2: Bringing gender into the policy issue

In this step, you will consider what gender differences are relevant to your policy. You may have already touched on some of these questions in Step 1 and can now take a deeper dive into exploring the impacts.

What groups by gender may be affected by the policy problem?

You’ll need to collect some information about what groups of women and men are affected by the policy problem and the relative size of those groups. Consider the short-term, medium-term and long-term impacts on those groups. You can access some gender data through the Living Standards Dashboard and Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand.

Here are further quantitative data links you can explore with key New Zealand statistics about gender and other identity factors. Quantitative data will help you identify what groups and where they may be located.

Consider different groups of women and men (and gender-diverse people). Are there statistics that disaggregate by ethnicity, disability, and geographic location? Note down any gaps you encounter for possible action later e.g. organising future collection by your agency or by others. If you have data gaps, is there some related data you can use as a proxy measure?

More info on sex-disaggregated data

Datasets usually still measure sex as binary. Keep in mind that gender is more fluid than sex and the lack of data on specific population groups such as gender-diverse people doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. In the past, government forms (from the national census to medical or education enrolment forms) have provided only two choices when it comes to gender: male or female. People who identify as gender diverse are excluded by this approach, and they are also made invisible for statistical purposes. As a result, services don’t fit all individuals and information reinforces a binary view. Inaccurate information is used for planning services or allocating funding. Statistics New Zealand has now developed standards for collecting gender information and is providing non-binary choices in some surveys.

Make some notes around your answer to this question
How might groups by gender have different needs or experiences?

Gendered roles are historically grounded and continue to exist in New Zealand society across multiple levels (e.g. the family/whānau, community, workplace and in formal leaderships such as government).

A key question is who appears to be the most advantaged groups, and who appear to be the least advantaged groups, within the current situation? Consider that on average:

An example from a recent Cabinet paper

“Family violence and sexual violence are driven by gender inequities in society, and they are predominately perpetrated by men against women and children. Recognising the gendered patterns of violence is not intended to negate the experiences of male victims. The kinds of violence that men and women use, when and how they use violence, and the harm it causes are different. We need to acknowledge the gendered patterns of violence in order to develop different and tailored responses, so that we can effectively prevent this violence and reduce the harm that it causes.”

Ministry of Justice (2018) Leadership of Government’s collective efforts to reduce family violence and sexual violence

Consider inequalities between groups of women and men in terms of their resources and their access to various resources (work, money, power, security, education, mobility, time, health and wellbeing and so on). These might differ at different times and stages of people’s lives. For instance, women are more likely to have career interruptions and breaks from paid work than men. Women outside the paid work force will have different experience and resources. Women who are working part-time because of a caring role will have reduced money and mobility and potentially lower job security, work quality or options to switch jobs. While New Zealand Superannuation offers a universal pension, women tend to have less net wealth at retirement than men.

More information about inequalities

Inequalities point to underlying gender norms that have historically influenced roles and power between women and men. Gender norms are the expectations and standards to which women and men in a given community generally conform. Gender norms continue today to different degrees in different contexts. Three key ones to consider are:

a) The division of paid and unpaid labour by gender – what work are women and men socially most expected to do?

b) The organisation of private life – what roles are women and men socially expected to perform?

c) The organisation of leadership – who is seen as a leader and who controls decision-making?

Here’s a web video that further (and humorously) explores gender norms

Qualitative research and analysis are more useful in understanding the causes of inequalities than quantitative data.

However women and men are not homogenous groups. The needs and perspectives of individuals are influenced by a range of factors, including gender, culture, and age. Given that, how might any inequalities play out for wāhine Māori? Pacific women? Disabled women? LGBTQIA+? Older women? Young women and girls? Migrant women?

An example from a recent Cabinet paper

“Māori are disproportionately affected by family violence, sexual violence and violence within whānau due to the complex intersection of sociohistorical and contemporary factors. Understanding violence within Māori whānau requires placing it within the social, historical, political and cultural experience of Māori wāhine, tāne and tamariki. Māori are twice as likely to be victims and perpetrators of family violence and sexual violence. Every year, more Māori tamariki die as a result of family violence than all other children put together.”

