Topic 1 Positive Actions and Gender Mainstreaming

  • Positive actions refer to the policies and programmes specifically aimed at women to prevent or compensate for the disadvantages they experience in the labour market. They are effective in the short term but these measures, by themselves, do not prevent inequality from reappearing when the action ends

Let’s see some examples:

Balancing the presence of women and men within labour insertion programmes or the introduction of training courses aimed at underrepresented genders to fill a sectoral gap.

  • Gender mainstreaming is the systematic consideration of the differences between the conditions, situations and needs of women and men in all policies and actions (1)

This approach began during the 1990s (2) when it became clear that gender equality strategies needed to go further than just positive actions to yield long-term results and produce structural changes.

At an organisational level, it involves (3):

  1. An acknowledgement that gender is a mainstream issue and gender equality must be a shared primary goal for everyone in the company
  2. An analysis of the organisation’s current efforts in key departments
  3. After the assessment, setting a plan and broadening the company commitments
  4. Monitoring and reporting to check the progress


(2) Beijing Platform for Action, UN 4th World Conference on Women (1995). European Commission. Communication ‘Incorporating equal opportunities for women and men into all Community policies and activities .

(3) Adapted from

There is an intense debate on whether positive actions and gender mainstreaming are actually effective for improving gender equality, but both strategies are complementary at an implementation level and individuals have reported positive effects.

There are many online resources concerning the implementation of gender mainstreaming in the workplace and we suggest reading the following guides.

The next sections of the unit offers examples in two of the related topics: parenthood and  the improvement of work life balance and strategies for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.