Gender Mainstreaming in the Regional Discourse over the Future of the Ruhr Metropolitan Area: Implementation of Gender Mainstreaming in Planning Processes

Introduction: Gender Mainstreaming as an Important Strategic Approach

The realities of life - whether of men or women, the young or the elderly, of families and singles - are complex, and are thus demanding for urban and regional planning. Gender mainstreaming1 is primarily a political guideline promoting equal opportunities between the sexes and demographic groups in all spheres of life. Gender mainstreaming:

means the development, organization and evaluation of decision-making processes with the aim of getting all stakeholders and players involved in policy-making to incorporate the gender perspective into all political and administrative measures at all levels. In each policy area and at all levels the different starting conditions and impacts on gender should be considered in older to achieve genuine equality between women and men.

(Schweigert 2001: 1267)

With gender planning, a strategic approach to spatial planning has evolved since 2000. Under it, equal opportunities and gender mainstreaming have become a goal of comprehensive, effective and sustainable planning. It is about gender issues in spatial planning. Gender relations need thus to be addressed at all planning levels. This includes, for example, collecting gender-specific data and analyzing women’s and men’s lifestyles to develop gender criteria and actively involve women. Women’s participation, bringing in their (professional) experience and those of professional women and actors who are involved in the process, is an essential requirement for achieving more equal opportunities in the planning sector, a domain which is predominantly still dominated by male decision makers (see, for example, the planning department head in the Ruhr Metropolitan Area).

The term “gender” refers to the “social dimension of sex associated with particular role ascription and task allocation — not to the biological gender (sex)” (Ehrhardt 2003: 13). That means that gender refers to the economic, social, and cultural attributes and chances associated with being male or female and reflecting social reality. Interaction between individuals, groups, and society enables this form of sexuality to exist - and to socially change.

Rational Reasons for Gender Planning

Gender mainstreaming in planning is meant to identify gender roles and the different living conditions of women and men in society, because structural disadvantages still exist for women in many areas. Whether in lifestyles or daily routines, significant differences exist in the appropriation and use of space and in mobility behavior.

In the Ruhr Metropolitan Area, the different living conditions of women and men are to be seen, in particular, on the labor market and in their respective social situations. In the Woman’s Allas Ruhr, Ruth Kampherm emphasizes that though women living in the region are more integrated in the labor market (i.e. a higher labor force participation rate), the labor market is still segmented by gender (see Kampherm 2000: 50, Lessing 2010: 138-155). As Claudia Horch writes in WomanRuhrMan:

Despite the ongoing transformation into a service economy, women’s share of jobs in the Ruhr region doesn’t increase — compared to the state (NRW). More and more they find themselves in “part-time- and minijobs, precarious and temporary employment”. It is a cause for concern that women account for three-quarters of low-income earners and that now almost every fourth child under 15 years is living off social security benefits. This development highlights the indispensability of economic, structural and social policies matched to the respective labor market situations of women and men in the Ruhr Metropolitan Area.

(see Horch 2010: 389)

These differences are reflected in the social space structure, as seen in the “poor” city districts of the Ruhr Metropolitan Area where women of all ages, single parents and especially families with many children are having to get by on low incomes. The consequent settlement and neighborhood development challenges can only be solved in the context of urban and regional planning as well as regional development. Planning issues such as housing, infrastructure facilities, mobility and the quality of open spaces play a decisive role in determining the region’s viability and environmental quality.

Gender mainstreaming [in the planning context] is mainly an analytic and planning method aimed at improving the quality of planning and project development processes. Though gendered regional development may seem complicated at first glance, it does not entail any major increase in work. It does however consistently question the effects on women and men in every planning project, making planning more targeted and ultimately enhancing its quality.

(Horch 2010: 391f.)

The effectiveness of planning, social processes, and their impacts are also different issues that need to be focused on. The aim is to develop matching equality policies and strategies. In some areas, the living conditions of men and women are similar or even reversed (in education and training, for instance, boys and young men must be particularly encouraged). Women are - beyond the areas of acquisition, transfer income, and working conditions also less represented in wealth, ownership, professional (management positions) or social status (power and influence in politics, business, media). Moreover, women account for a high proportion of unpaid household work (see Lessing 2010: 138—155).

Women remain primarily responsible for looking after the family and doing the housework, whether they are employed or not. Though any increase in women’s employment - especially mothers — leads to greater economic independence, it usually also leads to a double burden on women, whereas conditions for men remain constant. Gender mainstreaming in planning and social processes aims to regard these structural differences carefully and sharpen the focus on them. Therefore, demands on the living environment and the surrounding areas increase (see Bolting & Schneiders 2010: 278 ff). This brings differentiated spatial planning issues into focus alongside social situations, people’s age, or ethnic background.

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