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5. How can gender mainstreaming be successfully implemented in an organization?

5.1 Areas of application so far

International development cooperation (IDC) is the area of application where gender mainstreaming is practised most intensively and has the longest-standing tradition. Indeed, an evaluation of decades of development work revealed that the difference in life expectancy between men and women has grown even greater in the wake of modernization processes and that despite the many assistance projects implemented, access to resources like work, loans and land has tended to decrease. It had become clear that women were usually assigned a passive role in processes of project identification and planning and were not involved at all in the preparatory and implementation processes. For several years now the gender perspective has been integrated into development cooperation, not least of all thanks to the lobbying work done by women at international level. This has been achieved by imposing conditions on funding; in other words, the only project applications approved are those which feature a gender perspective. This tool of linking the funding of measures to the inclusion of the gender perspective in applications for funds is proving extremely effective, for it is forcing all project sponsors to expand their knowledge and build up their information on gender relations and come up with corresponding applications. There are a number of aids for doing this, ranging from the training of development experts to checklists used when applying for project resources or to the sponsors' appointment of 'gender officers'.

Since 1999, allocations of resources from the EU Structural Fund have also been conditional upon the description of the impact on gender relations of a specific measure being applied for. The favoured projects are those which meet this requirement. Linking fund allocation to the applicants' gender mainstreaming processes has proven highly effective in making the gender-related features of government-supported measures transparent and controllable. The provision of government support for activities at all levels can also involve such conditions. For example, in 1999 the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research made its provision of support for a congress on educational policy conditional on the gender perspective being integrated into the treatment of all topics.

Another way of implementing gender mainstreaming is based on the voluntary commitment of government organizations which take seriously the declaratory announcements made at European level. At the federal level, since 2000 there has been an interministerial working group that has discussed gender mainstreaming at the expert level. In addition, the cabinets of the Länder of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt have adopted decisions on the implementation of the gender mainstreaming process that are intended to result in any draft documents submitted to the respective governments which lack a gender assessment being sent back to the respective ministries. Both Länder are working to improve the decision-making processes in state government agencies along these lines. In this context, the linkage with organizational development processes is proving itself, whereby the processes in question area geared towards the improvement of decision-making procedures, and this is where the gender mainstreaming principle can be introduced. In Lower Saxony, initial projects initiated by individual ministries are being accompanied by a longish-term educational programme for the participants. Both Länder offer employees a chance to attend gender training courses. As it turns out, female employees are generally quicker off the mark in becoming more sensitive to issues concerning gender relations, but after a certain 'warm-up period' many

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male employees also realize that applying the gender mainstreaming process enhances their policy measures.

Some time ago, the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBS) was one of the first political foundations to make gender democracy an organizational objective and it has both shaped its internal structures and fashioned its products in line with achieving this objective in accordance with the gender mainstreaming principle. Already, staff members' employment contracts oblige them to work in a gender-sensitive manner, train gender officers and support the work of individual work units, and mandatory gender training courses are held for all employees on an annual basis.

The gender mainstreaming principle can also be integrated into administrative reform processes in which cost-related and efficiency-oriented criteria are attributed a lower level of priority, which in turn creates more leeway for employees and enables them to take decisions independently. It would make sense to integrate the consideration of the gender perspective as a parallel procedure. Whenever decision-making processes are improved on an ongoing basis, the opinions of experts from different fields are added and thus contribute towards the optimization of these processes. This also applies to the opinions of experts on gender-related issues. The critical examination of administrative routines can likewise be capitalized upon to incorporate the gender perspective. The teamwork favoured in many administrative reform processes is also based on both sexes working together and on an equal footing.

In an exemplary project, the Hanseatic city of Lübeck and the city of Norderstedt have proven how progress can made towards the achievement of cross-cutting objectives with reference to the equal treatment of men and women. In the decentralized administration the overriding municipal objective of ensuring the equal treatment of men and women was dealt with in a goal-based, transparent and high-quality manner. The results of the project show the degree to which goals concerned with guaranteeing equal opportunities can be implemented and how gender mainstreaming process can be incorporated into operative goals, the descriptions of indicators, the designation of responsible officials, the choice of addressees, and the selection of formulas, units of measurement and variables used in surveys (Hanseatic city of Lübeck and city of Norderstedt 1999).

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Product: Promoting sports

Header data:
Operative goal:

Recreational and competitive sports are given priority support if, in those sports where women are under-represented, measures are implemented to offer women easier access.

Description of the indicator

Priority quota for potential support

Person responsible
Who determines the indicator and communicates it?

Mr B.

Aim of the indicator

What questions should it answer?

Are there sports associations involved in sports where women are under-represented, and which therefore take steps to offer women readier access to such sports?


For which target groups is the indicator relevant?

Equal opportunities officers, mayors and policymakers

Formula and unit of measurement

Ratio of associations involved in sports where women are under-represented and which are introducing measures to those involved in sports where women are under-represented



Partner for reference/Benchmarking

not applicable

Survey variables



Responsible for survey

Survey dates/period

Survey of sports associations involved in sports where women are under-represented


Mr B.


