Graz goes Equal!
City of Graz

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
In 2001 it was clear that, since gender equality is defined by law on European and national level, local administration had to act according to the law. The design of the process at the beginning was a crucial point. At that time, the organization had no gender segregated data as a basis of action. The knowledge about what gender mainstreaming really meant was very poor. But the City of Graz was articulate about the fact that the implementation of gender equality should be no lip service, thus being aware of the fact that the implementation would not happen overnight. A precise mandate for the implementation was given to the organization’s CEO, the implementation started on project level, defining the starting fields of action in selected areas. In 2011, gender equality has been installed on organizational level, thus signaling the importance of gender equality for daily operational business. At the beginning, enthusiasm for joining the implementation process was rather low. Nevertheless, all executives were trained to make sure that everybody understood what “implementing gender mainstreaming” meant. It was clear from the beginning, that the implementation process is a top-down process: the management level is responsible for the successful implementation. The design of the implementation process was decided upon together with all senior staff: initial analyses would cover internal affairs (human resources, structures and processes) as well as external affairs (products and services). At the beginning we made sure that we had “quick successes”, so that others could see that gender equality makes our products and services better. So we started with selected departments, such as the sports and youth welfare department to show all others, how the change process can work. For example the offers of our (free) sports courses for kids were changed, so the participation rate of boys and girls changed from 70% boys to 50% boys and 50% girls. Crucial at the beginning was also the cooperation on European level. We were partners within EU-funded projects, where on the one hand we had resources for the implementation process, on the other hand, we could show that the city did not stand alone with its efforts to implement gender mainstreaming. This really helped the implementation process. Although gender equality has only been structurally defined on organizational level at the department Women & Equality in 2011, we never stopped with the implementation process and had a real boost in enthusiasm when the city won the Austrian Public Sector Award in 2008 and a best practice certificate by the European Public Sector Award (EPSA) in 2009. Not to mention the Austrian Public Sector Award again in 2016.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
Changing internal processes and structures: implementation of gender equality in human resources with the aim of changing hindering structures for promoting careers for women. But also installing programs for better compatibility of working life and private life for both women and men. Changing external products and services: implementation of gender equality with the aim of bettering services for all citizens, both women and men, naturally considering intersectional/multidimensional factors of discrimination such as age, ethnic background, special needs, sexual orientation and so on.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Local administration has no end in itself. We have to provide products and services that fulfill the needs for all citizens. To provide a worthwhile living for all, providing safety, sustainability, taking care of weaker groups, ….., we have to make sure that the citizens’ needs are adequately considered. Thus our aim can only be to make sure that differing needs are adequately taken care of. All our products and services have been checked/are checked, whether they are usable for all sexes, all the time considering intersectional aspects, such as age, social background, ethnic background, religion, special needs and so on. This we do in close cooperation with all the special units within our organization as well as with external partners. For example: *) Women have a different (subjective) feeling for safety than men, so we checked park areas, street lightening, lightening in underground parking garages and made sure that there were no dark/hidden areas, where women would feel uncomfortable. *) The city of Graz offers free sports and leisure courses during holiday season for boys and girls, but girls and boys have differing tastes concerning sports and leisure activities, so we changed the offers, thus making sure that the differing but equal needs are met. Since we know that girls and boys prefer different things during school breaks, such as talking or running, we redesigned the concept for the construction of school buildings, thus making sure that girls and boys both feel comfortable. *) The city of Graz has parental counselling centers all over the town. There is a pediatrician and social worker to help the parents for free. We changed the opening hours (from only till midday now till the afternoon) so that both mothers and fathers can use the service. *) Internally we strongly support father’s parental leave, to make sure that unpaid care work is equally distributed between women and men. When both women and men share unpaid work, women have higher chances to go to work, thus reducing the gender pay gap and reducing poverty during retirement. *) The city of Graz provides child care facilities for children at the age of 0 – 3 years and 3 – 6 years, but also afternoon care facilities for school children till the age of 15. The facilities are mostly opened the whole day. This is an important factor to enhance employability of women and reduce the still existing gender pay gap. There are many more examples how we changed our products and services in all policies, thus making sure that all citizens can use all products and services according to their needs. A list can be found in our Gender Equality Action Plan at (English documents at the end of the page).

