Gender mainstreaming

Gender mainstreaming is a political strategy with an objective to integrate a gender equality perspective in all steps of all decision-making at all levels. The strategy shall be implemented by those actors who are normally involved in the decision-making. Gender mainstreaming work involves systematic analysis of the consequences of potential or actual decisions for women, men and people with other gender identities (see also LGBTQ). The strategy was formulated based on criticism of how gender equality work is given an adjacent and not integrated role in projects and how it is largely left for a few enthusiasts without a mandate to make necessary changes to carry out.

The idea behind gender mainstreaming emerged in the 1980s in the area of international development work. Gender mainstreaming was adopted by Sweden in 1994 as the official strategy to implement the national gender equality policy, and by the UN women’s conference in Beijing in 1995 as a strategy for the member states. Since 2007, Sweden has launched special initiatives to promote gender mainstreaming in municipalities, county councils and regions (2007–2013), government agencies (2013–) as well as higher education institutions (2016–). Gender mainstreaming work is also being carried out within the Swedish Government Offices.

In contrast to many other concepts in this glossary, gender mainstreaming has not been formulated by researchers. The implementation of the strategy has been criticised by researchers for tending to become an end in itself rather than a means to an end. The changes have not been as dramatic as intended. In addition, there is an increasing focus on applying intersectional analyses in the work, since not all women are facing the same conditions. For example in the labour market, where people’s opportunities are also affected by factors such as race, sexuality, functionality and class (see also heteronormativity, racialisation). The strategy has largely been based on a binary gender model, one effect of which is that people who do not conform to the cis norm risk being neglected.