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Mainstreaming Gender in the European Union after the Financial Crisis

Final Report Summary - MGINEUAFC (Mainstreaming Gender in the European Union after the Financial Crisis)

This project aimed to apply a new interdisciplinary methodology to solve well-documented information deficits within Feminist Political Science (FPS) and Feminist EU Studies. Present research on gender and the EU hangs on a puzzle. The EU is widely regarded as an active promoter of gender equality, portraying gender equality as a fundamental value within a unique EU identity (MacRae 2005, Wobbe 2003). This image is in turn underpinned with a suite of EU commitments to gender mainstreaming (GM). These GM policies entail a commitment to audit policy, in all areas, to ensure it does not produce unequal gendered effects. The implementation of these commitments however, has proven limited.

Numerous analyses of the impact of GM (and other gender equality policies) in the EU and the European Commission find that commitments to it are often ignored or subordinated to other policy aims, particularly economic ones (Pollack and Hafner-Burton 2000, Rubery 2003). The reasons for these outcomes are difficult to uncover using existing methodological approaches. This project therefore aimed to:
1) Gather new detailed data on policy implementation processes which constitute a barrier to the
effective implementation of EU gender equality commitments, which existing methods do not capture.
2) Undertake case study analysis of GM within EU economic policies, a policy field hitherto under researched by FPS, particularly in light of the fact that economic policy occupies an increasingly central role in the EU in the wake of the financial crisis.
3) Increase understanding of the mechanisms of change and stasis in the state reproduction of gender
inequality, focusing on the EU, an increasingly important supra-national state body.
4) Supply new data on the impact of the EU’s recent economic policy responses to the Euro zone/financial crisis, on its existing gender equality commitments.
5) Enhance understanding of recent institutional development of the EU in wake of the financial crisis, by adding a gendered perspective.

During the project the fellow has published: two books chapter, a journal article and a monograph book with one further publications (a journal article) presently in review. Interim results have also been presented twelve times at international conferences; with more conference presentations planned for the second half of 2016 and 2017. Three of the publications, including the fellow’s monograph, specifically aim to disseminate the methodological approach refined over the course of the post doc, Gender Knowledge Contestation Analysis (GKC Analysis). These publications have illustrated how GKC analysis can help us understand and capture: mechanisms of ‘resistance’ to GM’; the processes through which new collective understandings of gender can and have been promoted by the EU; and the ways that pre-existing assumptions about gender are maintained in policy making processes. Two empirical publications apply GKC analysis to empirical on data collected during the post doc. The first publication, titled ‘The Gender Politics of EU Economic Policy: Policy Shifts and Contestations Before and After the Crisis’ will be published the Palgrave edited collection Gender and the Economic Crisis in Europe. This peice uses GKC analysis to apply insights of Feminist Political Economy, concerning how ‘the economy’ is conceptualized in mainstream economic thought, to an analysis of the policy process. Focusing on mainstream economic theory’s presumed divisions between macro and mirco economic policy and the productive and reproductive economy, this chapter maps out dynamics of inter-institutional competition within the EU Commission pertaining to EU strategic economic policy, and explains their relevance to EU GM outcomes and outputs. The second empirical publication currently in review with Gender Work and Organisation, fuses GKC analysis with Feminist Political Economy to conceptualize EU specific mechanisms of ‘resistance’ to the inclusion of gender in policy, discussing changed relationships between economic policy and the rest of the EU’s policies. In addition, the fellow’s conference papers have explored data from several different angles including for example how we should understand ‘the crisis’; how gender equality is linked to democracy in the EU; how the role of the European Parliament in the promotion of gender equality has developed since the financial crisis; and how the EU’s economic governance procedures have changed EU-Member State relations.

Cavaghan has also organized three conference panels explicitly focusing on gender and the after math of the financial crisis in the EU and a 2 day international workshop attended by 30 feminist activists, researchers and consultants on the same theme. Outputs from this conference will be published on a blog which will be launched in July 2016 in collaboration with York University and McGill University Canada. Bridging between academic, activists and consultants this blog aims to make feminist analysis of EU economic policy, accessible to a wide audience including activists, civil society and lay reader.