In brief, Gender Mainstreaming means that a gender equality perspective is integrated into every stage of an activity, including decision-making, planning and policy implementation.
Gender Mainstreaming has been the Swedish Government’s overarching strategy for gender policy since the government bill “shared power, shared responsibility” (Delad makt, delat ansvar_ 1993/94:147), presented by the then Minister of Gender Equality Bengt Westerberg, was passed by the Swedish parliament in spring 1994. The bill, which is available in Swedish only, laid down that,
“… a gender-equality approach [must] be imposed on all policy areas. Accordingly, proposals and decisions must be analyzed in terms of gender equality to clarify possible implications for both sexes. This applies particularly to educational, employment, industrial, social and economic policy, and especially to structural changes in society. Efforts to promote gender equality must be made in every policy area and measures must be taken within the framework of the concerned regular work of the bodies. Nevertheless, special initiatives are also needed to drive development in the desired direction.”
Before the bill, gender equality was a recognised right by law. Several formal obstacles had been eliminated through measures such as independent taxation of spouses and well-developed and subsidized childcare services. However, a segregated labour market with large income differences, and underrepresentation of women in politics indicated that real gender equality had not been achieved despite the legislative changes. Thus, gender mainstreaming is seen as an effective response to the shortcomings of the previous gender equality work. It is also considered to be a strategy that would lead to formation of a gender equal society in practice.