4. Governance tools and evidence to promote inclusive decision making

Jacobo Garcia Villarreal
Erin Kelleher
Giulia Morando
Scherie Nicol

The OECD 2015 Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life highlights that it is important to integrate evidence-based assessments of gender impacts and considerations into various dimensions of public governance and in all phases of the policy cycle, from early stages onward (OECD, 2016[1]). Structural policies, budgets, regulations and procurement processes, when accompanied by a gender-sensitive lens, can contribute to redressing existing inequalities, promoting more gender-equal and inclusive societies (OECD, 2019[2]) and achieving better policy outcomes. Yes, challenges remain in practice. OECD (2021[3]) showed that policy instruments are not always neutral in their application and impact, while OECD (2019[2]) illustrated how potential gender bias may be hiding in government decision-making, with the risk of exacerbating inequality and discrimination.

Gender Impact Assessments (GIAs) are a tool used to identify and assess potential gender-specific impacts of policy or funding decisions. GIAs are increasingly being viewed as a key policy making tool for promoting gender equality and are one of the most widely used tools for gender mainstreaming in OECD countries. 26 out of 34 countries that responded to the 2021 OECD Survey on Gender Mainstreaming and Governance (hereinafter, the 2021 GMG Survey) have a formal requirement for GIAs in place as of 2021, and at least six of them (Canada, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) have introduced or revised the scope of GIA requirements since 2017 (OECD, 2022[4]). There is no one-size-fits-all approach to GIAs across the OECD area. In some countries, GIAs are undertaken as a part of a broader regulatory impact assessment, while they exist as a standalone exercise in others (OECD, 2022[4]). Box 4.1 provides examples of GIA practices in OECD countries.

GIAs are most effective when they are performed at multiple points throughout the policy process: ex-ante, by considering possible gender impacts of policies during the design and decision-making stage; throughout the implementation, by monitoring the performance and results of policies; and ex-post, by evaluating the gender impact of policy outcomes. Figure 4.1 shows the range of decisions that are subject to GIA across the OECD.

As of 2021, 20 out of 26 respondents to the 2021 GMG Survey have formal requirements to conduct ex-ante assessments, while just four (Austria, Italy, Korea, and Spain) perform ex-post GIAs. Only four countries reported having requirements to undertake continuous GIAs throughout the policy cycle (Canada, Estonia, Israel, and the United Kingdom). This shows that, despite recent progress, integration of GIAs into routine policy making remains limited and that further improvement is needed.

The most cited challenges to implementation of GIAs by countries that responded to the 2021 GMG Survey were the perception of gender impact assessments as a “tick box exercise”, the absence of binding requirements, a lack of gender expertise of policy makers and a lack of available gender-disaggregated data (OECD, 2022[4]). In 2021, only 11 out of 34 countries (32%) reported having practices in place to conduct rapid assessments of gender impacts during emergencies and other urgent policy making situations, of which six reported applying them to policies adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, only eight OECD countries reported conducting a GIA of their recovery and resilience plans developed in response to the health crisis (OECD, 2022[4]). GIAs require quality data, evidence and analysis to guide them. Some countries have introduced measures to ensure standards for quality of their GIAs, including training for civil servants and verification of the application of GIAs by a central gender institution.

Countries have increasingly recognised the need to understand the multiple forms of discrimination that can affect individuals, depending on their identities and how these interact. Intersectional analysis takes these interactions into account, producing a more holistic picture of the various discriminations that can affect individuals. 9 out of 26 respondents to the 2021 GMG Survey reported having developed practices for intersectional impact assessment (OECD, 2022[4]). The Canadian GBA+ tool (Box 4.1) does not only assess gender differences, but also incorporates analyses of other factors including race, ethnicity, religion, and disability. Beyond this example, the application of an intersectional lens in gender equality policy remains a new area of practice in most countries and more evidence is needed to identify the best approaches.

Government tax and spending decisions have powerful social, environmental, and economic implications for a country, shaping people’s choices regarding work and economic participation. Gender budgeting is a way for governments to ensure that decision-makers have information on how tax and spend choices impact gender equality. Gender budgeting can support governments in defining and selecting policies to ensure an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 crisis as well as other crises.

The 2022 OECD Survey on Gender Budgeting showed that more and more OECD countries are adopting gender budgeting as a tool to drive transformational change. In 2022, 23 OECD countries had introduced gender budgeting measures (61%), compared to 17 in 2018 (50%) and 12 in 2016 (35%) (OECD, forthcoming[6]).

There is no one way to implement gender budgeting. Countries tend to choose an approach that builds on the key features of their existing budgeting system. The most common tools of gender budgeting are a gender dimension in performance setting (used by 52% of OECD countries practising gender budgeting), ex-ante gender impact assessments (48%), ex-post gender impact assessments (43%), and gender budget tagging (43%) (OECD, 2020[7]; forthcoming[6]). Examples of country approaches to gender budgeting are provided in Box 4.2.

