United Kingdom Structures

Central level: The Government Equalities Office (GEO) is the main structure for gender equality, with responsibility for the implementation of the equality strategy across the UK government, particularly on issues relating to women, sexual orientation and transgender equality. The GEO was established in 2007 as an independent department, replacing the Women and Equality Unit that had been set up in the 1970s. In 2012 the GEO moved to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport when the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport became the new Minister for Women and Equalities. Currently, the Secretary of State for Education is the Minister for Women and Equalities, so the GEO has moved to the Department of Education. The GEO is the sponsor department of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), a non-departmental public body (NDPB) established by the Equality Act in 2006 as a single body to replace various equality commissions. It has a statutory remit to protect, enforce and promote equality across nine grounds, including gender.

States level: In the UK, gender-equality structures at the regional level are located in government departments of the devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland:

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Division, Welsh Government
  • Gender Equality Team, Scottish Government’s Equality Unit
  • Childcare, Gender and Sexual Orientation Unit, Northern Ireland

In Wales, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Division (EDID) is responsible for mainstreaming equality, human rights, diversity and inclusion. It has responsibility for the successful delivery of key provisions under the Equality Act 2010, including leading the Welsh government’s work in setting equality objectives intended to make a tangible difference to people’s lives, ensuring that the three formal stages in the Welsh government’s equality impact assessment process are published, publishing the Equality Objectives and the Strategic Equality Plan, and overseeing the cross-departmental delivery of the Equality Objectives. The EDID reports to the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, who has cross-cutting responsibility for a number of social issues including equality and equal opportunities.

In Scotland, the Gender Equality Team forms part of the Scottish government’s Equality Unit, which provides support to officials dealing with equalities and undertaking equality impact assessments, offers training on a regular basis to staff, provides specialised support to officials, and holds responsibility for implementing the Equality Act. The unit reports to the Scottish government’s Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport, who is responsible for issues of sport, the Commonwealth Games, obesity, physical activity and equality. The Scottish Women’s Budget Group is actively involved in promoting gender-responsive budgeting and to this end is part of the Scottish government’s Equality Proofing Budgets Advisory Group. It also provides evidence and guidance on gender-responsive budgeting to the Scottish parliamentary committees.

In Northern Ireland, the Childcare, Gender and Sexual Orientation Unit is responsible for implementing the Gender Equality Strategy and for supporting and coordinating actions across departments and their agencies. Despite the high levels of responsibility assigned to the unit, exceptionally little information is available with regard to its composition, specific functions, budget or how the unit communicates with national gender-equality structures. The unit reports to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, with responsibility for promoting and monitoring implementation of equality of opportunity/good relations, as well as a number of other areas, such as tackling poverty and social exclusion, issues concerning children and young people, victims and survivors, and sustainable development.