What happens to the money?

Carry out a gender equality evaluation of the budget.

June 10, 2006

The interest in ‘gender budgeting’, or the gender equality evaluation of budgets, has increased both in Norway and internationally in recent years. Briefly, this concerns the evaluation of distributing public resources in a gender aware manner, both in terms of income and expenditure. With this approach gender responsive budgeting becomes an important tool with which to counteract undesirable distortions in the distribution of resources to the community, and within particular organisations.


Senior adviser Anne Havnør of the Ministry of Children and Equality (BLD) is someone who has worked within this area for a long time in Norway. She has also participated in preparing the the Guide for gender equality evaluation and discussion in the ministries’ budget proposals, a guide produced to assist government ministries in organising and implementing gender equality evaluations in their budget work. The guide is quite general, however, and gives a thorough introduction in how to approach this problem for any organisation that may wish to use it.

“It is important to understand that we are not talking about making a special budget for measures aimed at women. Specific measures for women are important, but far from sufficient,” Havnør says. “The guide gives directions for the conspicuous and measurable integration of a gender equality perspective into normal budget work, and into budget domains which have specific goals other than gender equality.”

She explains that today each government department shall carry out a gender equality evaluation of their own budget. “This is important in order to ensure that public resources are distributed in accordance with political objectives.”

In academia

The gender equality evaluation of budgets can become an important political tool for gender equality at national level. but it can also be useful for smaller organisations, Havnør believes. She sees many advantages in using this as a tool in academia too.

“It will help the administration of each department in evaluating the extent to which financial prioritization is following strategic prioritization, as, for example, in the goal of improving the gender balance in research and lecturing. It will also be simpler for individual administrations to uncover the uneven distribution of resources within departments.”

Some principles

So how does one go about undertaking a gender equality evaluation of budget work in practice? Havnør has established some central principles for this. She emphasizes that the work must become both the responsibility and a priority of the those with the ultimate responsibility for running the institution, and that sufficient resources must be set aside for this work.

“The work comprises of a systematic and methodical examination of the parts of the institution’s budget from a gender equality perspective. Subordinate departments and each level in the hierarchy are followed up through clear guidance in circulated directives and other forms of management dialogue. Eventual findings must be followed up in order to correct undesirable imbalances in the gender related distribution profile,” Havnør explains.

She emphasizes too the necessity of working interdisciplinarily with gender equality evaluations in an organisation. Those responsible for the budget, other professionals and gender equality experts all need to be included in the work.

A necessary priority

The work cannot be completed in a trice. Changing the routines of budgetary work is demanding, and can be painstaking in a busy institution. This is why it is necessary for the leadership to make it a priority, and it requires extra resources too.

On the other hand, a gender equality evaluation of a budget may produce surprises and invites new approaches to the task. It may even represent an important contribution to how to make Norwegian higher education institutions more gender equal.

In any case, Anne Havnør believes that the process will be important and informative for those who accept the challenge:

“The gender equality evaluation of budgets deals with obtaining the facts necessary to make good decisions. It also deals with ensuring that money is used in accord with the expressed goals and the political priorities of the organisation. For those people concerned, in academia, this can result in the better utilisation of the skills and expertise that highly educated Norwegian women represent, in addition to greater breadth and qualitative improvements in the actual content of research,” she says.

Translated by Matthew Whiting, KILDEN

Gender budgeting

Rooted in Norwegian Legislation
The gender equality evaluation of budgets is a strategy for integrating gender equality evaluations for all spheres of society in the distribution of public resources, both for income and expenditure in a budget.

It is rooted in gender equality law § 1 a “duty of active improvement”:
“Public authorities shall work actively, purposefully and methodically for equality between the sexes in all areas of society.”

The Council of Europe’s definition of “gender budgeting”:
“Gender budgeting is an application of gender mainstreaming in the budgetary process. It means a gender-based assessment of budgets, incorporating a gender perspective at all levels of the budgetary process and restructuring revenues and expenditures in order to promote gender equality.”