The COVID-19 pandemic, its economic consequences and policy responses inflicted a severe shock on government finances everywhere. Russia’s war against Ukraine has also put new pressures on spending, as well as greatly adding to overall economic uncertainty. In a tighter fiscal context, there is a risk that government objectives, such as those relating to gender equality, become a lower priority. However, closing certain gender gaps can help alleviate fiscal pressures. Integrating a gender perspective into spending reviews could help ensure that government objectives relating to gender equality continue to be prioritised through the budget process, even in times of fiscal constraint (Nicol, 2022[8]).

Some challenges remain in implementing and ensuring the effectiveness of gender budgeting, including lack of resources (e.g. time, staff) (reported by 70% of OECD countries implementing gender budgeting), lack of relevant knowledge or technical expertise (57%) and lack of impact on budget decisions (52%) (OECD, forthcoming[6]).

The OECD Best Practices for Gender Budgeting (OECD, 2023[9]) help countries develop a more effective approach to gender budgeting through identifying elements that contribute to the sustainability and impact of gender budgeting, namely:

  • strengthening the link between budgeting and key gender equality objectives

  • ensuring gender budgeting is sustainable beyond political cycles

  • incorporating gender budgeting into the overarching budget framework, with leadership from the central budget authority

  • embedding gender budgeting tools at all stages of the budget cycle

  • underpinning gender budgeting with strong data and analysis

  • supporting gender budgeting implementation through capacity building

  • using gender budgeting to reinforce government transparency and accountability.

Public procurement makes up a large portion of GDP across OECD countries (13% of GDP in 2019) and is therefore often used strategically to support broader policy objectives including sustainability, SMEs development and gender equality and mainstreaming (OECD, 2021[10]). Purchasing power offers governments a strong lever to encourage more responsible production and consumption of goods and services (OECD, 2020[7]), and an opportunity to lead by example and create wider impacts on the private sector and on citizens (OECD, 2019[11]).

Gender-sensitive public procurement integrates gender considerations into public procurement policies and practices. It represents a powerful tool for gender mainstreaming within government processes, as well as an opportunity for governments to lead by example in mainstreaming gender equality.

Public procurement is used to deliver public services to citizens, so it follows that women’s needs should be reflected in procurement outcomes. Meanwhile, public procurement processes should also incorporate requirements for suppliers to be aligned with national and international commitments on gender equality and mainstreaming (Box 4.3 for an example on Chile). Governments can use different mechanisms ranging from needs assessment to ex-post evaluations of contracts (OECD, 2021[12]). This is particularly relevant in the context of COVID-19 recovery strategies as a significant part of public investments and spending would happen through public procurement.

In 2020, 15 out of 26 countries who responded to the 2020 OECD Survey on Leveraging Responsible Business Conduct through Public Procurement reported having developed a strategic or regulatory framework that includes gender-related considerations in public procurement (OECD, 2020[7]). Countries adhering to the OECD Recommendation on Public Procurement are called to consider social inclusiveness (including gender considerations) in the tendering process (OECD, 2019[11]).

However, ample progress can still be made to make an effective use of public procurement with the aim of advancing gender equality in OECD countries and to tackle challenges such as the limited reach of gender-related requirements, the lack of policy coherence, the scarcity of data with key gender-based information, the limited capacity of the procurement workforce, and limited understanding of how to implement gender-related considerations into public procurement policies and practices (OECD, 2020[7]). For instance, when strategic or regulatory frameworks include gender-related considerations or requirements on public procurement, the provisions are unlikely to apply to sub-contractors or the full supply chain in a mandatory way (OECD, 2020[7]). This shows the need to provide public entities (and suppliers) with capacity building activities, supporting tools and clear guidance on how to effectively incorporate gender considerations into procurement.

Additionally, public procurement officers have to decide on trade-offs between multiple policy objectives. For public procurement to be used as a strategic tool to promote gender equality, a clear dialogue on policy priorities should be encouraged between policy makers and procurement practitioners. Opportunities for more coherence amongst different policy areas should be also further explored, while reducing the data gap on the outcomes of gender-inclusive public procurement to facilitate evaluation and decision making.

Incorporating gender considerations into infrastructure governance frameworks and involving more women in decision-making processes can enable governments to identify the gender impacts of infrastructure decisions (OECD, 2021[12]). Infrastructure investments, including through digital technologies, can improve women’s economic empowerment by addressing barriers to female employment and economic opportunities (De Henau and Himmelweit, 2020[14]). Better infrastructure also plays an important part in reducing gender-based violence, harassment, safety and security risks, as well as environmental and health risks (OECD, 2021[12]) (Chapters 2 and 21).

Over the past five years, OECD countries have progressively mainstreamed gender in infrastructure planning, decision-making and delivery. Canada, Colombia, Chile and Iceland, for example, have adopted a long-term vision for gender-responsive infrastructure. Others have included gender considerations in project appraisal and selection. Other tools include the integration of women’s voices and agency in infrastructure decision-making (Austria, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom), gender-sensitive infrastructure procurement and delivery (Canada, Chile, Iceland, New South Wales in Australia, and Switzerland), and tagging infrastructure investments related to gender equality in Mexico (see Box 4.4) (OECD, 2021[10]; 2021[12]).