Ministry of Justice (2018) Leadership of Government’s collective efforts to reduce family violence and sexual violence

There are a range of other New Zealand-based tools that can help you with some of these questions.

Other useful tools or frameworks include:

Make some notes around your answer to this question
How might the groups of women and men you’ve identified have different expectations or priorities about what needs to happen?

What has triggered examining the problem? Is this problem important to a particular group? Who has identified it? Whose voice is most prominent? Consider whether women’s voices (or groups of women’s voices) have been heard in relation to this problem. Have the experiences of women, men and non-binary people been considered in defining the issue, from their perspective? Think about how you want to engage with groups by gender.

Make some notes around your answer to this question
Are there legal obligations or international commitments that need to be considered?

Is there potential for human rights challenges as a result of your policy change (or the status quo)? What kinds of legal risks exist? Is there the potential for a precedent to be set or challenged? Is there ongoing litigation that relates to the issue?

The Treaty of Waitangi will require particular consideration. The Crown is expected to act consistently with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. These principles have been expressed in different ways at different times by the courts, the Waitangi Tribunal and others, but are often expressed as partnership, active protection and redress (or partnership, protection and participation).

From a policy perspective, one implication of these principles is that the Crown needs to ensure it understands the issues and likely impact of proposed policies on Māori, including how historical events and Crown actions have impacted on Māori – including on wāhine Māori. It also needs to ensure it properly understands any relevant Māori concepts such as rangatiratanga, mātauranga, whanaungatanga. Gaining this understanding will often require policy advisors to talk with different groups of Māori.

New Zealand has made a number of international commitments to ensuring the wellbeing of women in New Zealand, including wāhine Māori. It is a signatory, for example, to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Other international agreements that advance women’s rights include the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2030.

More info on discrimination

Discrimination happens when a person is treated unfairly or less favourably than others in similar circumstances. Indirect discrimination is when an action or policy that appears to treat everyone the same actually discriminates against someone. You can find out more about direct discrimination in New Zealand law here.

Consider whether there is an opportunity to improve women’s outcomes taking into account these international obligations and New Zealand policy priorities.

An example from a recent Cabinet paper

“Reducing family violence and sexual violence assists the Government to meet its human rights obligations including the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Ministry of Justice (2018) Leadership of Government’s collective efforts to reduce family violence and sexual violence

Make some notes around your answer to this question
Can you reframe your policy problem to ensure that gendered issues will be considered in the process?

How can you reframe the goals of your policy project to accommodate any differences and to ensure the issues for groups of women will be addressed in the process? It does not follow that women will benefit simply because they are present in a targeted population. The presence of women does not guarantee a service design tailored to women’s needs or address any structural inequity which results in the need for government services.

Example: Rebuilding Christchurch after the earthquakes

To help bring gender into the rebuild, the Ministry of Women's Affairs asked how groups of women might have different needs or experiences from men, and how those groups of women and men might have different expectations or priorities about what needs to happen around the rebuild. The Ministry recognised an information gap about women’s willingness to participate traditionally male-dominated construction industry. This led to the commissioning of 2013 research.

The research showed that women wanted to work, were available and were not opposed to working in the rebuild, but they were not being included in the construction labour force. Almost 40 percent of the 500 women surveyed were considering training or retraining. Many women had not considered rebuild jobs, or were unsure how to access them, or they saw construction jobs as jobs for men. Specifically, some women saw job advertisements as being directed at men and some women thought they could not meet the physical demands of some rebuild jobs. Similarly, employers sometimes overlooked the potential of women to meet their workforce requirements.

Completing Step 2

As you consider your responses to the questions above, you may want to capture your thinking in the downloadable worksheet below.

Download the worksheet

Download my notes
  • 1. Bringing gender in at the start
  • 2: Bringing gender into the policy issue
  • 3: Bringing gender into the policy options
  • 4: Bringing gender into engagement
  • 5: Bringing gender into implementation
  • 6: Bringing gender into monitoring and evaluation
  • 7. Bringing gender into a Cabinet paper
  • Wellington Summit 2019