Survey of sports associations which adopt support measures in sports where women are under-represented


Mr B.


Development of the indicator

Situation 1999
no data

not applicable




at least 50%


at least 75%

Tolerance limits


./. 10%

./. 10%

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The gender mainstreaming principle is also firmly established in trade union organizations. As early as 1995 the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) decided to include the interests of women and men in areas of trade union action. In 1998 the management board of the German public workers' union ÖTV decided to apply the gender mainstreaming principle in collective bargaining work for the time being. A gender mainstreaming officer was duly appointed, thus taking a first step towards structural change for the purpose of creating genuine equal opportunities through collective bargaining policy. Women from the five service sector unions which intend to merge to form the new union called ver.di are currently developing concepts designed to enshrine the gender mainstreaming principle in the new trade union organization's structures: besides gender quotas at all levels they are also demanding that the gender mainstreaming process be introduced in the organization's specialized work. A post of gender officer is to be introduced at each level of the organization, with a well-staffed technical secretariat at the top level doing the conceptual work and coordinating any consultations. In addition, the promotion of women's status in application of the gender mainstreaming principle is to remain an element of personnel planning and staff policy, thus guaranteeing the equal treatment of employees in the new trade union organization in the long term. A few unions have already staged gender training courses, in other words activities where the participants are made aware of gender relations, trained in them and motivated and enabled to incorporate consideration of them in their work. For example, the board members of the German postal union attended a gender training course.

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5.2 Means of implementation

The example of international development cooperation work shows that making the allocation of resources conditional upon the inclusion of gender mainstreaming processes at the application stage is highly effective. The same conditionality can be used wherever funds are spent for organizing relations.

Before the gender mainstreaming principle can be implemented in an individual organization, a gender policy goal must be formulated for the organization in question. Such a commitment on the part of the organization will serve as an anchor to which subsequent demands to implement the principle in all areas can be tied. However, so far it has not proven possible to make the principle of gender mainstreaming legally enforceable, despite the facts that the equal treatment of men and women is enshrined in Germany's Basic Law and the EU directives and Amsterdam Treaty should be regarded as the bases for political action. At present, these legal bases serve to support efforts made with a view to attaining gender equality but cannot enforce them.

In practice it will initially be women, either women's representatives or women's officers, who ensure that the idea of gender mainstreaming is made known and that individual organizations voluntarily embrace that principle.

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5.3 Risks of misuse

Although the gender mainstreaming principle is still relatively young, there are already numerous examples of its misuse. Such instances are all based on playing off this new gender policy strategy against the old, established forms. Either out of ignorance or intentionally for political ends, gender mainstreaming is declared the all-encompassing strategy, thereby rendering other strategies apparently superfluous. Even at EU level the

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specific programmes designed to promote the status of women and women's projects were supposed to be cut back, the justification used being that all funds were subject to the gender mainstreaming principle. In this instance the principle was not only misunderstood, it was also misused. For one thing, the application of the gender mainstreaming principle does not at all rule out the establishment of special support budgets for women, but can instead signify an entirely consistent measure in the application of that principle. Secondly, at European level too it may not be assumed that the gender mainstreaming principle has already been adopted and implemented everywhere. This relatively speedy cut in funds for special women's projects is also taking place at various levels, though it must invariably be identified as misuse, since to date the gender mainstreaming principle has not been consistently adopted anywhere. Similar instances have also occurred at municipal level, where mayors believed they could already abolish their Equal Opportunities Committee merely by proclaiming their intention to establish gender mainstreaming processes in the near future. This can only be regarded as a deliberate misunderstanding, since the positions of Equal Opportunities Committees and women's officers are valuable factors for optimizing gender mainstreaming processes, and they are absolutely indispensable if gender-related issues are dealt with in all areas. In many administrations, it is primarily women's officers and the members of Equal Opportunities Committees that boast knowledge of gender-related issues; indeed, women's officers are the people most likely to know the interests of the women employed there and are also best placed to bring in experts on gender questions.

The abolition of independent women's ministries at Länder level should be judged ambivalently: on the one hand, it can result in a loss of power if the women's minister has a strong position within the cabinet, but on the other hand it can also constitute the first step towards the implementation of a gender mainstreaming strategy by the entire administration of the federal state in question. This being the case, the need remains for a minister to be made responsible for gender-related issues and for making progress with gender mainstreaming processes. In the long run, abolishing a women's ministry in favour of setting up gender departments in all other ministries can result in more effective gender policies.

Wherever gender mainstreaming is extolled as the supposedly newest and most effective strategy and is used to do away with old encrusted strategies, it is more than likely that there is a power struggle going on between the sexes which will be settled to the disadvantage of women. The most effective means of testing sincerity is still analysing the number of persons involved, the extent of the funding and the mobilization of the organizational potential used to change the gender relations in question. These must all greatly increase as gender mainstreaming processes are introduced; any decrease points to an intention to obscure gender questions, rather than take their true significance seriously.

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

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