Name of initiative: Procurement Policy
New or up for review: Up for review
Sector: Local government
This case study has been drawn from real examples, however the narrative and place names are fictional.
The procurement team at the City of Weatherhill is reviewing their internal Procurement Policy. It was originally developed in 2021 with six other metropolitan councils. Even though this specific policy will not have a direct and significant impact on the public, council wants to demonstrate its duty to promote gender equality by conducting a gender impact assessment (GIA). Council knows this will help to improve women’s employment and economic outcomes within the area and is excited for the changes the GIA will bring.
The Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Service (the Commission) website notes that a GIA on a procurement policy is not required “unless you are funding another organisation to deliver a policy, program or service directly to the public.” An example of this would be funding an external organisation to lead a community leadership program. However, council applied an “if not, why not” approach to this policy, and decided to do a GIA as a show of best practice. Lead Policy Officer, Zara, will be putting a team together to complete this GIA.
Conducting a GIA to incorporate gender equality measures into public procurement contracts will ensure the policy meets the needs of women, men and gender-diverse people in the community. With an emphasis on intersectionality, it will also benefit people from communities who face compounding disadvantage and discrimination.
Completing a gender impact assessment provides the team an opportunity to critically think about the gendered needs of suppliers and receivers of goods and services in the region. The GIA can also help reveal any other barriers to equal participation in the local and regional economy.
Procurement includes all bought goods and services. This includes both small-scale purchases, such as catering a community lunch, and large-scale purchases, such as large valued public tenders. Procurement also incorporates engaging suppliers, including how council advertises and seeks applications for tender. As part of this review, council wants to ensure it creates fair and viable economic opportunities within the region.
As they begin the GIA, the team don't see obvious gender implications for procurement. They assume any person or business can take part in procurement if they meet the relevant criteria. Brainstorming together, they write down more of their initial assumptions:
- Women-led and, or women-staffed businesses should be applying for relevant tenders
- There should be no gender disparity in procuring services
- All local businesses know about tenders for their services, and are able to apply
- Applying through a tender submission portal is simple, and there shouldn’t be any barriers for businesses to apply for relevant tenders
Having identified these assumptions, the team think about how there may be barriers which unintentionally prevent women and gender-diverse people from participating in procurement activities. Applying a gender lens, the team write down the following questions:
- What are the gendered differences in employment for large and small businesses in the municipality?
- How do the needs of suppliers differ according to gender? For example, applying for tenders, submitting expressions of interest, or registering as a creditor?
- How might intersecting factors impact a business’ capacity to apply for tenders, submit expressions of interest (EOIs) or register as a creditor?
The team consider whether there are businesses owned by women or gender-diverse people who may have additional barriers to participation. Thinking with an intersectional gender lens, the team identify consider:
- There may be a gender gap in entrepreneurship which may not be currently known to council
- There may be fears of unaddressed biases and implicit sexism or transphobia towards women and gender-diverse people, preventing them from participating
- Community members with low English and/or computer literacy may be disadvantaged by the current processes
- Those from emerging migrant or refugee communities, young people, and people who need to use screen readers may not know that they can become a creditor and sell their goods and services to council. They may also not have the digital literacy or access to complete the online forms required to become a supplier
The team want to ensure that the procurement policy does not solely advantage people or businesses who have historically held power and resources. Zara and the others recognise that further research and consultation is required to fully understand inequity in procurement and how they can promote gender equality with this policy.
Zara knows that collecting data is integral to challenging these initial assumptions. This will ensure people of different genders aren’t unintentionally excluded from the procurement process.
While the team identified some great areas to think about further, they understand the limitations of their current knowledge. They’re excited to see what they can find out from internal data, desktop research, meaningful stakeholder consultation.
To guide their investigation, they consider:
- Who is likely to be affected by the procurement policy?
- What is the breakdown of businesses and sole traders within the municipality?
- How many businesses and sole traders are accessing council tenders?
- What are the lived experiences of diverse groups involved in procurement?
- What different barriers may be likely for people of different genders and intersecting experiences?
- What are the gendered impacts of the procurement policy for different people?
Gathering a variety of research and evidence enables the team to understand the context of the policy. That is, why people of different genders need to use their policy and interact with council. This will ensure their procurement policy is responsive, effective and inclusive.
To get their bearings, the team start with internal information that has already been collected by council. If possible, this will feature gender-disaggregated data.
To start their search, the team will look at:
- Previously commissioned research and policy reports across the region
- Project and policy evaluation reports
- Enquiries and complaints handling data
- Survey data
- Customer and end-user data, generated by reports from tendering portal
Reviewing the information already available to them provides the team with a greater understanding of initiatives council has undertaken. It helps identify areas where they can promote gender equality and address gender inequality. This gives them a greater understanding of where it would be most beneficial to focus their desktop research and stakeholder engagement.
External data sources about the gendered nature of procurement are integral to conducting a GIA. The team start by looking at the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector’s (the Commission) website, which provides a list of statistics and data sources to assist with their GIA. This research helps the team determine what is relevant to their GIA and policy.
