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Reflections on The Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit

Main author Dory Reeves with contributions from Clara Greed MBE and Chris Sheridan who worked at the RTPI during this period.

Citation reference: Reeves, D. (2023) IWD 2023 Reflections on The Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit, WiP Blog.

In 2003 the Equal Opportunities Panel commissioned the 2003 Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit, designed to support and assist planners in executing their responsibilities to tackle inequalities and promote gender equality. It built on the work of PAN 12 Planning for Women. The focus is on how to create gender sensitive places and spaces.

This Blog has been produced to acknowledge 20 years since the publication of the RTPI Gender mainstreaming Toolkit. The author worked with Clara Greed to author this blog and emailed Chris Sheridan for his reflections.

The purpose of the Gender mainstreaming toolkit is to:

  • provide practical guidance on how to incorporate gender issues into planning at the local level, helping promote equality between women and men. The target audience for this toolkit includes those responsible for: Formulating and implementing planning policy (policy planners) Making decisions about the content of planning policy (elected members) Implementing planning policy (development control planners or development facilitators).

  • bring planning into the gender equality arena

  • ensure that Sustainable Development is seen as more than environment

  • show professional planners what it means to be a modern, up to date effective practitioner

  • provide a tool for advocates of gender friendly cities, towns and environment. GMT (p5)

The toolkit itself is based around a set of 6 simple questions:

1) What are the different experiences and roles of women and men and/or boys and girls which might affect:

a. issues and problems which need to be addressed by the plan

b. how women and men might benefit from a policy proposal and

c. how the policy or proposal is implemented

2) What are the implications of these differences between women and men?

3) What are the implications for planning policy?

4) What policy recommendations would help ensure gender equality?

5) Who will assume responsibility for implementation?

6) How will success be measured? GMT (p10)

The toolkit involved a wide group of people: Project Leader: Professor Clara Greed MRTPI. Contributing authors: Linda Davies MRTPI, Dr Caroline Brown MRTPI Stefanie Dühr, Dr Dory Reeves MRTPI; Steering Group: Dr Dory Reeves MRTPI David John OBE FRTPI, Donna Hipkins MRTPI, Miranda Carter, ODPM, Amy Luxton, Plymouth City Council, Chris Sheridan, Royal Town Planning Institute; Editors: Dory Reeves, and Chris Sheridan.

The production of the toolkit relied on work from a large group of people. It drew on the work of Eurofem, progressive cities like Vienna in Austria, Barcelona in Spain, as well as Councils like Plymouth, plus previous work by Sheffield City Council and the Greater London Council (GLC) and others as well as the support of the School of Planning and Architecture Faculty of the Built Environment in the University of the West of England, Bristol. In addition, it would not have been produced without the support of RTPI staffer Chris Sheridan, whose role in the RTPI was to support member led projects and activities led by internal committees.

The Toolkit in Context:

To put the GM Toolkit in context it is useful to note the key things happening and put them in a number of contexts, internationally, nationally, locally.

In 2003 Dory Reeves was a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde and Clara Greed was Professor at UWE in Bristol. Dory was on RTPI Council and chaired the Equal Opportunities Panel (Women).

1999 saw the RTPI Council endorsing the report on gender mainstreaming following the successful 1998 symposium conference (RTPI, 1999). Initiatives took place, such as the Plymouth City Council’s Gender Audit in the year 2000, although it was not followed through. Following the mandating of equality impact assessments (EQIAs) in 2000, the tools were in place to bring about a more gender-sensitive appraisal of plans.

Internationally several things were happening to accelerate the RTPI agenda for change:

1985 - The concept of gender-mainstreaming, was first formally proposed at the 1985 Third World Conference on Women, in Nairobi, Kenya (LA21, page 271, para. F).

1992 - Local Agenda 21 (LA21) was signed by UN member states. Chapter 24 of Agenda 21, entitled ‘Global action for women towards sustainable and equitable development’, advocated for the formulation and implementation of clear governmental policies and national guidelines, strategies and plans for the achievement of equality in all aspects of society, including the promotion of women’s literacy, education, training, nutrition and health and their participation in key decision-making positions and management of the environment, particularly as it pertains to their access to resources (UN, 1992, Para 24.2.f).

1995 - Eurofem reported, and provided a suite of resources to help planners and others mainstream gender and the material has been archived on a website for all to access. EUF

The main author of the Eurofem toolkit was Liisa Horelli with contributions from Christine Booth and Rose Gilroy. The report showcases stories on how women could be mobilised in local and regional development. The best projects were characterised by – a multidimensional, holistic view of the project or mission – sensitivity to the context – redefinition of the agenda – balancing process and the product – the use of innovative methods – broad support from different groups – consideration of organisational structure and culture.

1997 - The Amsterdam Treaty AT made Gender mainstreaming a public policy requirement for member states.

2003 - The European Parliament adopted its first resolution EU on gender mainstreaming, which contains a commitment to regularly adopt and implement a policy plan for gender mainstreaming, with guidelines for implementing gender mainstreaming in the committees' and delegations' policy work. EIGE

At national level strides were being made in Ireland, north and south, as well as Scotland, and Wales.

1998 - Northern Ireland, Section 75 of the Good Friday Agreement introduced a duty on public bodies to undertake Equality Impact Assessments using 9 equality groups including women.

