In a speech on International Women’s Day, 8th March, the First Minister announced a review of “gender and equality policies [to] bring new impetus to our work”. The review will consider what is and isn’t working well in Wales, provide a review of international best practice, and recommend how the Welsh Government can better promote gender equality.
This first phase of the review will describe quick actions that the Government could take, as well as outlining the areas where further evidence, policy and actions will be needed in the medium and long-term. The second phase will be undertaken from July 2018 – July 2019, culminating in a road-map for equality, tailored to Wales.
The Wales Centre for Public Policy is providing a best practice evidence review considering how governments around the world have mainstreamed gender equality into policy making, legislation and initiatives. This difference, between mainstreaming equality in all policy, and short-term, precariously funded initiatives, is likely to be key to the review and the recommendations that follow. Short-term initiatives can have localised impact but, as they operate in the margins, they risk leaving unchanged the underlying institutional norms and practices that preserve the status quo.
The unique Welsh ‘mainstreaming equality duty’, which requires Welsh Government Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers to promote equality of opportunity for all people within their portfolios, is informing an intersectional approach to the review. This recognises that societal conceptions of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, class and age are powerful mechanisms for shaping ideas about roles, behaviours and attributes. These assumptions can enable or constrain, easing the path for some, creating barriers for others, for example in the labour market and political life. This approach also recognises differences among women and the ways in which they experience gender inequalities, so that nuanced policy solutions may be needed in relation to education, health, personal safety, employment etc.
Further evidence gathering in the medium and longer term should seek to hear directly from ‘experts by experience’ and by adding this knowledge to research evidence on inequalities, shape the formation of policy.
This is a moment to draw out and build upon the advanced legislative base and sustained political will in Wales to challenge inequalities. It is an opportunity to use evidence of inequality drivers to increase the effectiveness of policy, and to, as Carwyn Jones announced on International Women’s Day ‘consider how we move gender to the forefront of all decision-making’.
There is intergenerational interest in making progress as you can see from this short film created by student, Ella Green, for her final dissertation. It features women in Wales talking about the evidence, challenges and their experiences of gender inequality in the workplace.