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Gender equality and empowerment – key concepts

Gender equality and empowerment – key concepts

This report explores key concepts around gender equality and empowerment, emphasising the dual importance of gender equality policies and an enabling institutional environment.

Gender equality demands that women and men have equal freedom to make choices about the life they want to live unhindered by gender stereotypes, roles and prejudices and that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities as citizens are not determined by whether they are born male or female. Promoting gender equality measures is a way of investing in women and improving their lives, the lives of those who they care for and the community at large. Investing in women will also lead to improved business outcomes, socio-economic security and fairer societies.

The pathway to greater gender equality outcomes is made up of three stepping stones:

  • gender equality policies;
  • an enabling institutional environment;
  • women’s empowerment.

Gender equality policies are measures that support fairness in the treatment of women and men. n the workplace, gender equality policies such as paid maternity leave and guaranteed employment on return to work, flexible work arrangements for employees with caring responsibilities and carers leave, allow women to remain engaged in paid work and attached to the workforce even while they provide care. Gender equality initiatives in the workplace can remove many of the barriers to women’s full and equal participation in the workforce and help create a level playing field for male and female employees. But to achieve gender equality outcomes such measures need to be supported by an enabling institutional environment.

The institutional environment is shaped by the national legislative framework, workplace cultures and normative ideas about women and men’s roles in work and society. It is within the broad institutional environment that women make choices about when to do paid work, how much and what type of paid work they should pursue. Gender sensitive labour and discrimination laws, inclusive workplace cultures, media and public discourse about women’s positive role in society are all examples of how the institutional environment can support the uptake and success of gender equality policies in the workplace.

The report finds that gender equality measures delivered within the context of an enabling institutional environment will support women’s empowerment and promote gender equality outcomes. This is a long-term project, but one that starts with simple, well designed interventions at the workplace and changed attitudes – such as equality of opportunity for women and men in recruitment, promotion and leadership; equal pay; equal access to union representation and collective bargaining, maternity protection; and equal access to policies that help to reconcile work and family responsibilities.


  • Gender equality policies
  • An enabling institutional environment
  • Women’s empowerment
  • An institutional framework for gender equality
  • Investing in women for gender equality
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Investing in Women