Scotland, Wales and England also introduced EQIA processes. S75

2000 - 2006 Ireland’s National Development Plan INDP process was making efforts to mainstream gender into strategic policy by showing what could be done in the structural fund space by commissioning a series of fact sheets that still have currency today.

At city level places across the UK and mainland Europe were working on policy and practice.

1998 - The Greater London Council (GLC) produced Women Changing Places: Positive Action on women and planning.

1990s - Cities like Vienna and later Barcelona were making a name for themselves for giving effect to gender on the ground, in housing development and the design of streets and neighbourhoods. Christine Mayblin-Booth had worked as a planner in London and brought the ideas to Sheffield in the 1980s.

Professional Institutes and strong women and planning groups worked hard to advocate for change:

1970s – 1980s The RTPI Women-and-Planning plus Women-in-Planning activities operated at branch and national levels, often linking with Women in Property WiP and groups such as the Womens’ Design Service, WDS All Mod Cons, New Ways to Work and the Suzy Lampugh Trust. SLT Women-and-Planning plus Women-in-Planning built on the 1970s and 1980s activists’ work, and many involved acted as mentors to those starting out in their careers. WI/AP wrote the Equal Opportunities (women) Research Agenda and the Mainstreaming Gender into Planning PAN12 Planning for Women, (1995) and campaigned for gender-neutral language, using the EU guideline on non-discriminatory language (Council of Europe, 1991). The reaction at the time from many senior members of the profession was discouraging and disruptive.


Following on from the toolkit, Oxfam and the RTPI published the Good Practice Note 7 on Gender and Spatial Planning to coincide with the introduction of the duty to promote gender equality in GB. GPN7

Since its inception, the RTPI Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit has been referenced directly and indirectly by UN-Habitat, UNDP, World Bank, and the Commonwealth Association of Planners and it is fair to say it has had more of an impact internationally than nationally.

(Reference GUP and GIG)

UN-Habitat (2014)UNK

(Reference WB and CA)

After all the years working in this area, many feel saddened by the lack of progress. In an email response Clara Greed commented:

“it seemed to have absolutely no impact because of the over-emphasis upon 'disembodied' people-less green issues, as to relevance gender mainstreaming has been much discredited and ignored. why do we even bother? We need to stress the spatial emphasis in our version of gender mainstreaming as mentioned in one of my previous emails, as not just any old boring, managerialist, aspatial gender mainstreaming.”

Chris Sheridan’s:

“recalls at the time of the Toolkit Launch, the letters page in Planning included comments from male planners claiming that not only did they not need the Toolkit, neither did anyone else. That comment stuck in my mind; despite their commitments to continuing professional development, professions should challenge their own prejudices.
Twenty years later, and with equality increasingly focusing the public agenda, the Toolkit really was ahead of its time. A tool for planners that was relevant then and now.”

Gender Mainstreaming is needed now even more than ever and there are educational and professional tools available. C40 Women4climate Change online course W4C, plus UN Habitat material are examples.

  • 2017 – The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) published a Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit EIGE focussing on Impact Assessments (GIA) and referencing tools like the Swedish Jāmstōd published in 2007 and the 1997 Guide to GIA GIA 1997

  • GenderSTEGSTE an EU funded initiative provided a kickstart for Gender Mainstreaming again.

  • Common Cause CC teaches us to:

    • Focus on intrinsic common values and concrete visions; for instance, fairness, and justice, (ensuring women and men are safe; that everyone’s housing needs are met; that the wellbeing of women and men and girls and boys are provided for in our open spaces, parks, and streets).

    • Grow and sustain a strong caucus of people who actively advocate for, and support the cause of gender equality wherever it exists and to hold institutions to account when they fail to uphold their own standards or processes.

Inclusiveness, fairness, and justice are at the heart of the RTPI Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit. Whilst there are many tools available, professionals in particular fields, such as planning and transport, find it useful to have something tailored that they can relate to through case studies. The toolkit is even more relevant today albeit the modernising agenda in the UK has changed. Although the UK has left the EU we still have 7 years to run to work on Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals(SDG) SDGs and the New Urban Agenda.NUA At the EU level, Gender Mainstreaming is still very much to the fore having been given a boost by initiatives like GenderSTE. At UN level, the current context is provided by SDG5 and the other 16 Sustainable Development Goals as well as the New Urban Agenda. Climate change is the overarching issue / problem to be tackled. Specialist toolkits are being produced each year. The Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States for instance has produced ‘A Toolkit to Mainstream Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Gender Equality & Social Inclusion’ to Building Resilience with Nature and Gender in the Eastern Caribbean. OECS 2020

Today inclusiveness and the gender fair city as defined in the Cities Alliance document CA page 4 is about creating:

“A city that works well for women, girls, and sexual and gender minorities of all ages and abilities, and that therefore supports their economic and social inclusion. The six main features have been enduring: Accessibility, Connectedness, Safety, Health, Climate Resiliency, and Security.”


Tackling inequality and gender inequality, has been and will continue to be a multi-generational effort. Each generation picks up the baton from those who have gone before, to carry on the responsibility and obligation to achieve the objective of equality for all. The current Women in Planning group(s) WIP have built on the work of the Women in Planning and Women and Planning groups that started in the 1970s and flourished throughout the UK.

The bottom line is that the basic framework of the toolkit is still highly relevant as are the key questions on page 10 of the Toolkit.

What is needed is a recommitment by the planning professional institute (RTPI) and the other built environment professional bodies to ensure that practitioners understand how to achieve gender equality through planning.

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