Sisyphus' sisters. Can gender mainstreaming escape the genderedness of organizations?

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Currently, gender mainstreaming is presented as bringing new e´lan to gender equality policies. Gender mainstreaming is a gender equality strategy that aims to transform organizational processes and practices by eliminating gender biases in existing routines, involving the regular actors in this transformation process. In this article, we question the aspirations of gender mainstreaming. Can gender mainstreaming escape the genderedness of organizations; can it genuinely effect change, or does it inevitably become compromised? Our analysis of a case project within Human Resource Management in the Ministry of the Flemish Community in Belgium shows that gender mainstreaming does indeed bring about changes, but that it does not break down the genderedness of organizations substantially. While gender mainstreaming invokes an image of cooperation between equal parties that pursue a dual agenda of business needs and feminist goals, our analysis shows that crucial power differences between those parties determine the outcome. The complex social dynamics of gender mainstreaming entail compromises in the context of these power differences, which seriously hinder the transformative and innovative potential of gender mainstreaming.

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