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4. How does gender mainstreaming relate to other
gender policy strategies?

Gender mainstreaming is a tool for reaching the goal of gender democracy or equal opportunities. However, it only supplements existing tools, it does not replace them. An organization which wants to establish gender democracy and equal opportunities will use gender mainstreaming to attain this goal even more effectively than before. So in conceptual terms gender mainstreaming offers something extra, but also shifts how the problem is viewed.

The political problem is no longer defined as purely a women's issue where women in particular must be concerned about their gender role since they are affected personally. Instead, the problem is regarded as concerning the social organization of gender relations. The discriminating function of structural conditions is acknowledged. Women who are discriminated against due to these relations will still be the target group for measures, but in addition the environment creating this discrimination is also being analysed and modified. An organization which feels itself committed to gender democracy will on the one hand want to do this internally by not treating its employees differently on the basis of their gender and their gender role within the organization in question. It will therefore consistently promote the status of women, continuing to do so until gender is no longer relevant in filling positions, organizing working conditions and remu-

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neration. It will also seek to do this externally by measuring and constantly improving its political activity in terms of attaining the objective of gender democracy.

Plans to promote the lot of women can therefore be seen as the result of applying the gender mainstreaming principle in personnel development. Implementing quota systems and promoting the interests of women serve the objective of placing men and women on an equal footing within the organization. Whenever a plan for promoting the position of women has been drawn up, decision-making processes in the context of human resources policy have been analysed according to the gender mainstreaming principle. The plan for promoting the interests of women is nothing other than the fruit of such a process. Quota systems and measures designed to promote women's status are therefore strategies for undoing previous discrimination against women based on their gender and their gender-determined role. The current positions occupied by women in the workplace reflect their gender-based exclusion, which has to be reversed via gender preference: this is the justification used to promote the lot of women and give them preferential treatment on the basis of their sex until equality has been achieved. If the traditional way of promoting women's status is interpreted as being a gender mainstreaming process in personnel policy, then this shows not only the compatibility of these two strategies but also the intrinsic connection between them. Gender mainstreaming is therefore the general instrument guiding the decision-making process, while a policy of promoting the status of women is the concrete expression of this approach in personnel policy. As a result, directly promoting the interests of one gender can be the consequence of a gender mainstreaming process: if the gender analysis finds that women do not have the same career access and opportunities due to their gender and their gender-related role, then they must be given special support. The same also applies to men, since they too are denied access to careers in certain sectors on the basis of their gender and their gender role, for example in the private care sector. The gender mainstreaming process in personnel policy could therefore eventually include a policy of promoting men's interests which facilitates and opens up men's access to careers in the private care sector.

Organizations' political measures are often related to the basic environment in which specific gender relations take shape. Where such an environment is formed politically, gender mainstreaming entails it being shaped in such a way as to change the gender relations. In these instances the goal is not to specifically promote a group of men or women, but rather to provide opportunities for both sexes to take advantage of on an equal footing. The changing of such a basic environment is, as it were, the preventive measure which prevents hierarchical and different gender relations from continuing to exist in the long term.

An example:

In the area of job promotion, many measures are aimed at improving access to jobs. An analysis of gender relations shows that, due to their traditional gender-related role, women face a particular situation, especially when they have opted out of gainful employment to perform unpaid work raising children and subsequently wish to return to work. Consequently, measures implemented for women returning to work are specific measures aimed at establishing 'gender justice'. On the other hand, measures designed to promote jobs must also include consider how the social environment which results in women finding themselves in such a situation in the first place can be changed: accordingly, measures aimed at making working time more flexible and providing material support during the period of private child-raising become just as much a part of the

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gender mainstreaming process as incentives for employing women who wish to return to work.

Generally speaking, it is true to say that special measures aimed at women in specific life situations will be needed as long as the different, hierarchical gender relations remain so striking. A gender mainstreaming process in this context will only become superfluous when men and women face the same problems reconciling work and family life.

There are at least four different pillars underpinning gender policy (cf. Stiegler 1998):

  1. the standardization of goals (legislation, guiding principles, programmes);

  2. the use of a quota system as the process to reverse exclusion;

  3. the gender mainstreaming principle as an improvement in political decisions;

  4. women's independent structures and autonomous practice.

None of these four pillars should be obviated by one of the others; instead, they are mutually reinforcing. Women's autonomous practice and independent structures in political organizations will be necessary until gender relations are no longer organized in a discriminatory manner. Independent women's structures are also necessary for gender mainstreaming processes: a policy that takes due account of gender-related considerations cannot in practice be established solely on the basis of practical analyses and findings described in the literature; instead, it must be based on the actual experiences of women in individual organizations. Women are more sensitive to gender questions than most men, which is why they still need opportunities for exchanging their views and also the means to incorporate their articulated interests into their respective organizations. Only they are capable of articulating concrete gender-specific acts of discrimination, but also gender-specific strengths, and translating these into policy. Indeed, as the women's movement has shown, women will allow nothing to prevent them from reacting to specific oppressive structures by taking appropriate independent action.

An example of interconnected strategies

Supporting a women's university, in other words independent structures, can be regarded as the result of a gender mainstreaming process in higher education policy. If women found such a university to defend themselves against the defining power of men in academic circles, to counteract women's exclusion from leading academic study and develop new, previously unrealized forms of scholarship, then a women's university of this kind will produce a paradigm for successfully achieving gender justice. As many feminist academics have found out, the struggle to have feminist subject matter recognized as relevant for study and examination purposes costs a great deal of energy and effort. They prefer to invest this energy in a project of their own and prove that knowledge can also be based on real life experiences, that theory and practice can be linked and that scholarly competence can be redefined. With respect to the level of political administration, promoting a women's university would be a measure that could derive from applying gender mainstreaming principles to decisions concerning policy on higher education. Bearing in mind that most resources are allocated to colleges and universities where male-oriented academic work is performed, it is a simple matter to conclude that a women's university deserves support as a counterbalance.

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

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