Policies are not always neutral; gender bias may be hiding in government decision making, which risks exacerbating inequality and discrimination. Gender mainstreaming, a strategic approach that integrates a gender lens in policymaking, can help governments achieve more equitable outcomes. This can help boost public trust in governments, reinforce democratic institutions and combat gender stereotypes.
Defining key terms
Integrating a gender equality perspective across government action and policy decisions. Gender mainstreaming is one of the most effective ways for governments to promote gender equality.
Lawmaking and strategic planning
Because gender inequalities are cross-cutting, addressing them by focusing on structural policies, laws, regulations, and other decision-making instruments can be particularly effective. This can include the passage of laws focused on gender mainstreaming, or requirements for public servants to promote gender equality. Significant progress has been made in this area: between 2017 and 2022, nine OECD countries have introduced new legislation or regulation underpinning gender mainstreaming in at least one policy area.
Strategic planning, as reflected in documents, formal government commitments, and programmes, is another powerful avenue for gender mainstreaming. Countries such as Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Lithuania, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have introduced requirements to advance gender equality priorities in government programmes. Several countries also integrated gender equality considerations in their Covid-19 plans, which prompted more inclusive recovery and resilience.
Participation in public life
Gender mainstreaming goes hand in hand with greater gender equality in representation, which has also been linked to higher levels of trust and satisfaction with democracies. Ensuring that public administrations reflect the population they serve – including its gender composition – can contribute to more inclusive decision making.
Progress has been made in recent years, with an increase in women’s representation in decision-making roles in OECD countries. Still, on average across the OECD, women remain underrepresented in decision-making positions in the public sector.
Women’s political participation must be strengthened by ensuring equal access to politics and promoting gender-sensitive working conditions.
Tools and methods used to screen a policy, programme, or budget to assess its potential impact on women, men and other groups.
There are many ways to measure gender mainstreaming. One method is the use of Gender Impact Assessments (GIAs), which can be carried out either before or after the implementation of a policy, programme or budget. GIAs can be conducted using many methodologies. In Canada, an analytical tool called Gender-based Analysis Plus is used to interrogate how women, men, and gender-diverse people may be affected by policies. New Zealand’s online gender analysis tool poses questions to help policymakers assess initiatives with an eye to gender differences, and provides links to useful databases.
Of course, GIAs are only as effective as the quality of the data, evidence and analysis that goes into them. And despite recent progress, the use of GIAs remains limited due to a lack of binding requirements, gender expertise among policymakers, and readily available data. Appreciating these challenges, OECD countries have implemented a range of measures to boost the collection and accessibility of statistics disaggregated by gender.
The OECD Toolkit on Mainstreaming and Implementing Gender Equality 2023
It is designed to help policymakers identify weaknesses and opportunities in their country and work contexts, and highlight approaches available to advance gender equality.
The Toolkit includes:
Checklists to guide policymakers in implementing the 2015 Recommendation,
self-assessment questions to help countries identify their strengths and gaps in implementing gender equality priorities, and
a range of effective policy actions, which will evolve with the latest trends and evidence.
A revision of the 2018 online Toolkit on Mainstreaming and Implementing Gender Equality, it introduces concepts such as intersectionality and the future of work; includes expanded areas such as budgeting, public procurement and infrastructure; and provides the latest lessons and good practices from OECD countries.
Find out more about the Recommendation, and explore the Toolkit.
Integrating a gender perspective in tax and spending decisions through special processes and analysis, to achieve resource allocation that benefits equality.
Without careful consideration, policies aimed at improving lives may inadvertently deepen structural gender inequalities.
That’s why 61% of OECD Member Countries now practice gender budgeting, interrogating budget measures with an eye to gender to assess how tax and spending decisions affect equality.
While the uptake of gender budgeting among OECD countries is growing, challenges remain in its implementation. According to the OECD Best Practices for Gender Budgeting, which outlines how countries can make their efforts more impactful, the hallmarks of successful implementation of gender budgeting include:
1. Strengthening the link between budgeting and key gender equality objectives,
2. ensuring gender budgeting is sustainablebeyond political cycles,
3. incorporating gender budgeting into the overarching budget framework, with leadership from the central budget authority,
4. embedding gender budgeting tools at all stages of the budget cycle,
5. underpinning gender budgeting with strong data and analysis,
6. supporting gender budgeting implementation through capacity building, and
7. using gender budgeting to reinforce government transparency and accountability.