Gender mainstreaming is a strategy for promoting gender equality, and it means that the gender perspective is taken into account in all decision-making. The Gender Equality Unit of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health coordinates the mainstreaming of the gender perspective across central government.
Gender mainstreaming requires that the impacts of any planned measures and decisions are assessed from the perspective of different genders. It also requires gender equality planning. The purpose of gender mainstreaming is to change those procedures and operating cultures of organisations that do not recognise the importance of gender.
The Act on Equality between Women and Men obliges public authorities to plan their activities so as to mainstream the gender perspective into them. The aim is to promote gender equality purposefully and systematically in both central government and other authorities. The objectives for gender mainstreaming set for the government term are monitored, for example, within the framework of the Government Action Plan for Gender Equality.
- Making Finland a Global Leader in Gender Equality: Government Action Plan for Gender Equality 2020–2023
Duty of ministries to promote gender equality
In central government, gender mainstreaming means that core functions are further developed and practices changed to promote gender equality. The ministries must take the gender perspective into account in all their activities, for instance when drafting laws, preparing their draft budgets and carrying out various programmes and projects.
All public officials have the duty to promote gender equality. The gender perspective, or how matters affect different genders, must be one of the perspectives in all preparatory work.
- Gender equality checklist for public authorities (Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare), in Finnish
Ministry’s operational gender equality plan
Each ministry can prepare an action plan for gender mainstreaming, i.e. an operational gender equality plan. The operational gender equality plan brings together the concrete objectives and measures to include the gender perspective in the ministry’s core functions and areas of responsibility. The ministries may include the measures for promoting non-discrimination in their plans as they see fit. The operational gender equality plan is not the same thing as the statutory personnel policy plan on gender equality.
Gender impact assessment at ministries
Gender impact assessment is a method for gender mainstreaming. The impacts of measures, decisions or legislation from the gender perspective should be assessed beforehand whenever activities have an impact on different groups of people. The aim is to prevent any undesirable effects in terms of different genders and to promote gender equality. On the basis of impact assessments, it is possible to make corrective proposals for reducing discrimination and any undesirable impacts, promoting gender equality and removing obstacles to gender equality.
Ministries’ gender equality working groups
The ministries have set up working groups on operational gender equality to plan and support gender mainstreaming at the ministries. The Government’s joint network of working groups on operational gender equality and non-discrimination supports the groups in their work.
The working group on operational gender equality is a group of experts that can put forward recommendations and proposals to the public officials and the senior management group responsible for the ministry’s core functions. The working group also monitors the achievement of the objectives agreed together. The working group may act as a working group on both gender equality and non-discrimination.
It can be considered a good practice that the working group has:
- a chair who is also a member of the senior management;
- a coordinator at its disposal;
- members, or other such people at its disposal, who are responsible for the ministry’s core functions, such as law drafting; and
- representatives from the ministry’s key departments.
The working group focuses on the ministry’s core processes in the order in which they are addressed during the course of the year.
Gender Equality Unit supports mainstreaming
The Gender Equality Unit of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health coordinates, develops and monitors the mainstreaming of the gender perspective in central government. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health provides training and guidance and maintains the network of working groups on operational gender equality and non-discrimination, which acts as a communication channel between the ministries and the Gender Equality Unit. Gender mainstreaming is monitored as part of the Government Action Plan for Gender Equality, for example. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health also reports on the structures and practices for mainstreaming to the EU and other international operators.
In support of mainstreaming
- Gender Glasses in use. A handbook in support of the government ministries’ gender equality work (description sheet available in English)
The handbook provides practical guidance on gender impact assessment, legislative drafting and the planning of the ministries’ operations and finances, for example. Publication of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
The website includes guidance on the use of methods for gender mainstreaming and a gender equality checklist for the authorities. The website is maintained by the Centre for Gender Equality Information (Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare).
The online training session deals with gender mainstreaming, and it is intended for personnel in central government. The training is provided jointly by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and the government digital learning environment eOppiva.