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Quality in Gender+ Equality Policies

QUING aims at ...

The aim of QUING is to compare gender equality policies across Europe. Through its various activities – LARG, WHY, STRIQ, FRAGEN and OPERA – it seeks to gather data collection for the whole of Europe, compare gender equality policies, develop theories on intersectionality and carry out comparative research on the history of feminist ideas in Europe. In addition, it sets out to design training for all actors in policy making.

Executive Summary

With its original data collection and analysis, QUING will first answer two big questions: what is the nature of gender equality policies in the practice of national and European policy making, what does gender equality mean in these policies, what are these policies trying to do? These questions are addressed in the following activities:

LARG provides a comparative analysis of differences, similarities, and inconsistencies in the field of gender+ equality between the EU and its member states. It provides a systematic overview of these policies in terms of their design and content, devoting particular attention to the voice and standing given to civil society. Moreover, it develops a methodology that combines Frame Analysis with an innovative Voice Analysis.

WHY set out to explain similarities, differences and inconsistencies that are present in gender+ equality policies across the EU and its member states (as analysed by LARG), giving specific attention to differences in civil society interfaces.

STRIQ studies how intersectionality is currently dealt with in gender+ equality policies across the European Union and its member states, including the study of occurrences of intersectional bias. In this activity the project is further developing theories on intersectionality, on the relationship between gender inequalities and inequalities originating in ethnicity, class, religion or sexuality. As far as policy practice is concerned, this is one of the most urgent needs in the coming years. While it is often stated that gender equality policies are the most developed inequality policies, leading to recommendations to build upon these experiences, policy practice is less rational, and shows more evidence of territorial struggles between groups and organisations representing different inequalities.

FRAGEN consists in the construction of a database of gender+ equality frames that originate in feminist movements in Europe, leading to an open database.

OPERA aims at the integration of knowledge on gender, intersectionality and European gender equality policies into operational standards for gender+ training, including the training of trainers.


QUING seeks to answer the following questions: what is the content of gender equality policies in the EU-27 plus Croatia and Turkey? What kind of differences and similarities can be found? What is the nature of gender equality policies in the practice of national and European policy making, what does gender equality mean in these policies, what are these policies trying to do? And also: what is the quality of these current policies, especially in terms of their transformative potential? Do they pay attention to other inequalities? And are they open for voices of the movements that lay at its origin? To be feasible, three issues relevant to gender equality policies are studied more specifically: gender-based violence, intimate citizenship and non-employment. Additionally, general gender equality policies, and policies on equality machinery or architecture are analysed.

For analysis, QUING can build on the methodology of Critical Frame Analysis, a methodology that builds on social movement theory and that was refined further with elements of gender and political theory within the context of the MAGEEQ project.

LARG conducted detailed multilevel country studies of gender+ equality policies in all member states, plus two accession states (Turkey, Croatia), and at the level of the EU itself. The analysis focused on the period from 1995 to 2007. The activity produced 15 deliverables and as such it stands for the largest data collection and analysis activity of the QUING project.
LWHY: While there have been considerable efforts to abolish gender inequality at the European level, there are some serious limitations to the impact of these policies, many of which are related to the complex relationship between the EU and its member states. The shifting meaning of subsidiarity and the increasing use of ‘soft’ law measures – as in the Open Method of Co-ordination – are just some characteristics of this complexity. Under such circumstances, it is important not only to have a good overview of the existing gender equality policies and their quality, but also to be able to understand why gender equality policies differ, are inconsistent, or lack quality. WHY is not just focusing on a comparison between European countries but also aims to provide an explanation of the different ‘natures’ and ‘speeds’ of Europeanisation in the field of (gender) equality policies. The ambition of the WHY activity is to explain two types of variations in gender+ equality policies, one being the variations in the inclusion of civil society voices, and the other the variations in the content of these policies.
LSTRIQ: European anti-discrimination policies broadened the scope of the European Union’s attention to structural inequalities by explicitly mentioning a larger number of them than ever before. Such claims, however, are not accompanied by a reasoning or theory on how to conceptualise the relationship between various inequalities. The activity “STRIQ” is not only providing such a conceptualisation but is also translating this conceptualisation into recommendations for good practices in policy making. This idea is that different inequalities are not a set of independent different problems, but rather one family of problems: how inequalities are produced and reproduced in societies and what policy making can do about it.
STRIQ has also contributed to empirical knowledge by preparing a report on intersectionality in gender policies for each country and for the European Union. The STRIQ activity also aims to impact on effective policy making towards the reduction of a larger set of intersecting inequalities. Understanding gender+ equality policies means to describe and analyse to what extent and how intersectionality is dealt with across Europe. This allows the construction of a conceptual framework on the relationship between gender inequalities and other inequalities, which will be tailored to the needs of policy makers. By the end of 2010, a set of intersectionality reports will be published on this website.
LFRAGEN With the help of subcontractors for each country, FRAGEN is in the process of compiling an analytical data base of European texts from the women’s movement, and it will make this database publicly available for researchers before the termination of the QUING project. QUING has started with the construction of a database that will ‘open’ selected core feminist texts to researchers by storing original second-wave feminist texts in the database together with an analytic description of these texts in English. For all countries, feminist documentation centres are helping with the selection and extensive coding of texts that have been influential in the development of feminist ideas in their context. The methodology used for this coding runs parallel to the methodology used for the comparative analysis, allowing future links between these two parts of the project. QUING will open this database to the research community in its last year.
LOPERA: In the last two years of its 54 months existence, QUING is very active with its last part, named OPERA, actively translating its knowledge into gender training for all actors in policy making, and it will develop high quality standards for such training, which will be tested in practice.

