Mainstreaming of a Gender Perspective

“Gender equality is an issue of development effectiveness, not just a matter of political correctness or kindness to women. New evidence demonstrates that when women and men are relatively equal, economies tend to grow faster, the poor move more quickly out of poverty, and the well-being of men, women and children is enhanced.”

The World Bank, “The Business Case for Gender Mainstreaming”, from Integrating Gender into the World Bank’s Work: A Strategy for Action 2002

Table of Contents

What is gender mainstreaming?

Gender mainstreaming is a strategy to assess the implications for both men and women, of any planned actions, policies or programmes in all areas and at all levels. This approach recognizes the need to take social and economic differences between men and women into account to ensure that proposed policies and programmes have intended and fair results for women and men, boys and girls.


What is the Government of Canada doing to implement gender mainstreaming?

The Government of Canada adopted the Federal Plan for Gender Equality in 1995 (PDF version, 226 KB)* as a response to the Beijing Platform for Action (PDF version, 282 KB)* created at the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) The key commitment of the Federal Plan was to “implement gender-based analysis throughout federal departments and agencies”.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act outline legal obligations to ensure gender equality in Canada.

Why do gender mainstreaming?


Gender mainstreaming makes good policy sense:

  • Every policy and activity has a gender perspective or implication. Decisions in economic and social policies and programmes influence and impact women and men differently.

  • Experience shows policies and programmes are most effective when the impacts on gender are considered and addressed. For example, mainstreaming a gender perspective in the peace-building sector has been instrumental in making personnel aware of the ways in which armed conflict affects women and girls differently and that post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building is more effective and long-lasting if gender analysis takes place from the outset. It has been recognized internationally that this significantly improves peace-building operations.

  • Gender mainstreaming contributes to the redresses of systemic gender-based discrimination. For example, while trade liberalization can provide new employment opportunities for both men and women, the market access opportunities that it creates can be difficult for women to take advantage of. This is because in many societies women have limited property rights and lack access to things like credit, modern technologies and marketing expertise. Early examination of gender impacts could provide guidance for the ongoing implementation of existing trade rules and ensure future trade rules are gender-sensitive, resulting in a strengthened international trading system.

Canada has made a commitment in:

  • The Federal Action Plan for Gender Equality, Canada’s response to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, 1995) which commits federal government departments to implement gender mainstreaming.
  • The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • The Canadian Human Rights Act

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What is gender based analysis and how do you do it?


Gender-Based Analysis (GBA) is a tool that examines gender differences. Gender-sensitive assessments are needed to determine the different impacts of policies and programmes on women and men. It takes into account important social and economic differences between men and women at all stages of the planning and implementation processes and makes it possible to identify potential differential effects before they are put into place. GBA challenges decision-makers to question the assumption that policies and programmes affect everyone in the same way.

Steps in Gender - Based Analysis

Gender-based analysis in your daily work

What obstacles will these women have to overcome before starting their own business?

The process and opportunities for GBA vary with the type of activity (policy development, research, programme delivery, technical assistance etc.) The key is to develop a conceptual framework – a way of thinking – that captures the different situations, priorities and needs of women and men. Whether it is in the area of human security, multilateral and regional fora, bilateral relations, governance, human rights or trade, gender analysis must be integrated into daily work. It is not about “adding-on a women’s component” to an existing intervention, nor is it only about achieving gender representation. It’s about ensuring effectiveness in the work we do.

  • Canada is recognized internationally as a leader in the areas of women’s human rights and gender equality. The consistent application of a gender perspective throughout our work at the international level is one of the valuable contributions that other states, multilateral institutions and civil society have come to expect from Canada.

  • Including gender-based analysis makes our work more effective: refines our analysis, supports our policy-making, strengthens implementation, improves our communications, and widens our circle of contacts.

  • Consistent with the profile of Canadian society, gender-based analysis ensures positive and equitable outcomes for everyone men and women, girls and boys.

  • Gender mainstreaming strengthens commitments to the Canadian values of equality and social justice.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Aren’t we really talking about initiatives targeting women?

  2. Our job is about effectively implementing policies and programming for everyone. Why does it matter whether someone is a man or a woman?

  3. Is gender-based analysis biased against men?

  4. Aren’t we already including “women’s issues” in our work? Why “mainstreaming” rather than specific measures in support of women?

  5. Isn’t this yet another issue in a lengthy list such as diversity, or sustainable development, that we are asked to address?

Aren’t we really talking about initiatives targeting women?

Gender-based analysis considers the real-life conditions of both men and women and seeks to ensure that policies/programmes have a broader and more equitable effect on all those affected.

Our job is about effectively implementing policies and programming for everyone. Why does it matter whether someone is a man or a woman?

Gender mainstreaming is precisely about providing effective policies and programming to men and women, boys and girls. Using GBA provides an understanding of how being male or female impacts capacity and access. There may be times when men will best be served through the provision of different resources.

For example:

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada found First Nations men attend university in smaller numbers as compared to First Nations women. As a result of this analysis, INAC is researching the causes of this imbalance and adjusting its educational policies and programming according to these gender-disaggregated figures. Its educational initiatives will target boys and men in order to address this issue.

Is gender-based analysis biased against men?

A gender-based analysis looks for socioeconomic data about both women and men. Without both genders represented, no valid comparisons or conclusions can be drawn. GBA is about fully investigating policy and programming consequences on both men and women boys and girls, and not about promoting or denigrating anybody.

Aren’t we already including “women’s issues” in our work? Why “mainstreaming” rather than specific measures in support of women?

Gender mainstreaming does not preclude specific initiatives targeting women. Women-specific programmes continue to be necessary and play an important role in promoting gender equality.

The mainstreaming strategy is a response to the lessons of experience. It has been found that in many programmes gender-based analysis has had a broader effect on the condition of women. Gender mainstreaming aims to lift the analysis up to the policy level at the outset of programming.

Gender mainstreaming is based on the premise that all issues should be analysed according to gender to respond to the realities and needs of both women and men.

Isn’t this yet another issue in a lengthy list, such as diversity or sustainable development, that we are asked to address?

Gender should not become the predominant theme, nor the only category of analysis. Instead, the strategy seeks to ensure that gender is one other relevant cross-cutting theme, such as the environment and diversity, addressed when assessing issues. Looking at gender in addition to other factors broadens and deepens the analysis rather than limiting it.

The inclusion of gender issues in a document should not be superficial or forced such as filling in a form or a separate box or a sprinkling of phrases such as “with special attention to women” throughout the document. A more substantive approach must be achieved by considering gender issues from the outset and throughout the planning and implementation stages.

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