Making Public Policy Gender-Central: Reforming and Implementing Policies to Empower Women in Public Policy

By Jaspreet Kaur Dhillon, School of Community, Public Affairs & Policy Studies, Concordia University

For centuries, women have experienced inequalities in regards to leadership positions – public policy being one of these positions.

How can we then work on this issue and provide women with better opportunities in public policy? Not only does every goal begin with a plan, but every plan must consider a beginning. Specifically, it is not enough to provide women with opportunities once they have graduated from their educational institutions, but to be informed of them since primary education. Before achieving gender equality in the world of public policy, the school systems must strive to achieve it in the beginning stages of education. Finally, before dealing with issues pertaining to women in public policy, educational systems must reframe their policies to better reflect gender equality. Young girls and women should not feel that they are restricted to working in a certain field; the same society that has created these societal norms should seek to change them.

This begins with current policy-makers making reforms to current policies to make gender central to public policy. We must congratulate developed and developing countries who are already taking such actions and encourage others to do the same. Moreover, countries on local, national, international, and intra-national levels must adopt reports, agendas, and/or plans which highlight the significance of gender equality in public policy. Specifically in schools, there needs to be an emphasis on providing information and communications technology to promote the empowerment of women in public policy.

There is a statement that has been commonly heard for centuries: women are not able to make important decisions in public policy because they are too emotional. Whether or not this statement is true is not the debate here. Every individual, male or female, is different. However, let us consider even if this statement was 100% accurate, would it be such a bad thing? Certainly it is crucial for a policy-maker to be able to set aside his or her emotions before making a decision. However, considering how policies of any kind affect so many people, shouldn’t the decision-making process be guided by some level of emotion? Emotions guide our decision-making process and to be able to use them without letting them take control of our decisions is what is more important. Thus, it is the analytical, critical-thinking, and good judgment skill which makes a good policy-maker, not the gender of the policy-maker. Once again, this is something which needs to be emphasized and taught to young boys and girls so that they can grow up not believe women are unfit to work in public policy.

Lastly, women should be free to pursue any profession they desire. As a society, we need to encourage young boys and girls to pursue leadership positions regardless of their gender. Specifically in public policy, only when women achieve leadership positions can they work on making gender-neutral policies. This is something that will require reform in policies, implementation of new policies, and demonstrating consistency in those policies.