Skip to main content

Stories from the Front Lines: Making Sense of Gender Mainstreaming in Canada

  • Francesca Scala (a1) and Stephanie Paterson (a1)

Gender mainstreaming (GM) is a strategy used by governments to promote gender equality. It entails integrating gender and intersectional considerations into all aspects of policy work, including policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation. However, its success in achieving gender equality and social transformation has been limited. Drawing on implementation research and narrative analysis, this article explores the micro-level dynamics and the local actors that help shape the character and outcome of gender mainstreaming. Using narrative analysis, we explore how GM specialists within the Canadian public service make sense of their role, and we identify the strategies they use to make gender matter in policy work. By examining their stories of isolation, disempowerment, and resistance, we uncover the administrative and political forces that shape not only the “space” for gender work but also the opportunities for individual activism and resistance. These stories convey how, by engaging in these micro-level strategies, GM specialists both challenge and reinscribe, at the macro level, technocratic representations of GM and of policy work in general. We conclude with some reflections on the insights that micro-level analysis and implementation research can bring to the study of gender mainstreaming.

Hide All
Bacchi Carol Lee, and Eveline Joan. 2010. Mainstreaming Politics, Gendering Practices and Feminist Theory. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press.
Ball Stephen J. 1993. “What Is Policy? Texts, Trajectories, and Toolboxes.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 13 (2): 1017.
Ball Stephen, Hoskins Kate, Maguire Meg, Braun Annette. 2011. “Disciplinary Texts: A policy Analysis of National and Local Behaviour Policies.” Critical Studies in Education 52 (1): 114.
Barrett Susan, and Fudge Colin. 1981. “Examining the Policy-Action Relationship.” In Policy and Action: Essays on the Implementation of Public Policy, eds. Barrett Susan and Fudge Colin. London: Methuen, 334.
Benschop Yvonne, and Verloo Mieke. 2006. “Sisyphus’ Sisters: Can Gender Mainstreaming Escape the Genderedness of Organizations?Journal of Gender Studies 15 (1): 1933.
Bevir Mark. 2004. “Government and Interpretation: What Are the Implications of Postfoundationalism?Public Administration 82 (3): 605–25.
Bevir Mark, and Trentmann Frank, eds. 2007. Governance, Consumers and Citizens: Agency and Resistance in Contemporary Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Caglar Gülay. 2013. “Gender Mainstreaming.” Politics & Gender 9 (3): 336–44.
Chappell Louise A. 2003. Gendering Government: Feminist Engagement with the State in Australia and Canada. Vancouver: University of British Colombia Press.
Clandinin D. Jean, and Connelly F. Michael. 2000. Narrative Inquiry: Experience and Story in Qualitative-Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Colebatch Hal K. 2007. “What Work Makes Policy?Policy Sciences 39 (4): 309–21.
Colebatch Hal K., Hoppe Robert, and Noordegraaf Mirko. 2010. “The Lessons for Policy Work.” In Working for Policy, eds. Colebatch Hal K., Hoppe Robert, and Noordegraaf Mirko. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 227–45.
Côté André, Baird Katherine, and Green Ian. 2007. A Vital National Institution: What a Cross-Section of Canadians Think about the Prospects for Canada's Public Service in the 21st Century. Ottawa: Public Policy Forum. (accessed October 11, 2017).
Council of Europe. 1998. Gender Mainstreaming: Conceptual Framework, Methodology and Presentation of Good Practices. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
Daly Mary. 2005. “Gender Mainstreaming in Theory and Practice.” Social Politics 12 (3): 433–50.
deLeon Peter, and deLeon Linda. 2002. “What Ever Happened to Policy Implementation? An Alternative Approach.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 12 (4): 467–92.
Dinham Adam, and Lowndes Vivien. 2008. “Religion, Resources and Representation: Three Narratives of Faith Engagement in British Urban Governance.” Urban Affairs Review 43 (6): 817–45.
Durose Catherine. 2009. “Front-Line Workers and ‘Local Knowledge’: Neighbourhood Stories in Contemporary UK Local Governance.” Public Administration 87 (1): 3549.
Eyben Rosalind. 2012. “Preface.” In Strategies of Feminist Bureaucrats: United Nations Experiences, ed. Sandler Joanne and Rao Aruna. London: Institute of Development Studies, 67.
Ferguson Kathy E. 1984. The Feminist Case against Bureaucracy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Findlay Tammy. 2015. Femocratic Administration: Gender, Governance and Democracy in Ontario. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Ginger Clare. 2006. “Interpretive Content Analysis: Stories and Arguments in Analytical Documents.” In Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn, eds. Yanow Dvora and Schwartz-Shea Peregrine. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 331–48.
