Mainstreaming Gender in the European Union: Getting the Incentives Right

Abstract

The European Union (EU) committed itself during the 1990s to the ‘mainstreaming’ of gender issues across all policy areas. Nonetheless, more than a decade after the Union's initial engagement, this commitment has not led to consistent and effective implementation in EU institutions. The problem, we argue, lies in the failure to ‘get the incentives right,’ mobilizing sufficient interest among crucial actors, beginning within the bureaucracy. Organizations like the European Commission are more successful in achieving their objectives when they provide ‘hard’ incentives for bureaucrats to implement reforms, and are less successful when they depend exclusively on ‘soft’ incentives such as persuasion and socialization. This has been the case within the Commission, which has relied exclusively on soft incentives in its implementation of gender mainstreaming, with highly variable results after over a decade. By contrast, the Commission has utilized hard incentives in the adoption of another cross-cutting mandate, on equal opportunities for men and women officials within the Commission, resulting in rapid, quantifiable progress.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    As of May 2008, the Commission was composed of 41 DGs and services, listed in Appendix, and typically referred to as ‘DGs’ for short.

  2. 2.

    See for example, recent work by Hooghe (2001), Kelley (2004), Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier (2005), and Zürn and Checkel (2005), all of whom find weak evidence of socialization of officials within the ‘most likely’ case of EU institutions.

  3. 3.

    Alternatively, the choice of soft rather than hard incentives might indicate a lack of political will at the top of the Commission hierarchy, which may place low importance on the mainstreaming mandate. We are agnostic on this point, which speaks essentially to the private motives of leading Commission officials; in any event, nothing in the following analysis relies on such an interpretation of Commission officials’ motives.

  4. 4.

    Exemplary recent scholarship on EU gender mainstreaming, much of it critical of Commission or member-state efforts, includes, inter alia, Rubery et al (2003), Schmidt (2005), Stratigaki (2005), Lombardo and Meier (2006), Beveridge (2007), Beveridge and Velluti (2008), and Woodward (2008).

  5. 5.

    Interview, Commission official, Brussels, 28 November 2007.

  6. 6.

    Interview, Commission official, DG Employment and Social Affairs, Brussels, 28 November 2007.

  7. 7.

    Interview, Commission official, DG Development, Brussels, 28 November 2007.

  8. 8.

    Interview, Commission official, DG Employment and Social Affairs, Brussels, 28 November 2007.

  9. 9.

    Correspondence, Commission official, DG ADMIN, 9 October 2008.

  10. 10.

    See for example, Beveridge et al (2000), and Rees (2005).

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the College of Liberal Arts at Temple University for research support and to the many officials of the European Commission and the European Women's Lobby who shared their views with us. Thanks also to Amy Elman, Catherine Hoskyns, Julia Lynch, Amy Mazur, Dorothy McBride, Lisa Prügl, Maria Stratigaki, Christopher Wlezien and two anonymous reviewers for detailed comments on earlier drafts. Any errors or omissions are the sole responsibility of the authors.

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Correspondence to Emilie M Hafner-Burton.

Appendix

Appendix

Table A1

Table a1 Gender mainstreaming and equal opportunities in 41 Commission directorates-General and servicesa

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Hafner-Burton, E., Pollack, M. Mainstreaming Gender in the European Union: Getting the Incentives Right. Comp Eur Polit 7, 114–138 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1057/cep.2008.37

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Keywords

  • gender
  • mainstreaming
  • European Union
  • European Commission
  • equal opportunities
  • women