Cities are leading the way to gender equality

6 March 2020

Ahead of the International Women’s Day on 8 March, the European Commission announced the first-ever Gender Equality Strategy at EU level.

Overall this EU Gender Equality Strategy for 2020-2025 is a good step in the right direction for it proposes gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting in EU policies and covers a wide range of areas for gender equality:

  1. Tackling gender-based violence and stereotypes
  2. Thriving in a gender-equal economy: closing gender gaps in the labour market, gender pay gap and pension gap, achieving equal participation in higher education, closing the gender care gap
  3. Leading equally throughout society: achieving gender balance in decision-making and politics
  4. Gender mainstreaming and an intersectional perspective in EU policies
  5. Funding actions to make progress in gender equality in the EU
  6. Addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment across the world
  7. While this initiative is a good first step in the right direction, it fails to recognise, or even mention, the role of cities as key actors in gender equality measures.

What are cities doing on gender equality?

Cities are taking concrete actions at local level to promote gender equality:

Cities are mainstreaming gender equality in municipal strategies or action plans. For example, Lille Metropole runs a ‘Gender equality strategy for 2016-2020’ while Ljubljana has an action plan for gender equality, both approaches include a gender-based approach across all relevant municipal policies. Vienna introduced gender budgeting in all policies and programmes.

Cities invest in childcare support services that are affordable, available where families live and flexible (opening times) to meet the needs of working parents, which in turn, enable women to be more likely to participate on the labour market. Warsaw runs a programme ‘Mother Work and Me’ to support the labour market activation of women combining training with support for childcare and matchmaking with job offers from local employers.

Many cities deliver targeted measures to empower women from most vulnerable groups (single mothers and women from migrant or ethnic groups). For example, Amsterdam has a tailored approach to empowering refugee women in their access to the labour market.

Cities are setting up centres to support victims of gender-based violence. For example, Nantes invested €1 million to open such a centre in autumn 2019.

Cities set up anti-discrimination offices in cooperation with equality bodies. For example, Leipzig established an ‘Advisory Board for Gender Equality’ while Vienna has a women service centre to help and advice women.

Cities introduce gender clauses in public procurement. For example, in Barcelona, 79 new public contracts have included gender clauses along the city’s new contracting criteria since July 2017.

Cities are investing in capacity building and raising public awareness. For example, to tackle gender-based stereotypes on the labour market and in society, Vienna produced a toolkit for educators to work with young children in early childhood education and care based on a gender-sensitive pedagogy. Moreover, Vienna’s department for women’s affairs runs ‘girl empowerment workshops’ where city staff work directly with young women to raise awareness about women’s rights, gender stereotypes and media portrayal.

Cities collect data on gender inequalities, such as ‘gender monitors’. For example, Berlin publishes an annual ‘Gender Data Report’ with data on gender equality in Berlin.

More evidence, data and good practices from cities on gender equality are presented in the Eurocities report ‘Cities delivering social rights’.

What is Eurocities doing on gender equality?

Eurocities is running a political campaign ‘Inclusive Cities for all: Social Rights in My city’. We engage city mayors to pledge on delivering concrete measures in line with the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights. In doing so, we seek to build inclusive cities for all people.

So far, four cities – Vienna, Bologna, Lyon and Nantes – have committed to promote gender equality by investing in specific policy actions at local level, such as:

  • Vienna Business Agency supports career development of women in traditionally male-dominated sectors by granting bonuses for women in top jobs
  • Bologna’s comprehensive system for reception, counselling and support to victims of gender violence
  • Lyon’s training courses on raising awareness of gender equality among the staff of the metropolitan administration
  • Nantes’ Gender Equality Council

Which way forward to gender equality in the EU?

Cities are committed to gender equality, but we need more recognition and support from regional, national and EU authorities.

We are ready to work with the European Commission and member states to achieve gender equality in Europe. We call to:

Learn from what already works on gender equality in cities by scaling up pilot projects, mainstreaming results into public policies and supporting with EU funding
Combine gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting across all policies with a differentiated support of women. Establishing an EU Task Force on Equality is a good first step to build an intersectional approach on gender mainstreaming in all EU policies.

Make gender differences visible through data collection (setting indicators, targets), campaigns, lobbying, gender training, and information for the public.
Implement equality support structures with manuals, handbooks, guidelines, gender training and a safe funding for support structures at local level.
Set up efficient reporting and controlling systems by means of gender budgeting, quality management, and gender checks for legislation.


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer