Building gender equality

8 Mar

Iria Caamiña

The media systematically show us examples of the persistence of discriminatory situations for women such as the gender wage gap, the lack of women in managerial positions and the violence towards women, among other things.

These situations are a result of our social construct which is still based on an androcentric model where man is placed at the centre, as a reference of values and of the view of the world while at the same time subordinating women and rendering them  invisible.

Taking advantage of the fact that today is March 8, International Women’s Day, we would like to review and reflect on how we are tackling this reality with the Government of Catalonia’s public policies.

The history of gender policies of the Catalan Government Administration goes back a long way. The Catalan Women’s Institute was created almost 30 years ago and it was this institution which began to formulate programmes for equality with the aim of guaranteeing real equality between men and women. In this context, the concept of equality has been reinterpreted and broadened and is now multidimensional:

  • Formal equality: the affirmation of the equality of rights in legislation
  • Equality of treatment: the absence of direct or indirect discrimination for reasons of sex
  • Equal opportunity: the compensation of existing inequalities in the conditions and positions of women and men
  • Gender equality: the assessment and consideration of the diversity and differences between women and men

The evolution of the concept of equality has run parallel to the evolution of strategies for intervention by public administrations. The first programmes of policies for women were centred on guaranteeing equal rights and on the absence of discrimination between men and women. Later, once the shortcomings of this concept had been verified, new measures for positive action were introduced to guarantee equal opportunities. More recently, gender mainstreaming has been introduced and prioritised.

Gender mainstreaming is a concept that arose in Sweden in the early nineties of last century to promote policies for women and was incorporated in the international agenda within the framework of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing. The inclusion of this strategy to develop policies for women was a turning point.

Gender mainstreaming in the area of the Catalan Government requires the incorporation of the gender perspective in all policies and the promotion of specific actions in favour of women from the different areas of Government Administration. This is the framework within which work is being done at present by the Government of Catalonia. The Department of Health has taken part in the six programmes led by the Catalan Women’s Institute and also in elaborating the four reports on gender mainstreaming.

On the other hand, the drive and implementation of measures and actions linked to gender policies in the Department of Health takes place within the framework of the Work Group for gender mainstreaming. This group is made up of people of reference from all the units and entities of the department, including the Agency for Health Quality and Assessment of Catalonia (AQuAS), and it is coordinated by the Technical Cabinet of the General Secretary.

Aside from the achievements made based on measures taken and actions carried out, some of the most significant advances have been those made via regulation. Particularly noteworthy are:

Among the most noteworthy aspects of the Law of Equality (2015) is the regulation of interdepartmental bodies for coordination, in charge of applying gender mainstreaming both consultative and advisory in nature, and also of implementing mechanisms of collaboration, cooperation, control and sanction. Via this Law, the creation of the Observatory for Gender Equality was foreseen, a body which began functioning last June and of which the AQuAS forms a part of.

Despite the progress made, a lot of work remains to be done which we need to do together, not only as a legal obligation but also as a commitment to building a fairer society. No policy is neutral, and it affects men and women in different ways and this is why it is essential for us to put on our “gender glasses” during our daily tasks to identify possible differences so as to deal with them.

As you all know, dealing with gender is one of the editorial lines of the blog AQuAS (with posts written by Mercè Piqueras, Esther Vizcaino and Dolores Ruiz Muñoz) and we will be delving deeper into this subject shortly within the framework of the activity done at the AQuAS.

Post written by Iria Caamiña.

Gender equality in research, we all benefit

3 Nov

Esther Vizcaino

Several month ago, we spoke about the publication of the article A global call for action to include gender in research impact assessment, in which the team of impact of research at AQuAS participated.

Investment in biomedical research has grown exponentially over recent years and consequently, governments, the industry, research centres and citizens expect to see a return on this investment translated into an increase in health benefits. Investing in research inappropriately can lead to economic and health losses. What’s more, this investment can also be wasted if it is not distributed equally in terms of gender.

That women are poorly represented in the field of health research is nothing new. By poorly represented we are referring to them as researchers as well as participants in research studies. Women receive less funding, appear less frequently than men as authors of publications in scientific journals and are awarded fewer scientific prizes. For example, of the 210 Nobel Prizes of physiology and medicine, there are only 12 women (5,7%).

Moreover, there is evidence that the differences in sex (biological) and of gender (sociocultural) are not included in a routine way in the design of research studies. This can mean that women find themselves at a disadvantage with regards to men as beneficiaries of research in terms of the health, economic and social impact associated with research. It has been demonstrated that incorporating the gender perspective stimulates innovation and excellence in research and technology.

Given the global and fragmented nature of research, we are faced with the inescapable need for all administrations, research institutions and assessment agencies to promote scientific policies that maximise the impact of research by means of gender equality.


Taking this necessity into account, researchers from 15 countries from 6 continents have made a “call for action” in the article to include the gender perspective in the assessment of the impact of research done with the aim of maximising its scientific, economic and social impact. Different recommendations are made in the article to all actors involved in research on how to include and reinforce gender analysis within the assessment of the impact of research.

In 2014, the United Nations launched a campaign, HeForShe, to fight against gender bias at a global level. This campaign wants to involve everyone, including men and boys, as defenders and agents of change to obtain gender equality and the rights of women.

Historically, gender equality has perhaps been mainly adopted as a subject of interest by women but including gender equality in all spheres is a subject for all.

Post written by Esther Vizcaino Garcia, AQuAS.