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The implementation of gender equality needs the support from all policy makers, it is a top-down-process, so it has to involve all key players. Although it took a lot of effort, we managed to do that. In 2016, we can see that all key players are involved and work towards equality (naturally working intersectionally, including cases of multiple discrimination such as age, disability, ethnic background, social status, ….). It is very interesting to see that in many areas gender equality is already in the mainstream, such as city planning, construction, designing public space and planning public transport routes. We also made sure that across the organization there are mixed team meetings to discuss possible further actions to enhance gender equality, which is a very constructive way to bring projects on the way. Thus we can see that our first concept to implement gender equality has led to success. But we also involve external partners (stakeholders, subcontractors, companies, …) thus making sure that gender equality is on the agenda for them as well.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The implementation was a decision of the City government in 2001, the CEO of the administration was appointed the main responsible person for the implementation, on organizational level the Department Women & Equality is responsible for the implementation. *) all citizens (approx. 300.000): All products and services are designed in a way to meet the different but equal needs of women and men, starting from child care facilities to care homes, social housing, public transport, public parks and playgrounds and so on. *) employees (approx. 6800): Programs for the enhancement of female careers and for the compatibility of working and private life for both women and men are installed. *) external partners: External partners are aware that the enhancement of gender equality has to be part of their portfolio in order to be able to obtain public funds. These partners cover a wide range from social organizations to private companies.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
In the beginning the idea was launched by the former city councilor for women affairs, who persistently kept the topic on the agenda and finally convinced the city council to start the process. At first, it took public money to start with the first analyses and surveys, using external expertise. What really got the process started was the participation within a European funded project. This meant that there were funds to cover the first steps. Also very helpful was the international network, so the organization could see that there were other bodies as well striving for gender equality. Further EU funding and building up an international network were essential to make sure that the process was irreversible, notwithstanding the general support of policy makers throughout the time. Also, networking on local, national and international level is essential. Besides a general training for all executives and designing the process together with them, we also trained special certified gender agents all over the organization (human resources, finances, health care, construction and city planning, …) to make sure that gender expertise is built up. This gender agents network meets on a regular basis, discussing projects, new ideas, progress of the implementation and so on. Step by step we analyzed all our products and services in terms of gender perspective, which is an ongoing process until today. When at the beginning we had to redesign existing services – which is a lot of effort – now we can see that gender aspects are considered from the beginning on, which shows that in Graz, gender is in many fields of action already in the mainstream. As for money resources, there is no special gender budget line. The responsible department for the respective product/service has to provide the resources, but in many cases there is not more money needed, it is just differently distributed, sometimes considering gender aspects from the beginning on even reduces cost. Nevertheless, gender budgeting improves transparency, correctness and fairness when using tax payers’ money. The Department Women & Equality is the controlling unit, making sure that gender aspects (including intersectional diversity aspects as well) are considered and helping other departments, whenever they need support by implementing gender mainstreaming. At the Department Women & Equality we evaluate the progress every two years and document progress and/or exceptional new projects, but also indicate where we still see the need to get going in terms of gender equality.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
*) Graz is member of the Austrian Association of towns. We spread the topic via the various experts’ committees. The Association is a strong partner and supported/supports us through the whole process. *) We are also in a network with other cities of Austria, where we can spread the topic. In the network we share our experiences, learn from each other and support each other. *) We initiated a gender equality network with private companies – consisting of 65 companies at present, where we also have equality on the agenda. Thus we make sure that gender equality is also spread outside the administration level. *) We keep networking on national and international level. For example, the Observatory of the Charter ( – they have an “Atlas of the Signatories of the Equality Charter, so all signatories can exchange best practices. Or the EIGE – European Institute for Gender Equality ( *) Quite often, we are invited at conferences/meetings in other cities/countries, where we can share our experiences. *) External partners such as nowa Training Beratung Projektmanagement with their gender competence center ( brought and bring in their gender expertise and have been consultants since the beginning. The ongoing partnership ensures that all steps of implementation are in accordance to our strategy. *) European funding at the beginning of the process helped a lot. It provided resources to get the process started but also provided a firm international network, thus supporting work on local level. *) We have been partners within EU-funded projects since 2003, always bringing in our gender expertise but also constantly learning from others.