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Gender in Spatial Development

Publication: Gendered Approaches to Spatial Development in Europe

ARL International ARL International
published on 01/10/21

Gendered Approaches to Spatial Development in Europe. Perspectives, Similarities, Differences

The findings set out in the publication (Zibell/Damyanovic/Sturm, 2019), edited by Routledge, include the theoretical framework with an introduction to existing concepts and debates on linking space, gender and development (incl. planning); a brief review of gender perspectives in the history of urban design and planning in Europe as well as comparative findings on gender perspectives in the planning systems and cultures of the European countries represented in the IWG; a reflection on the state of play between women-specific and gender-oriented dimensions since the introduction of the GM strategy in Europe; some empirical findings in transnational comparison on the basis of selected case studies at local and city/regional level or in the formative as well as in the strategic sense; as well as reflections on the consequences for (sustainable) spatial planning and governance in the face of global challenges such as migration, climate change and austerity policies.

Overall, it can be said that gender perspectives do not play a prominent role in spatial development in any of the countries studied, regardless of the political system or the planning system. The analysis shows that gender is rarely institutionalized or part of a formal planning level (neither in terms of laws and policies nor instruments). Male domination and patriarchal structures are obviously not only linked to formal political frameworks, but deeply embedded in the minds and mentalities of different societies. Therefore, there is - if at all - at best little awareness of the importance of the dimension "gender" in spatial planning. Accordingly, it is likely to be rather difficult to transform the systems. In general, it is true at least for all countries that gender plays a greater role in science than in the lived practice of spatial planning and development.

The practice-oriented part of the book deals with topics as: Gender-sensitive planning in urban development concepts and area development - case studies from London and Vienna; Gender-sensitive planning in neighborhoods - case studies from Vienna and Zurich; Evaluation of spatial development from a gender+ perspective: a methodological proposal - case studies from Helsinki; Gender mainstreaming in spatial and urban planning in the context of new international policies on sustainable development - case studies from Spain; Current challenges in spatial development in Europe - case studies from Greece and England.

However, if one compares the existing knowledge and experience with the transfer of the dimension "gender" in the practice of spatial development - especially in Germany and some parts of Austria, where theoretical approaches and corresponding, well-documented projects have existed for decades - with their presence in planning, one finds that the mainstream (of development and planning practice as well as research) is not yet gender-sensitive. Even if theoretical concepts and discourses have influenced individual practice projects and have been documented or evaluated here and there, it can generally be stated that although gender mainstreaming was introduced in all EU countries in the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997 (and also adopted by Switzerland in 1999), the degree and intensity of transfer, integration or even implementation in the countries represented here or even within these countries varies greatly. The cities and regions examined in the case studies are not representative of the countries as a whole, but are mostly exceptions in the country concerned.


Zibell, Barbara; Damyanovic, Doris; Sturm, Ulrike (Eds.) (2019): Gendered Approaches to Spatial Development in Europe. Perspectives, Similarities, Differences. London & New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.