Monitoring and evaluation of the interventions of all ESI funds from a gender perspective play an important role in ensuring that the dual gender equality approach of the European Union is incorporated in all policies at all levels and at all stages of programming, implementing, monitoring and evaluating the funds.

While monitoring data mainly show quantitative gender disparities or improvements when assessing objectives and indicators or EU and national benchmarks (e.g. employment rate, participation or share of budgets), the impact of the dual gender equality approach needs to be reflected and validated through evaluation.  

Monitoring ESF interventions from a gender perspective includes

  • the validation that the common gender equality objectives of the European Union are met in the Member States and regions;
  • the validation that the gender equality objectives of the national and regional Operational Programmes (OP), and gender sensitive indicators are being met;
  • the assessment of the output and results of the OP from a gender perspective, e.g. answering questions like: Has the ESF contributed to the overarching gender equality objective of economical independence? Has the pay gap been tackled? Is the funding benefiting men and women according to inequalities and discrimination on the labour market and in training? What did young males achieve compared to their female counterparts? How is the budget distributed between women and men in their diversities?
  • Suggestions for gender sensitive steering the improvement of processes or actions and programmes.

Besides the validation of explicit gender equality objectives related to the ESF thematic policy priorities or aiming at certain areas of intervention (e.g. increasing employment, fighting unemployment or poverty), the monitoring system also needs to cover criteria in order to validate the horizontal objectives of the ESF, e.g. structural changes connected with gender mainstreaming interventions (answering questions like for instance which steps of the process – from analysis to evaluation – have been implemented from a gender perspective or how many programmes and projects have been focusing on gendering structures and cultures of companies and organisations).

Requirements for the assessment of the integration of gender equality in the ESF need to mirror the requirements described for “analysis, “objectives” and “implementation” of this cycle. Monitoring requirements from a gender perspective are also formulated in the EU Regulations 2014 – 2020 and clarify the differences between assessment of the gender mainstreaming strategy and the assessment of specific actions towards women or men in their diversities.


Common Provisions Regulation – Article 7

Promotion of equality between men and women and non-discrimination

“The Member States and the Commission shall ensure that equality between men and women and the integration of gender perspective are taken into account and promoted throughout the preparation and implementation of programmes, including in relation to monitoring, reporting and evaluation.

Member States shall ensure, in accordance with Articles 5 and 7, the participation of the relevant bodies responsible for promoting gender equality and non-discrimination in the partnership, and ensure adequate structures in accordance with national practices to advise on gender equality, non-discrimination and accessibility in order to provide the necessary expertise in the preparation, monitoring and evaluation of the ESI Funds.

In accordance with Article 7, Member States and the Commission shall pursue the objective of equality between men and women and shall take appropriate steps to prevent any discrimination during the preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of operations in the programmes co-financed by the ESI Funds. When pursuing the objectives of Article 7, Member States shall describe actions to be taken in particular with regard to selection of operations, setting of objectives for interventions, and arrangements for monitoring and reporting.

Management and control activities
…. Procedures for a system to collect, record and store in computerised form data on each operation, including, where appropriate, data on individual participants and a breakdown of data on indicators by gender where required, and to ensure that systems security is in line with internationally accepted standards.”

ESF Regulation – Article 7

Promotion of equality between men and women

“The Member States and the Commission shall promote equality between men and women through mainstreaming as referred to in Article 7 of Regulation (EU) No [CPR] throughout the preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the programmes. Through the ESF, they shall also support specific targeted actions within any of the investment priorities as referred to in Article 3, and in particular Article 3 (1)(a)(iv), with the aim of increasing the sustainable participation and progress of women in employment, thus combating the feminisation of poverty, reducing gender-based segregation and combating gender stereotypes in the labour market and in education and training, promoting reconciliation of work and personal life for all and equal sharing of care responsibilities between men and women.”

Unfortunately the general requirements formulated in the Regulations have not been transferred and broken down to the “Guidance document on Monitoring and Evaluation,
Programming Period 2014-2020, Monitoring and Evaluation of European Cohesion Policy, European Social Fund, Guidance document, June 2014”
containing monitoring requirements for the common output and result indicators, programme specific indicators, baselines, targets and milestones as well as data processing and reporting. Only in the context of common output indicators gender – together with employment status, age, educational level and household situation – is mentioned.

This narrow understanding of monitoring – assessing numeric outputs and results women and men in their diversity have achieved – but ignoring the structural output and results due to the gender mainstreaming strategy, e.g. the impact on structures and processes, is crucial because it entails the danger of another Structural funds period without results regarding the impact of the dual gender equality approach of the ESF.

Further reading

Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men: Opinion on gender equality in the Cohesion Policy 2014-2020

Benno Savioli: Gender Budgeting and Monitoring Requests:

“Evaluation of the European Social Fund`s support to Gender Equality, 2007 – 2013”, page 132 and 159

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Created: 2013/01/09   Changed: 2014/12/04