Grace Joan. 1997. “Sending Mixed Messages: Gender-Based Analysis and the ‘Status of Women.’Canadian Public Administration 40 (4): 582–98.
Hafner-Burton Emelie M., and Pollack Mark A.. 2002. “Mainstreaming Gender in Global Governance.” European Journal of International Relations 8 (3): 339–73.
Hajer Maarten A. 1993. “Discourse Coalitions and the Institutionalization of Practice: The Case of Acid Rain in Britain.” In The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning, eds. Fischer Frank and Forester John. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 4376.
Hankivsky Olena. 2005. “Gender vs. Diversity Mainstreaming: A Preliminary Examination of the Role and Transformative Potential of Feminist Theory.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 38 (4): 9771001.
Hankivsky Olena. 2008. “Gender Mainstreaming in Canada and Australia: A Comparative Analysis.” Policy and Society 27 (1): 6981.
Hankivsky Olena, and Cormier Renee. 2011. “Intersectionality and Public Policy: Some Lessons from Existing Models.” Political Research Quarterly 64 (1): 217–29.
Haussman Melissa, and Sauer Birgit, eds. 2007. Gendering the State in the Age of Globalization: Women's Movements and State Feminism in Postindustrial Democracies. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Howlett Michael, Wellstead Adam, and Craft Jonathan, eds. 2017. Policy Work in Canada: Professional Practices and Analytical Capacities. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Hudson Bob. 1993. “Michael Lipsky and Street Level Bureaucracy. A Neglected Perspective.” In The Policy Process: A Reader, ed. Hill Michael. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 393403.
Ingram Mrill, Ingram Helen, and Lejano Raul. 2015. “Environmental Action in the Anthropocene: The Power of Narrative Networks.” Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning. Published online November 19.
Lipsky Michael. 1980. Street-Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Lombardo Emanuela, and Mergaert Lut. 2013. “Gender Mainstreaming and Resistance to Gender Training: A Framework for Studying Implementation.” Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research 21 (4): 296311.
Lombardo Emanuela, and Mergaert Lut. 2016. “Resistance in Gender Training and Mainstreaming Processes.” In The Politics of Feminist Knowledge Transfer, eds. Bustelo María, Ferguson Lucy, and Forest Maxime. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Lowndes Vivien, and Roberts Mark. 2013. Why Institutions Matter: The New Institutionalism in Political Science. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Maynard-Moody Steven, and Musheno Michael. 2003. Cops, Teachers, Counselors. Stories from the Front Lines of Public Service. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Mazey Sonya. 2002. “Gender Mainstreaming Strategies in the E.U.: Delivering on an Agenda.” Feminist Legal Studies, 10(3/4): 227–40.
Mazmanian Daniel A. and Sabatier Paul A.. 1983. Implementation and Public Policy. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.
McBride Dorothy E., and Mazur Amy G.. 2010. The Politics of State Feminism: Innovation in Comparative Research. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
McNutt Kathleen. 2010. “An Integrated Approach to Gender Equality: From Gender-Based Analysis to Gender Mainstreaming.” Working Paper, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.
Meier Petra, and Celis Karen. 2011. “Sowing the Seeds of Its Own Failure: Implementing the Concept of Gender Mainstreaming.” Social Politics 18 (4): 469–89.
Meltsner Arnold J. 1976. Policy Analysts in the Bureaucracy. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Neysmith Sheila, Bezanson Kate, and O'Connell Anne. 2005. Telling Tales: Living the Effects of Public Policy. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Fernwood.
Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG). 2016. Report 1—Implementing Gender-Based Analysis. (accessed October 11, 2017).
O'Manique Sophie. 2015. “Gender and Austerity in Post-Crisis Canada.” Harper Record 2008–2015, 293305.
Orsini Michael, and Scala Francesca. 2006. “‘Every Virus Tells a Story’: Toward a Narrative-Centred Approach to Health Policy.” Policy and Society 25 (2): 109–30.
Paterson Stephanie. 2010. “What's the Problem with Gender-Based Analysis? Gender Mainstreaming Policy and Practice in CanadaCanadian Public Administration 53 (3): 395416.
Power Michael. 1994. The Audit Explosion. London: Demos.
Pressman Jeffrey L., and Wildavsky Aaron. 1973. Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington Are Dashed in Oakland. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Prügl Elisabeth. 2011. “Diversity Management and Gender Mainstreaming as Technologies of Government.” Politics & Gender 7 (1): 7189.
