Gender democracy aims to establish democracy between men and women. It then goes beyond formal equality and although it means recognising difference, it aims to ensure that equal rights and opportunities are nonetheless open to all.
Gender democracy is an ideal, and an organisational principle. It is a useful means of breaking open and challenging gender hierarchies and gender roles which have become ossified in social institutions and organisations.
Gender democracy at the Heinrich Böll Foundation
Gender democracy is anchored in the statutes of the Heinrich Böll Foundation; it is a fundamental approach with an important role to play in all of the foundation’s work. It not only guides the foundation’s work, it is also an important organisational principle which can be used to democratise gender hierarchies and sensitise employees towards gender differences and discrimination, while enabling them to advocate gender equality at work [more].
‘Gender democracy is part of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s philosophy. It is not merely an approach among others, just as democracy in a democratic state is never simply one approach among others. It is the central principle for a community which aims to form a system of organisation based on shared values.’ (Geschlechterdemokratie 2000 – Zehn Thesen zur Diskussion, Gunda Werner, October 1999 [PDF, German]).
The conditions needed for gender democratic modes of organisation
Gender democracy should not be seen as a long-term goal, but as something that can be achieved in the here and now. The following points provide the basis of an assessment which can help demonstrate whether or not changes which have been made to a group, organisation or society have led to gender equality:
- the acceptance that diverse gendered identities exist, other than the dichotomy of the male/female sexual identity
- that relationships can be formed by anyone, independent of the meanings ascribed to gendered identities. Furthermore, that these relationships are not marked by gender-specific mechanisms of power and domination
- that numerous ideals and ways of life have been accepted as part of the symbolic gender order. Additionally, that all are seen as equally valid, and are neither marginalised nor based upon male or female stereotypes and clichés
- and that equal opportunities exists for all regardless of gender. Patriarchal structures then no longer determine social relations, and gender plays no role in the distribution of positions, labour or power.
Gender democracy depends on gender competency
Establishing gender democracy in an organisation is a far-reaching change which can lead to fears and resistance among managers and employees. In order to accompany such a complex process of restructuring, the Gunda Werner Institute offers an extensive consultancy service. We can provide qualified gender consultancy and training to help managers and employees implement gender competencies. This can help ensure efficiency and prevent undesirable developments and conflicts from arising during the implementation of gender democracy.
Changes to politics and society through a new gender order
Gender democracy must be realised on all levels of society: on a political, social and organisational level as well as on the level of everyday interactions. On a social and personal level this also means leaving behind structural patterns of hegemonic masculinity which continue to shape career paths and hierarchies in many companies and institutions. Gender order is a fundamental structural element of politics and society. This means that ensuring the equal participation of women and men in political decision-making and equal access to resources will entail a change to the current power relations in society [see also Men’s Politics and Gender Mainstreaming].
Gender democracy can be learned
Gender competency is taught in our gender training seminars. These introduce strategies, tools and methods of implementing an emancipatory gender policy. Our gender seminars are workshops which help sensitise people to their often unintentional gender roles and patterns, while providing space for critical reflection.