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Gender Mainstreaming of European Union Institutions

Gender equality has been a subject of discussion for a long time in all parts of the world. To enhance gender equality, various governments and nongovernmental organizations have come up with different policies to help in ensuring that women and men are availed with equal opportunities at all institutions and in all levels.

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For example, gender mainstreaming which refers to integration of both men and women in all the stages of policy development ensures that women and men are represented during design, implementation, and evaluation as well monitoring of all the policies (Jørgensen, Pollack, & Rosamond, 2006). By so doing, the policy does not only ensure gender equality, but also makes it possible for issues that may hinder the same to be identified and addressed effectively. It is a very important policy because while implemented it ensures that the goal of sustainable human development is achieved in all institutions and in the community.

European Union (EU) has been equally committed to ensuring gender equality in all its institutions and the community in general. In the 1970s, EU passed a law which was to ensure that both men and women acquired equal salaries. Soon afterwards, it passed yet another law which ensured that there was equal treatment for both men and women in the work places, equal access to employment, promotion and even training. Although the laws were passed to ensure equality and prevent discrimination, European Union realized that the problem was far from being solved and as a result, gender main streaming came in to being in the 1990s.

Most importantly, the policy of gender mainstreaming recognized that since the structures in the society are not neutral in terms of gender, they can end up favoring one sex. Therefore, since the year 1996, when the European Union adopted the policy of gender main streaming; various changes have occurred in the society. However, various studies indicate that there is a huge difference between policy expectation and the outcome. In that case, this essay analyses the efficiency of the European Union efforts towards gender mainstreaming.

Research and studies which have been conducted illustrate that there are some results which have been realized due to EU commitment to the gender mainstreaming. Before accessing the whole issue, it is important to understand some of the efforts of EU towards gender mainstreaming. Apart from just ensuring equal opportunities for both women and men, EU was committed to ensure that women employment would reach 60% by the year 2010 (CONCORD Gender Working Group, 2007).

In addition, other services that would contribute towards achieving the overall goal like ensuring quality child care provision have also been incorporated. However, it is important to note that since gender mainstreaming is a change like any other, a problem arises since some governments are usually not willing to adopt all the policies that are necessary for the overall goal to be met. Nonetheless, before discussion the challenges it is important to look at the results of gender mainstreaming as the same can be used to access the effectiveness and efficiency.

It is important to understand some figures concerning gender mainstreaming in the various European Union countries. According to the studies of European Commission (2005), the rate of women employment has increased although it is still lower compared to the rate of men. The same studies, record that women employment has increased to 55%, which is a positive observation disregarding other related factors.

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However, it is worth noting that that there is occupation segregation and stereotype which affects women negatively. For example, women are concentrated in education, social, healthcare as well as retailing sectors while men work in the sectors requiring technical knowledge such as engineering, finance and managerial sectors. Further studies illustrate that it is unlikely to find women in managerial and in the supervisor posts (Li & Goldschmidt, 2009).

The rates of unemployment still reveal some disparities since in EU-15 and EU-25, the rate for women unemployment 1.8 and 1.9 respectively higher than the rate of men. Such statistics indicate that women are more vulnerable than men to unemployment. Disparities in salary are still an issue of concern since women contribute to earn lower salaries than men in the majority of EU member countries. In addition, the majority of the lowest paid workers are women and that is why they are exposed to the risk of poverty more than men. Women work part time more compared to men and that also contributes to the level of poverty due to low income. Although both men and women may have responsibilities of taking care of the children, men having such responsibilities who are employed are more compared to women (European Commission, 2005).

In the education sector, various changes have been observed in view of the fact that currently, women are more educated than men. Women who attain the secondary school education are more than men especially in the 20-24 age brackets. In the European Union countries, studies illustrate that majority of the graduates are women despite the fact that they still concentrate on gender stereotype subjects like the arts. Nevertheless, in the year 2001, changes were observed because 36% of the total women who graduated had majored in sciences as well as informatics. On the same note, it is also worth noting that 21% hailed from the engineering fields.

Since the policy of gender mainstreaming was incorporated in EU institutions, various studies have been conducted to investigate on the effectiveness of the same. However, the issue may be contentious depending on which ever perspective it is being looked at. On the same note, though effectiveness has not been achieved yet, it is important to note some of the positive changes that have resulted from the same.

Change has been observed in some areas which were not initially gender sensitive. Such areas are inclusive but not limited to environment, globalization, asylum, world trade and fisheries. Most importantly, due to gender mainstreaming, women started to be involved in the process of coming up with different policies. Studies indicate that women participated in the conference which was aimed at discussing the issue of women and globalization in the context of the civil society. Other meeting was also conducted in other sectors and research on statistics revealed that there were positive impacts from the above named sectors.

As expected, studies illustrate that a lot of impacts have only been observed in areas that had initially dealt with the issues of equality such as the employment sector, labour market, education, research, development as well as structural funds. The main reason is due to the fact that people involved in policy making in such sectors have got an experience of dealing with the gender related issues and the issues concerning gender equality. Therefore, it is clear that given that such sectors were already acquainted with the matters of gender equality, it is only slight changes that were required to carry out the policy of gender mainstreaming. Nevertheless, other areas and policies which were not gender sensitive like the sector of transport, external relations and trade; gender mainstreaming takes long to be implemented (MAZEY, 2002).

