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Publication - Professor Mark Wickham-Jones

    New Labour, Gender Mainstreaming and the Women and Equality Unit

    Citation

    Squires, J & Wickham-Jones, M, 2004, ‘New Labour, Gender Mainstreaming and the Women and Equality Unit’. British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol 6 (1)., pp. 81 - 98

    Abstract

    New Labour's approach to gender mainstreaming is perhaps best exemplified through the work of the Women and Equality Unit (WEU). In this article we chart the development of the Unit and varied initiatives in which it has been involved and provide a preliminary assessment of the Unit's work. We start with a discussion of Labour's approach to mainstreaming. This provides a context for a profile of the work of the Women's Unit (WU) between 1997 and 2001 and its successor the WEU, between 2001 and 2002. We consider the work of the Units in relation to the government's reforms to the policy-making process, focusing upon location, issue territory and connectivity. Using these three criteria our appraisal of the work of the WEU draws attention to three issues: firstly, the institutional uncertainty surrounding the status of the Unit; secondly, the degree to which the remit of the Unit has been unlike that of other cross-cutting units in addressing a broad gender agenda rather than specific policy areas, but that this is now shifting with the increasing focus on economic issues; and thirdly, the extent to which the Unit is reliant on non-feminist actors within the decision-making elite to help pursue its aims. We will suggest that the Unit may have made a small, but significant, contribution to the development of gender mainstreaming processes. Its contribution has been greatest where gender equality policies coincide with government priorities. Its contribution to the process of mainstreaming gendered perspectives into all policy-making is much harder to discern.

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