Gender mainstreaming has been embraced internationally as a strategy towards realising gender equality. It involves the integration of a gender perspective into the preparation, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, regulatory measures and spending programmes, with a view to promoting equality between women and men, and combating discrimination.

Key concepts 

Dimensions of gender mainstreaming

Gender mainstreaming requires both integrating a gender perspective to the content of the different policies, and addressing the issue of representation of women and men in the given policy area.

Both dimensions – gender representation and gender responsive content - need to be taken into consideration in all phases of the policy-making process.

Click on the image to see an overview of the different components of gender mainstreaming

Dimensions of gender mainstreaming

Gender representation in policy areas

Addressing the issue of representation means looking at the representation of women and men as policy beneficiaries, as well as their representation in the labour force and in the decision making processes.

Gender responsive content of the policies

Although numbers are important, it is pertinent to also consider how gender relates to the content of policy measures, to gain a better understanding of how women and men would benefit from them. A gender responsive policy ensures that the needs of all citizens, women and men, are equally addressed. 

Enabling conditions for gender mainstreaming

An effective implementation of gender mainstreaming requires preparation and organisation. People in decision-making positions can make a particular difference here, as they have more power to introduce changes. 

Gender Mainstreaming Cycle

A practical guide to integrating the gender perspective into a policy/programming cycle

Integrating the gender perspective in a policy means that equality between women and men, as the overarching principle, should be taken into consideration in all decisions, in each phase of the policy-making process, by all the actors involved.

The policy process is understood as a multi-stage cycle, including defining, planning, implementing and checking (monitoring and evaluating). In many cases, these stages are turned into a cycle, with each step being repeated as changes occur. For example, when a policy is evaluated, it may reveal new problems that need to be addressed for re-programming.

The gender mainstreaming cycle presented here can be adjusted to different public policy/programming processes. The chart below refers to the specific stages of the cycle and the necessary elements that need to be given attention within each stage.  Specific gender mainstreaming methods and tools that should be used within each of the cycle stages are also included. Some methods and tools, such as consulting with stakeholders or providing gender equality training to the actors involved, can be useful in more than one stage. Moreover, it is important to remember that when dealing with data they should be sex-disaggregated. EIGE’s Gender Statistics Database is a useful tool that can be used to find reliable, comparable and up-to-date information on equality between women and men.

EIGE’s collection of good practices should also be consulted as it contains examples of proven approaches, policies and practices that have been effective in the implementation of gender mainstreaming strategies in the EU Member States.

For more information on the different stages of the gender mainstreaming cycle, click on each phase.


The EU approach to gender mainstreaming


Gender mainstreaming is not a policy goal in itself, but a means to achieve gender equality. Equality between women and men is recognised by the EU as a fundamental right, a common value of the EU, and a necessary condition for the achievement of the EU objectives of growth, employment and social cohesion.

Since 1996, the Commission committed itself to a ‘dual approach’ towards realising gender equality. This approach involves mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies, while also implementing specific measures to eliminate, prevent or remedy gender inequalities. Both approaches go hand in hand, and one cannot replace the other.

Browse through our Timeline to discover the milestones of gender equality in the EU.


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About this Platform

The European Institute for Gender Equality created this Platform on Gender Mainstreaming to support the EU institutions and governmental bodies with the integration of a gender perspective in their work.

This online Platform provides insights on the relevance of gender in a variety of policy areas. It also suggests what EU officials and civil servants in the EU countries can practically do to take account of gender aspects in their daily tasks and responsibilities.

This online Platform helps to improve individual competences to mainstream gender throughout the different stages of the process of policy/programme/project development and implementation. Understanding how to design, plan, implement, monitor and evaluate policies from a gender perspective will strengthen EU policies, increase their societal relevance and responsiveness.

The focus of this online Platform is on gender as a social category. Gender as a social concept is always linked to and interwoven with other social categories like ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or health status.