Could COVID-19 Make Gender-Mainstreaming Ubiquitous in Public Policy?
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)
If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it.
The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.
The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.
• Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
• Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.
Why Gender-Mainstreaming Matters Post-Pandemic
COVID-19's fallout will do more economic harm to women than to men. That said, how can we ensure the creation of equitable policies to account for this crisis? What would those policies look like?
It’s been almost three months since the World Health Organization first caught wind of the virus that we now call COVID-19, i.e. the coronavirus. We have many unanswered questions about this virus, and we will continue to have many unanswered questions about it for the indefinite future.
One thing, however, is certain: the economic destruction caused by COVID-19 will largely fall on the shoulders of women. We know this as fact because, well, it already has fallen on women.
As elected officials in Washington and across the US scramble to assemble both short- and long-term solutions to recover from the pandemic’s fallout, we must remember that one certainty (stated above). We must remember it because it will guide us to create effective, sustainable, and more relevant policies that address the unique needs of women and the unique needs of men in a post-crisis economy. How so?
Essentially, it’s about applying the gender perspective to policy creation.
How does/has the coronavirus impact/ed women?
How does/has the coronavirus impact/ed men?
When we apply the gender perspective to policy creation, it’s called “gender mainstreaming.” It’s quite simple, and we can further break it down into three steps:
1. Gender-disaggregate the data (unemployment rate, poverty rate, income groupings, etc)
2. Analyze the data to identify areas where:
women are falling behind
men are falling behind
everyone is falling behind
3. Create policies or budgets that address the inequities
Gender-mainstreaming matters because men and women are not equal—not in the US nor any country around the world. So to think that public policies impact men and women equally is miscalculated. To think that the coronavirus impacts men and women equally is miscalculated.
Unfortunately, we largely operate under the assumption that government policy is gender-neutral. The result? Unfavorable economic externalities. Micro and macro.
That’s why we need gender mainstreaming, especially now in this time of unprecedented, pandemic-induced uncertainty.
We need to ensure women AND men play an integral role in the ideation, implementation, and evaluation of all legislation.
Gender mainstreaming public policy takes into account the needs, lived experiences, and concerns of all stakeholders. It does not default to the male perspective and it does not “add” women’s issues to the mix.
And here’s something most people don’t realize: fundamentally, the objective of gender mainstreaming is to create successful policies. Achieving gender equity is its corollary.
We can gender mainstream just about any policy such as healthcare, criminal justice, or immigration. We can also gender mainstream the national budget to ensure spending and revenue-related proposals work equitably for all. This is called gender-based budgeting.
An example of what happens when elected officials do NOT practice gender-based budgeting comes to us from across the pond, when Britain put in place austerity measures between 2010 and 2015. A 2016 analysis found that women shouldered 85% of the impact of the spending cuts. Why? “Because women earn less, rely more on benefits, and are much more likely than men to be single parents, the cuts affected them disproportionately.”
The economic impact of the coronavirus is not gender-neutral. Any and all policies going forward must not be gender-ignorant.
Want to explore this topic further? Here’s my recent article for Fast Company: Why women will be hardest hit by a coronavirus-driven recession.
These Q&A roundups can be delivered directly to you—a week before I publish them here.
(All you need is an email address.)