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Research findings

LARG: State of the art reports have been prepared in all 30 countries of the project. These 30 annotated bibliographies map the relevant recent literature on gender+ equality policies in all European Union countries, plus Turkey, Croatia and the European Union. The series is an important contribution, especially for countries of Europe where literature is scarce, and researchers did comprehensive desk research on work written in local languages that was hitherto inaccessible for wider audiences. Some of the findings, with a focus on the intersectionality between gender and migrants and ethnicity, are summarized below.

STRIQ: In the framework of STRIQ, a conceptual framework of inclusive equality policies has been developed and good practices have been collected from the countries participating in the project. The conceptual framework presented in the previous chapter outlines a number of dilemmas that have to be addressed in order to incorporate attention to multiple inequalities in gender equality policies. These issues include: the relationship between inequalities; identification of relevant inequalities including class; making gender visible or de-gendering; making power visible; distinguishing between small groups, strands, projects and policy field; alliances, coalitions and hegemony; the meaning and positioning of gender equality in policy priorities; the tension between mainstreaming and anti-discrimination strategies and the breadth of remit.

Research concluded that there are not many ‘good practices’, and attention to intersecting inequalities and gender in policy documents on gender equality is still rare. This underlines that intersectionality is not a common policy concept. The researchers found that there are quite a few ‘good practices’ texts that originate in civil society. Some of the ‘good practices’ were found in Shadow reports to CEDAW or in governmental dialogue with CEDAW. In addition, some of the ‘good practices’ that were identified are connected to the European Year of Equal Opportunities. Other patterns that emerge in the description of ‘good practices’ are that there seem to be more examples found that are on the issue of gender based violence than on other issues. In some countries, the researchers could only find ‘good practices’ at sub-national level. Two examples are summarized below:


The selected text has been produced by the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU). According to SIPTU the problem is the lack of suitable and affordable childcare with demand exceeding supply, high costs, and the changing needs of parents and children (for school age and flexible care). SIPTU point to a number of factors that have increased demand for childcare over recent years: increased rate of women's employment; relatively high fertility rate; economic growth; and other factors, including the increase in immigration. They note that it is difficult to be accurate in assessing the extent of demand (due to lack of reliable and comprehensive statistics) plus there is the likelihood of latent demand (e.g. migrant workers who have been forced to leave children in their own countries; grandparents who are minding their grandchildren but who would like to be in labour market). SIPTU foresees problems in the future if the issue is not acted upon because demand exceeding supply will contribute to, for example, rising childcare costs with growing frustration amongst parents. In the text, concrete recommendations for change are proposed; the main message is that there needs to be more, and more affordable, childcare. The impact of a lack of provision of affordable childcare on various groups in society is discussed, including: low earners; lone parents (whose labour market participation is limited); migrant workers (many of whom in the domestic work sector are performing childcare functions alongside other household duties but whose own childcare needs are often not being met, with migrant workers leaving children in their home country due to the high cost of childcare in Ireland or the impossibility of bringing their partners and children with them); and grandparents (who may be providing childcare for adult children who cannot afford to purchase formal childcare whilst at the same time as wishing to be in employment themselves)


Most intersectionality, although the concept itself is not used, can be found in research and policy development concerning immigrant women. Violence against immigrant women in Finland has increasingly been on the agenda or research that aims at developing better policies and services for immigrant women. Violence against immigrant women became visible in Finland, when in year 2000 it was reported that 14% of all customers in battered women’s shelters were immigrant women. Monika - Multicultural women’s association in Finland has provided help for immigrant women through a help-line, empowerment centre and making the problem visible in immigrant and professional arenas. The project is sponsored by Ministry of Welfare and Health. The project prepared a manual (for social and health care in order to make interventions and prevention of violence against immigrant women more effective. The manual addresses such forms of violence as intimate partner violence, honour-related violence, forced marriage, genital mutilation of girls, discrimination, and racist violence. However, research and subsequent supportive policies are mostly designed to focus on immigrant women as a separate group.

In the framework of OPERA, a survey of gender training sessions has been carried out and a manual for gender trainers has been developed.


Key messages

The researchers conclude that there are several reasons for concern about the quality of gender equality policies across Europe. One is about the understanding of gender and gender equality (leading to potential reproduction of gender inequality) and about the way gender equality policies deal with the dynamics of Europe’s multicultural context (leading to potential ethnocentric bias). There are also fears that especially gender mainstreaming, because it is developing in a technocratic way, is leading to a weakening of the voice of civil society in gender equality policies. Other concerns are about the existence of internal inconsistencies (leading to ineffective policies) or inconsistencies between EU policies and policies at the level of the member states (leading to implementation problems). Ongoing studies on gender equality policies in the European Union and various member states show that the degree of inconsistencies between the national and the European level is detrimental to the quality of these policies, and hence ultimately detrimental to the quality of life of European citizens, especially women.

As to ’good practices’ of gender equality policies taking into consideration intersectionality, the researchers identified these additional criteria:

  • Attention to the structural dimension of all relevant inequalities
  • A focus on privilege and power, not only on barriers and disadvantages
  • Covering not only several inequalities
  • Awareness of intersecting inequalities
  • Explicitness can be important
  • Inclusiveness and visibility
  • Impact on practice