in far more municipal resources flowing into grammar-school courses attended by boys (cf. ÖTV 2000).

Naturally, the analytical techniques also include compiling gender-specific statistics. Existing statistics can be used if separate data were gathered for the sexes, but in many cases new questions have to be formulated. Statistics always provide a picture of the reality probed, and the criteria in this context are crucial for determining how that reality is represented. Accordingly, it is extremely important to apply precise knowledge of gender relations when drawing up questionnaires and ascertaining the facts. For instance, it has turned out that the breakdown by men and women is often not specific enough and that differences between gender-related roles become much clearer if fathers and mothers are compared with each other.

Cost-benefit analyses by gender and gender roles can demonstrate the ratio of outlay to return in specific measures for men and women.

The drafting of gender expert's reports is also helpful as an analytical tool. Such reports examine specific technical questions in some depth and link them with the latest women's studies and gender research.

Checklists are instruments in which the concrete findings of women's studies and gender research from a special field have been included. The criteria contained in the checklist reflect the results of analyses of gender-specific acts of discrimination. Checklists are thus more useful the more precisely the field they refer to has already been reappraised in terms of gender-related aspects.

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Example of a checklist

Gender mainstreaming in political training work

1. Step one in the gender mainstreaming process: taking stock

The following questions can help ascertain the present situation:
1.1 How high is the proportion of events explicitly dealing with aspects of policy on women, gender or equal opportunities?
What proportion of funding is spent on these events?
How much time, relatively speaking, is spent on these events?
1.2 Which persons plan these events?
Do they deal only with such subjects?
What are their jobs?
1.3 Where do the resources for funding these events come from?
1.4 Is any conceptual preliminary work done with respect to selecting the topics dealt with in this area? Are subjects from this field requested by partners?
1.5 Which target groups are addressed via these events? Women in general/in certain positions; men in general/in certain positions; associations, networks?
1.6 Relatively speaking, how important are these events?
1.7 Are there any events into which problems of equal opportunities policy are integrated, for example via the inclusion of special presentations or the imposition of a condition on all speakers to deal with gender policy aspects of the subjects covered, or via gender-sensitive moderators?
1.8 What is the proportion of men and women amongst the overall participants?
1.9 What is the proportion of men and women amongst the speakers?
1.10 What proportion of speakers' fees do men and women receive relative to their share of the speakers?
1.11 Generally speaking, when events are planned is the question of the subject's connection with gender policy raised?
1.12 Is there special support for gender mainstreaming, e.g. in the form of gender officers, gender training courses, flying experts, guidelines, materials, data banks, working groups, an international exchange of experiences?

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2. Step two in the gender mainstreaming process: formulating goals

Two target dimensions can be described in accordance with the definition of equal opportunities:
2.1 Equal chances of the involvement of men and women as
- participants in events;
- speakers and moderators;
- experts.
2.2 Equal opportunities for men and women in terms of
- determining the topics covered by events;
- defining the problems to be dealt with;
- taking account of gender-specific situations in life.

3. Step three in the gender mainstreaming process: developing and implementing measures (cf. 1.11)

4. Step four in the gender mainstreaming process: evaluation

Consultative and participatory techniques:

Knowledge about gender relations is found not only in research findings and academic treatises. In their living conditions, men and in the past especially women, keenly feel the consequences of hierarchical gender relations. They can also articulate corresponding insights into their own specific instances of discrimination and exclusion. In many cases organizations which bundle together specific interests already exist. For example, a municipality can involve such interest groups in decision-making processes. In this way, the approach taken by many women's officers entailing the organization of public hearings in municipal districts to ascertain the views of the women living there and lend them political weight is becoming general practice. Think tanks working from a gender perspective can also be organized.

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Example: planning a large-capacity car park

An ideal instance of a gender mainstreaming process

The head of the planning department made planning this large-capacity car park one of his ongoing projects in the last gender training course. He knew he had the support of his superiors when he conducted the first discussion with his employees. In this discussion, he once again pointed out to his employees that their upcoming analyses should take account of the different situations faced by men and women respectively. The experts in question could obtain appropriate aid from members of the gender policy study group. They already had at their disposal data from a survey, broken down into separate figures for men and women, on their use of cars, public transport, bicycles and car parks in other areas. In addition, they had surveys of the views of the people living next to the car park, also broken down per sex. Furthermore, they had the resources for an additional expert's report on how men and women have used the available parking space in the region in the past. This question was repeatedly discussed at the ongoing working meetings, and visits to neighbouring car parks were organized. The topics covered included the location of special parking spaces for women. When the first planning concept was drawn up it was sent to the local women's organizations for their comments. Everyone was aware that they would only be doing their job well if they repeatedly raised and responded to questions of the different impact on men and women and correspondingly factored such issues into subsequent decisions. They also knew that the city council would turn down any concept that failed to take gender-related aspects into account.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Mai 2001

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