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Leadership: Birgit Sauer and Sylvia Walby

Ongoing studies on gender equality policies in the European Union and various member states show that the degree of inconsistencies between the national and the European level is detrimental to the quality of these policies, and hence ultimately detrimental to the quality of life of European citizens, especially women.

While there have been considerable efforts to abolish gender inequality at the European level, there are some serious limitations to the impact of these policies, many of which are related to the complex relationship between the EU and its member states. The shifting meaning of subsidiarity and the increasing use of ‘soft’ law measures – as in the Open Method of Co-ordination – are just some characteristics of this complexity. In the coming years, this complexity is not likely to change. Under such circumstances, it is important not only to have a good overview of the existing gender equality policies and their quality (as delivered by LARG), but also to be able to understand why gender equality policies differ, are inconsistent, or lack quality. Only then will it be possible to design policy options (soft or other) that might reduce these inconsistencies and that can improve the quality of European policy-making.

The aim of WHY was to contribute to such understanding. WHY was not limited to a comparison between European countries but also aimed to provide an explanation of the different ‘natures’ and ‘speeds’ of Europeanisation in the field of (gender) equality policies. The ambition of the WHY activity was to explain two types of variations in gender+ equality policies, one being the variations in the inclusion of civil-society voices, the other the variations in the content of these policies.

The final WHY report can be downloaded here.

WHY papers (2009)