Zara also looks at the different ways that gender equality has been promoted through procurement within the Victorian state government, and other jurisdictions, for ideas. The team view the following publicly available sources:
- VIC Government: Gender Equality Budget Statement
- WA Government: Gender Equality in Procurement
- WGEA: Workplace Gender Equality Procurement Principles
- UN Women: Gender-responsive procurement
- Pride Inclusion Programs: Embedding LGBT procurement in the supply chain
The team also look at verified websites, open-source journal articles and research papers, and any other services they can access. Conducting this research prompts them to discuss with relevant groups to find more information on the needs of various people in relation to business and employment.
For more information on the importance of desktop research, please see this Victorian Government resource.
While the team found some excellent information through their research, they recognise that hearing the lived experience of people affected by this policy is essential.
The team’s findings from their current research help them identify several stakeholders to consult, including:
- The local community service network, learning network and TAFE
- Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health
- Women with Disabilities Victoria
- LGBTIQ+ groups
- Local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community groups and Elders
- Community groups for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people and those of non-English speaking backgrounds
These groups provide valuable insight to the experiences of people of different genders. The team also learn about different ways intersecting factors can compound with gendered experiences to cause further harm and marginalisation.
After gathering evidence to better understand the context surrounding their policy, the team feel much better equipped to analyse the policy with a gender lens. To consider how their policy will affect people of different genders, the team are comparing their initial policy with policy options that clearly promote and prioritise gender equality.
The team must now make final recommendations for the development of the policy. As they are making these changes in collaboration with other local government areas, they will bring these ideas to the cross-council procurement team.
Zara and her team decide that Option 3 is the most comprehensive and will have the most positive gender impact. It will contribute to transforming gender norms by creating opportunities for businesses led by women and gender-diverse people to apply for tenders in a highly male-dominated space. It will also promote gender equality by requiring businesses to have stronger gender-equality policies in place. By weighting businesses with family violence leave policies and zero-tolerance to violence and harassment, council will also further promote practices that reduce violence against women.
Zara splits her recommendations in two categories:
Recommendations for the policy document:
- The tender document or expression of interest will incorporate questions to demonstrate that the business has gender equitable practices in place. Examples would be family violence leave, gender affirmation leave, zero tolerance to violence policies, LGBTIQ+ discrimination prevention policies
- The policy will require compliance with WGEA procurement standards for businesses over 100 staff
- Tenders and expressions of interest are to be advertised across diverse networks which include businesses owned by women, gender-diverse people and those with other intersecting attributes
Recommendations for supporting application of the revised policy:
- Review all associated forms and procedures to ensure they are inclusive and easy to understand
- Develop a communications plan to promote the changes in policy within council and work with other organisations with close links to the community to understand the requirements
- Provide additional supports to assist businesses that are owned by women, gender-diverse people, migrant communities and older populations to become creditors
- Collect gender-disaggregated data, including trans and gender-diverse data, related to businesses within the municipality. This should be accompanied by communication and education regarding maintaining safety, confidentiality, why the data is collected, how it will benefit end users, how data is stored, who has access to it and what it will be used for
- Develop a database for socially sustainable businesses, including those owned by women, members of the LGBTIQ+ community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
The team’s final recommendation also includes the gendered benefits and risks of the policy, as outlined within the options analysis.
It is important that when the team undertake their options analysis and make a final recommendation that they do not default to the least costly option, the option which benefits the most people, or one which may not result in actual tangible changes. Doing so may exclude the most marginalised members of the community.
Now that the team have completed their gender impact assessment, Zara considers how to report the progress to the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector per their obligations under the Gender Equality Act.
The progress report is due every two years. There is still time before it’s due, but Zara understands the benefits of recording this information as early as possible. It will save her, and others, time and effort as the reporting deadline approaches.
The team knows that for the GIA component of the progress report they will need to:
- Identify all policies, programs and services that were subject to a gender impact assessment
- Report on the actions taken as a result of the gender impact assessment
Discussing with their manager, the team learn their organisation maintains an internal register of completed GIAs that capture the necessary information for progress reporting. They add their information to this register about the recently conducted gender impact assessment.
The GIA was presented to the network of LGAs who collaborated on the original policy. After robust discussion, the following actions were agreed:
- The tender document/EOI will incorporate questions to demonstrate that the business has gender equitable practices in place. Examples include family violence leave, gender affirmation leave, zero tolerance to violence policies and LGBTIQ+ discrimination prevention policies
- The policy will require compliance with WGEA procurement standards for businesses over 100 staff
- Consideration will be given for how tenders are advertised to ensure that these are distributed to networks which include businesses owned by women, gender-diverse people and those with other intersecting attributes
It was further decided that individual councils would aim to undertake the following actions within 2 years:
- Support will be provided for businesses that are owned by women, gender-diverse people, migrant communities and older populations to become creditors
- All associated forms and procedures will be reviewed to ensure they are inclusive and easy to understand
- Gender disaggregated data will be collected, including trans and gender-diverse data, related to businesses within the area. This will be accompanied by communication and education regarding maintaining safety, confidentiality, why the data is collected, how it will benefit end users, how data is stored, who has access to it and what it will be used for
- A database will be developed to log socially sustainable businesses, those owned by women, members of the LGBTIQ+ community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people