What happens to the radical potential of gender mainstreaming? Problems of implementation and institutionalisation in gendered organisations
Wittman, Amanda Barrett
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Rapidly spreading in popularity over the past fifteen years, gender mainstreaming has been adopted worldwide by state, supra state and international organizations as the "most modern‟ policy for ensuring gender equality. Yet, there is general agreement that it has not succeeded in achieving its radical potential. In this thesis, I bring together policy literature on bureaucracies, the civil service, and gender mainstreaming with work done on gender, work and organizations as a way to better understand the partial success and uneven implementation and institutionalization of what is supposedly a transformational agenda. To date, gender scholars have underplayed the "stickiness‟ of gender and its effects upon actors and everyday practices in political and state organizations. I argue that the "stickiness‟ of gender in organisations presents a formidable obstacle to the implementation and institutionalization of gender mainstreaming. I also argue that insufficient attention has been paid to the "embodied costs‟ of actors who act as internal gender mainstreaming advocates both in terms of the costs to the individuals and the impact of these costs on the prospects for the successful implementation and institutionalisation of a radical change agenda. Through an ethnographic examination of the Scottish Executive from 2006-2007, I probe the analytic question framing this thesis: what happens to the radical potential of gender mainstreaming during its implementation and institutionalisation in governmental bureaucracies? Using the sociological method of institutional ethnography, I provide evidence of ways that continued reliance on highly committed individuals and everyday bureaucratic practices continue to limit the radical success of gender mainstreaming at the Scottish Executive. I contend that the radical promise of gender mainstreaming is hindered because it is a strategy which must work within the confines of fossilised norms manifested in masculinist bureaucracies and because it is paradoxically predicated on changing bureaucratic norms through the use of the same bureaucratic practices it attempts to transform. By examining the everyday experience of "doing‟ gender mainstreaming in the case of a sub-state government in the UK, the Scottish Executive, I trace the ways that the radical promises of the gender mainstreaming agenda become diluted. The thesis examines challenges to the gender mainstreaming agenda and adds to wider discussions about the plausibility of gender mainstreaming‟s radical potential. In addition, my thesis moves forward methodological discussions in feminist politics by demonstrating the possibility of using institutional ethnography in political science as an effective way to operationalise, analyze and link multiple levels of politics from a gendered perspective. My analysis of local experiences of gender mainstreaming provides insight into the international trend of gender mainstreaming because it takes seriously the experiences of individuals who work within organizations, the role of organizations in limiting change agendas, and the international context within which the mainstreaming strategy unfolds.