Gender mainstreaming is a globally accepted strategy for promoting gender equality. Mainstreaming is not an end in itself but a strategy, an approach, a means to achieve the goal of gender equality. Mainstreaming involves ensuring that gender perspectives and attention to the goal of gender equality are central to all activities: policy development, research, dialogue, legislation, resource allocation, and planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes and projects.
The Commission’s Fourth Equalities Action Programme (1996-2000) refers to the above definition of gender mainstreaming in relation to all EU and Member States policies and activities, and their respective powers (COM (95) 381 and Decision 95/593/EC). The Commission Communication of 21 February 1996 on ‘Incorporating equal opportunities into all Community policies and activities’ emphasised the need to take systematic account of gender differences in the context of all policies including, but not restricted to, employment and the labour market. For example, a Council Resolution of 2 December 1996 provided for mainstreaming equal opportunities for women and men into the European Structural Funds, while Council Recommendation (96/694 of 2 December 1996) aimed at the balanced participation of women and men in decision-making processes.
The broad scope of the requirement to integrate gender equality into Union action is suggested by Article 8 TFEU: ‘In all its activities, the Union shall aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women’. Like Article 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union concerning equality between women and men, this provision expands the principle beyond the employment and industrial relations fields.