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Gender Equality is seen as an interdisciplinary issue, covering all fields of action. Equality is part of all planning processes, which is more efficient than adding it at the end. It is also more effective to include gender and diversity from the beginning than having to change planning processes, products and services afterwards. There are many examples of improved accessibility and user satisfaction. Data analyses show that user behavior has changed accordingly (e.g. as intended more male users in the public libraries, more fathers present at the parents’ meeting center, ….). Although the implementation process of gender mainstreaming can be seen as irreversible, constant controlling and monitoring is necessary to make sure that all projects stay on track. As mentioned above, one way to measure this is data analyses. On the other hand, to measure the satisfaction in terms of gender equality is impossible. Citizens simply have to notice that they can use all products and services according to their needs without hindrance. One way to measure this is our regularly conducted life quality survey among the citizens. Examples: *) new opening hours of parental councelling centers, raising the attendance quota of fathers, *) change of offers in public libraries, thereby raising the numbers of male users, *) new offers for sports and leisure courses for kids, so both girls and boys equally attend the various courses, *) considering gender aspects in planning and construction, such as public parks, school buildings and underground parking areas, *) special programs for enhancing female career paths within the organization and raising the numbers of fathers taking parental leave.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
At the beginning of the process resistance was very high, because first of all, hardly anyone knew what exactly gender equality meant and there were misunderstandings about it. Secondly, executives quickly realized that bastions of male power would also be in danger. In 2001 for example, the city had 5 % female executives, in 2016 it is 36%. To overcome resistance it took a lot of training and making sure that gender equality stayed constantly on the agenda. We still train new executives and thus make sure that they know what their responsibilities in terms of equality are. It takes the support of all policy makers and a clear mandate for keeping the process going. And it takes a structured procedure to make sure that the implementation process can be put into action. We know that there is still a lot to do, but we are definitely on the right way. At present we can clearly feel the conservative backlash that we experience all over Europe, all the more it is important to stay on track and never stop. It has to be clear that gender equality is a management issue, that it is a top-down process and executives are responsible within their working field that the implementation is successful.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The City’s products and services are better! As a local administration we are responsible for all citizens, not only for half of the population. All citizens can use our products and services according to their needs. The awareness for gender aspects within the organization has considerably risen. The citizens of Graz do not have to understand the design of the process, but they have to notice that Graz is a city that offers products and services that suit them – all of them, both women and men, girls and boys. Gender equality thus covers all policies, from opening hours of child care facilities, service centers, public park areas, public play grounds to underground parking garages. The city of Graz regularly conducts citizens’ satisfaction surveys to measure whether the population thinks and feels that Graz is a city worthwhile living in. This is a very valuable measure tool. We also work with female focus groups (randomly selected women living in Graz) to ask them about their special needs and interests. We plan our activities accordingly. SO we have clear indicators to know whether our measures are successful or not. Since we mostly work on a structural level, gender equality is a very difficult topic to be covered by media, which is very hard for us, because it would be very useful if media would report more on gender issues.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The awareness of gender issues throughout the organization is very high. Even though we still have a long way to go, we can state that with many products and services “gender questions” are considered throughout all projects, which changes the design and the implementation of our products and services for the benefit of all citizens. Also, there is heightened transparency for the use of tax payers’ money, since we can prove that all differing but equal needs have been considered. In terms of gender budgeting, we can therefore show that for some products and services there is no change in the budget line, only the planning process is different. For other products and services we can show the financial resources had to be redistributed in order to reach gender equality according to the distribution of the population.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The whole project is about equality between the sexes. Although there are examples of male discrimination (as outlined above: the use of public libraries), the number of structural discriminations of women is still much higher. Our project makes sure that we act gender sensitive in all fields of policy, thus considering the needs of our female and male citizens, also considering all intersectional discrimination aspects such as age, social, ethnic and religious background, sexual orientation, special needs and so on.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   City of Graz
Institution Type:   Local Government  
Contact Person:   Priska Pschaid
Title:   Head of Department  
Telephone/ Fax:   +43 316 872/4670
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Kaiserfeldgasse 17/I
Postal Code:   8011
City:   Graz
State/Province:   Styria

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