Gender mainstreaming means equal opportunities not only for women, but also for men and for people of all ages. However, the research conducted reveal that some age groups are negatively affected by some of the gender mainstreaming polices. For instance, a study conducted in one of the EU countries indicated that men of the middle age are dying at a very high rate due to behaviours that are self destructive.

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The results of the study reveal that such men are usually frustrated due to their inability to provide for their families and in most cases, their roles of provision are taken up by women. Moreover, polices that have been set up leave out the elderly and as a result, majority of them are still in poverty and lack even the very basic needs. Therefore, even though the policy of gender mainstreaming has been effective in some areas, much effort is still required to ensure that the overall goals have been met.

Having discussed the effect of gender mainstreaming in general, it is important to focus on the EU institutions. The EU has put in considerable efforts to ensure that gender mainstreaming is achieved at all levels. For example, in the area of structural funds, EU has made various contributions to ensure that the goal of gender mainstreaming is achieved.

Apart from relying on principles of gender equality only, the EU commission goes to an extent of calling meetings, arranging seminars and conferences in order to notify the member countries on the new requirements. Despite the fact that gender mainstreaming has not been achieved fully in all the member countries, such meetings and conferences which were arranged in the late 1990s proved to be effective as the officials in such countries could now be in a position to state their case in relation to funding and development polices that could enhance equality (Jørgensen, Pollack, & Rosamond, 2006).

There are various institutions of the European Union which are inclusive of the European Union Parliament, European Union Council, Court of Justice, Court of Auditors and the Council. There are various changes in the EU parliament that illustrate that gender mainstreaming has resulted into positive changes. Although all goals have not been met, the study indicates that there is improvement in the number of women elected in the parliament.

In addition, strategies have been designed to ensure that women are elected in the main committees involved in the decisions making process. Moreover, it is also a main goal to see to it that women will be elected in the leadership positions of all the committees. The European Union Council makes sure that the representatives of the member states are equipped with the right polices towards gender mainstreaming so that they can be in position to apply the same in their home countries (Shepherd, 2009).

European Commission has been in the forefront in ensuring gender mainstreaming at all levels. It has been very active since it is involved in drafting laws and proposals which are then presented to the EU parliament. Apart from that, European Commission has been involved in arranging seminars that discuss the issues concerning gender mainstreaming. Most importantly, the commission provides a guide towards gender mainstreaming in all sectors not only by writing proposals; but also by providing practical guidance. For example, the studies of European Commission, (2005) illustrate a practical example that can be used to attain gender mainstreaming not only at the institution but also at the community level.

Achievement in certain areas such as education as well as health is a clear indication of the progress that has resulted from the gender mainstreaming in EU institutions. However, that does not mean that there are no disparities in other areas like the decision making and the labour market (JAHAN, 1996). Although there are statisitics to proove that gender mainsrtreaming is yet to be achieved, knowkledge and awareness on the importance of gender mainsrreaming has increased consinderabley.

The study has indicated that gender mainstreaming has started to affect various institutions of the European Union although not to a great extent. The impact been observed as a result of the out put of the gender mainstreaming in the policy making process as well implementation various policies. As much as one may want to conclude that the policy of gender mainstreaming within the European Union has been effective, the study indicated that there are some very vital institutions which have not been affected effectively like the Court of Justice. In addition, the effectiveness of the policy varies from one member state to another. Therefore, the efforts have been effective in some while in others there is much that needs to be done (Li & Goldschmidt, 2009).

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The efficiency of gender mainstreaming can only be attained if some of the obstacles to the same are dealt with first. For instance, the study has indicated that even with the gender mainstreaming in place, women are still underrepresented in bodies of EU that are involved in the decision making process. In addition, the number of women in different committees is still lower though efforts have been made to ensure that women are not only represented but take part in implementing various policies regarding gender mainstreaming (CONCORD Gender Working Group, 2007).

Nonetheless, it is important not to down play the impact of gender mainstreaming since everything cannot be achieved instantly. For example, even if the Court of Justice lags behind in gender mainstreaming, there is still some change because for along time until 1990s, women were not represented but after gender mainstreaming was put in place, member countries started to elect women in to the institution. However, if the proposed polices can be incorporated in all institutions at all levels, a positive impact can be realized and eventually ensure sustainable human development in the community. Nevertheless, the issue of effectiveness of the efforts of EU towards gender mainstreaming is dynamic and can only be clearly understood if different issues are looked at separately.


CONCORD Gender Working Group. 2007. European Parliament Development Committee Own Initiative Report on ‘Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in Development Cooperation’. Web.

European Commission. 2005. Employment social affairs. EQUAL Guide on Gender Mainstreaming. Luxembourg, Belgium: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Jahan, R. 1996. The Elusive Agenda: Mainstreaming Women in Development. The Pakistan Development Review , 35 (4), 825—834.

Jørgensen, K. E., Pollack, M. A. & Rosamond, B. 2006. Handbook of European Union politics. London: SAGE.

Li, Y. & Goldschmidt, J. E. 2009. Taking employment discrimination seriously: Chinese and European perspectives. NetherlandsLeiden : Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

Mazey, S. 2002. Gender Mainstreaming Strategies In The E.U.: Delivering On An Agenda? Feminist Legal Studies , 10, 227–240.

Shepherd, L. J. 2009. Gender Matters in Global Politics: A Feminist Introduction to International Relations. London : Taylor & Francis.

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