Rankin Pauline, and Vickers Jill. 2001. Women's Movements and State Feminism: Integrating Diversity into Public Policy. Ottawa: Status of Women Canada.
Rankin L. Pauline, and Wilcox Krista D.. 2004. “De-Gendering Engagements? Gender Mainstreaming, Women's Movements and the Canadian Federal State.” Atlantis 29 (1): 5260.
Rhodes R. A. W. 1994. “The Hollowing Out of the State: The Changing Nature of the Public Service in Britain,Political Quarterly 65 (2): 138–51.
Roe Emery. 1994. Narrative Policy Analysis: Theory and Practice. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Schön Donald A., and Rein Martin. 1994. Frame Reflection: Toward the Resolution of Intractable Policy Controversies. New York: Basic Books.
Squires Judith. 2005. “Is Mainstreaming Transformative? Theorizing Mainstreaming in the Context of Diversity and Deliberation.” Social Politics 12 (3): 366–88.
Squires Judith. 2009. “Intersecting Inequalities: Britain's Equality Review.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 11 (4): 496512.
Status of Women Canada. 2009. Departmental Action Plan on Gender Based Analysis. Ottawa: Government of Canada. (accessed October 11, 2017).
Stivers Camilla. 2002. Gender Images in Public Administration: Legitimacy and the Administrative State. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Stone Deborah. 1988. Policy Paradox and Political Reason. New York: HarperCollins.
Stone Deborah. 2002. Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision-Making. New York: W. W. Norton.
Subrahmanian Ramya. 2004. “Making Sense of Gender in Shifting Institutional Contexts: Some Reflections on Gender Mainstreaming.” IDS Bulletin 35 (4): 8994.
Taylor Marilyn. 2002. “The New Public Management and social exclusion: Cause or response?” In New Public Management: Current Trends and Future Prospects, eds. McLaughlin Kate, Osborne Stephen P., and Ferlie Ewan. London: Routledge, 109–28.
Teghtsoonian Katherine. 2003. “W(h)ither Women's Equality? Neoliberalism, Institutional Change and Public Policy in British Columbia.” Policy and Society 22 (1): 2647.
Tiessen Rebecca. 2007. Everywhere/Nowhere: Gender Mainstreaming in Development Agencies. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press.
United Nations. 1995. Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 415 September 1995). New York: United Nations.
Van Meter Donald S., and Van Horn Carl E.. 1975. “The Policy Implementation Process: A Conceptual Framework.Administration & Society 6 (4): 445–88.
Verloo Mieke. 2001. “Another Velvet Revolution: Gender Mainstreaming and the Politics of Implementation.” IWM Working Paper 5/2001. Vienna: IWM.
Verloo Mieke. 2005. “Displacement and Empowerment: Reflections on the Concept and Practice of the Council of Europe Approach to Gender Mainstreaming and Gender Equality.” Social Politics 12 (3): 344–65.
Verloo Mieke, and Walby Sylvia. 2012. “Introduction: The Implications for Theory and Practice of Comparing the Treatment of Intersectionality in the Equality Architecture in Europe.” Social Politics 19 (4): 433–45.
Wagenaar Hendrik. 1995. “Urgent Stories: Morality and Narrative in Public Administration.” Administrative Theory & Praxis 17 (1): 92104.
Wagenaar Hendrik 1997. “Policy as Fiction: Narrative and its Place in Policy Practice.” Beleid & Maatschappij 1: 55.
Walby Sylvia. 2005. “Gender Mainstreaming: Productive Tensions in Theory and Practice.” Social Politics 12 (3): 321–43.
Wellstead Adam, and Stedman Richard. 2010. “Policy Capacity and Incapacity in Canada's Federal Government: The Intersection of Policy Analysis and Street-Level Bureaucracy.” Public Management Review 12 (6): 893910.
Woodward Alison E. 2004. “Building Velvet Triangles: Gender and Informal Governance.” In Informal Governance in the European Union, edited by Christiansen Thomas and Piattoni Simona. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 7693.
Yanow Dvora. 1993. “The Communication of Policy Meanings: Implementation as Interpretation and Text.” Policy Sciences 26 (1): 4161.
Yanow Dvora. 1996. How Does a Policy Mean? Interpreting Policy and Organizational Actions. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Yanow Dvora. 2000. Conducting Interpretive Policy Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-gender
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 11 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 84 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 10th January 2018 - 23rd January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.