Common challenges identified by OECD countries when mainstreaming gender considerations throughout the infrastructure public investment include a lack of full alignment between long-term infrastructure plans and gender equality objectives; weak gender diversity in the infrastructure sector; absence of tools to assess gender impacts; lack of adequate capacity and capabilities of procurement officials; and unavailability of gender equality targets or indicators causing weak oversight.

OECD countries are taking steps to produce more gender-disaggregated data (Box 4.5). 19 out of 33 responding countries to the 2021 GMG Survey reported having legal or binding requirements for the collection and dissemination of gender-disaggregated data. However, of 17 countries with a strategic framework for data and statistics at the central/federal level, only 7 include explicit commitments/actions on data disaggregated by gender and/or other relevant characteristics (OECD, 2022[4]).

Yet, a lack of gender-sensitive and intersectional data has been highlighted by countries responding to the 2021 GMG Survey as a key barrier to gender mainstreaming and inclusive decision-making, and as a barrier to effectively taking into account the needs of various groups of the population in the context of COVID-19 pandemic and in the recovery phase (OECD, 2021[17]). Figure 4.2. displays the main barriers faced by countries in the collection of gender-sensitive data.

In light of these challenges, the three most common measures adopted by countries to improve the collection of gender-sensitive statistics are online portals to facilitate easy public access to all gender statistics; dedicated teams/units/centres on gender statistics in the National Statistics Offices; and Advisory Committees/Councils/Task Forces to determine data gaps and needs (OECD, 2022[4]). Digital transformation also offers opportunities to expand the availability, accessibility and use of gender-disaggregated data, while securing data privacy. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries opted for innovative mechanisms to produce gender-disaggregated data rapidly to inform policy making, such as expanding the use of experimental statistics by Switzerland’s Federal Statistics Office or the introduction of gender equality indicators within the state budget across policy areas in Portugal (OECD, 2022[4]).

For progress to be made in all areas of gender mainstreaming, countries should improve methods for measuring, monitoring, evaluating and reporting on gender gaps, and increase efforts to collect gender-disaggregated data across all policy fields. The move towards data-driven, innovative, and digital governments, offers a window of opportunity to expand the availability of reliable and timely data on gender equality in different policy fields. Governments should also anticipate the risks posed by new technologies and artificial intelligence to gender equality, such as the transfer of existing gender biases from the analogue to the digital world and the emergence of new forms of digital divides and algorithmic discrimination against women. The capacity of governments should be supported to ensure the effective collection and use of gender-sensitive data and improve the quality of gender impact assessments, stakeholder engagement tools, and accountability and transparency mechanisms.


[14] De Henau, J. and S. Himmelweit (2020), “Developing a Macro-Micro Model for Analyzing Gender Impacts of Public Policy”.

[5] Government of Canada (2019), Integrating Gender-Based Analysis Plus into Evaluation – A Primer, https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/services/audit-evaluation/evaluation-government-canada/gba-primer.html.

[15] Honorable Cámara de Diputados (n.d.), Anexo Erogaciones para la Igualdad entre Mujeres y Hombres, Presupuesto de Egresos de la Federación [Annex Expenditures for Equality between Women and Men, Expenditure Budget of the Federation], https://web.diputados.gob.mx/.

[8] Nicol, S. (2022), “Gender perspectives in spending review”, OECD Journal on Budgeting, No. 22/3, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/4b676369-en.

[9] OECD (2023), “OECD Best Practices for Gender Budgeting”, OECD Journal on Budgeting, No. 23/1, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9574ed6f-en.

[4] OECD (2022), Report on the Implementation of the OECD Gender Recommendations, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/mcm/Implementation-OECD-Gender-Recommendations.pdf.

[10] OECD (2021), Government at a Glance 2021, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/1c258f55-en.

[3] OECD (2021), Policy Framework on Gender-sensitive Public Governance, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/mcm/Policy-Framework-for-Gender-Sensitive-Public-Governance.pdf.

[13] OECD (2021), “Promoting gender equality through public procurement: Challenges and good practices”, OECD Public Governance Policy Papers, No. 09, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5d8f6f76-en.

[17] OECD (2021), “Towards gender-inclusive recovery”, OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19), OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/ab597807-en.

[12] OECD (2021), “Women in infrastructure: Selected stocktaking of good practices for inclusion of women in infrastructure”, OECD Public Governance Policy Papers, No. 07, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9eab66a8-en.

[7] OECD (2020), Integrating Responsible Business Conduct in Public Procurement, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/02682b01-en.

[2] OECD (2019), Fast Forward to Gender Equality: Mainstreaming, Implementation and Leadership, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/g2g9faa5-en.

[11] OECD (2019), Reforming Public Procurement: Progress in Implementing the 2015 OECD Recommendation, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/1de41738-en.

[1] OECD (2016), 2015 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Public Life, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264252820-en.

[6] OECD (forthcoming), Gender Budgeting in OECD Countries - 2023 Update.

[16] United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics (2018), Equalities Data Audit: Final Report, https://www.ons.gov.uk/methodology/methodologicalpublications/generalmethodology/onsworkingpaperseries/equalitiesdataauditfinalreport.

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