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Overview

Applying an intersectional approach to a gender impact assessment requires thinking about the different experiences of people in the communities that your organisation serves, and considering how their experience of gender inequality may be shaped by other aspects of their identity.

You can read introductory guidance for applying intersectionality to obligations under the Gender Equality Act 2020.

Our Leading Practice Resources page contains a list of useful external resources for applying intersectionality.

Determining when a gender impact assessment is required

Organisations should apply an intersectional approach when considering what policies, programs and services require a gender impact assessment.

As described in this guidance note, this means thinking about the reach and depth of impact of your work when considering whether its impact is ‘significant’.

  • Some policies, programs or services may reach a small part of the population, but target people who may experience particular disadvantage or have particular needs – for example, services for people with disability, older people, or survivors of family violence.
  • Some policies, programs or services may have a small impact on most of the community, but impact on health, wellbeing, social, environmental, economic or cultural outcomes for a specific group or groups – for example, access to services for Muslim women or safety of LGBTIQ+ youth.

In these scenarios, a gender impact assessment is required.

Conducting an intersectional gender impact assessment

Once you have determined a gender impact assessment is required, an intersectional approach can be applied at all stages of the process. This guidance aligns with the steps in the gender impact assessment toolkit.

  • When conducting an intersectional analysis of an issue that your policy, program or service seeks to address, consider the following:

    • Avoid considering intersectional attributes (and their impacts) individually and then merely adding the impacts together. This does not produce an intersectional analysis as it does not account for the compounding effects of different attributes.
    • Try to understand the issue from the perspective of other people with multiple, intersectional attributes and how they interact or experience it.
    • Include people of diverse, intersectional attributes in the assessment team where possible.

    Typical questions to consider in your assessment:

    • What are the unique and different needs of those with intersectional attributes for service delivery and access? Are they benefitting equally? Are there any additional barriers to access for specific groups?
    • For example, what barriers will a Muslim woman, who needs to access health services during Ramadan, face?
    • Or what will an Aboriginal woman, identifying as queer and being a new parent, need from a maternal health nurse?

    In assessing the impacts of the policy, service, or program, appreciate that these impacts may vary significantly across different people within a single group, and that your own unconscious biases and assumptions of different groups of people may also unintentionally skew your assessment.

  • Determine what existing information is relevant and available, such as demographic data or research (both publicly available and from internal studies). Desktop research and case studies (Australian and international) can shape understanding of how similar policies have impacted intersectional communities, elsewhere.

    In reviewing external research, be alert to inherent biases and assumptions that exist in many studies, and often mean the voices and experiences of people with intersectional attributes are overlooked.

    Meaningful consultation gives a voice to people with different intersectional attributes and improves understanding of their lived experiences and perspectives. Consultation also helps mitigate barriers to public engagement with the policy, program, or service.

    Always consider the unique social contexts of people and provide specific and accurate information to the target audience. Consider the means of communication, making sure that all target groups can access the information including using translation services and managing the needs of people with a disability, such as hearing or vision impaired people.

  • When evaluating various possible courses of action, consider the different ways that specific groups of people with intersectional attributes may react or be affected (both positively and negatively).

    Positive impacts for one group may have very different outcomes, including negative consequences, for another diverse group with different attributes.

    For example, increased police involvement in reducing violence against women may pose a legitimate fear to some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who are concerned that greater police powers will increase their already disproportionately high incarceration rates.

    Consider whether all people will benefit from, and access, a proposed option equally. If there are variances in benefits and access, the policy option does not need to be discarded. Instead, determine what further changes will address these gaps and improve access and benefits. Use meaningful consultation to identify the impact of proposed alternatives.

  • The last step in the gender impact assessment process is to make a final recommendation based on your analyses. Explain the rationale for the proposed recommendation, including how this recommendation meets the needs of diverse people that experience intersectional gender inequality.

    When formulating your recommendation, consider the specific groups with intersectional attributes that have been identified as impacted.

    • Identify the cost, benefits, risks and mitigations specifically designed for these groups.
    • Identify the immediate recommendations that will make an impact in the first year.
    • Develop strategic recommendations that are more aspirational, and which will form part of the implementation plans for subsequent years.
    • Consider how to incorporate an intersectional approach into monitoring and evaluation.

Resources

Colleen prompts our thinking when it comes to gender impact assessments that consider the needs of people with a disability.

Aisha talks about the complications that arise with the use of interpreters and how to go about community consultations safely and positively in the Muslim community.

Nevena shares how she notices how gender-binary public spaces can be.

Case study

A TAFE decided to perform a gender impact assessment on a scholarships policy. Read how the scholarships manager provided a case for change and how the analysis revealed a lot more than they expected regarding the needs of women with intersectional attributes.

  • Background

    A newly appointed scholarships manager at a TAFE chose to conduct a gender impact assessment on the scholarship policy and process, as the published details on their website covered broad eligibility criteria but did not focus clearly on attracting diverse female applicants.

    Overall, the TAFE education sector is highly multicultural, with 1 in 8 in the Victorian youth community being an international student, with almost 50% being female. As the nature, purpose and intent of scholarships is to address inequitable access to education, the scholarships manager felt that this policy would have a ‘direct and significant’ impact on the public and as such warranted a gender impact assessment.

    Challenge and Complications

    The entire TAFE education industry is currently trying to recover financially, suffering a loss of revenue from poor international student enrolment owing to border restrictions. Consequently, this TAFE underwent a substantial restructure with resultant job losses, leaving most departments under-resourced and overworked. The introduction of the Gender Equality Act (2020) has come at a difficult period in terms of resourcing. This coupled with the scholarships manager being new, with few established internal networks makes the gender impact assessment on the scholarships policy challenging as senior leaders have emphasized that new initiatives should support business recovery.

    The scholarships manager did an initial investigation to scope the context and define the issue, as per the Gender Impact Assessment Guidelines, to ensure that they could justify their time spent on the review, to their department head. There was no central database tracking all applicants, only information on successful applicants. While the successful applicants were fairly balanced between men and women there were few applicants identifying as Aboriginal or as Culturally and Linguistically diverse.

    An analysis of scholarship sponsors revealed that they were varied: philanthropists, past alumni, families of past senior educators and other varied institutions. Some sponsors focussed on attracting women but only to a minimal degree.

    All sponsors provided funds to only support education tuition fees. There were few scholarships that supported international students with most having restrictive eligibility criteria of permanent residency and citizenship. New information showed that overall the TAFE was losing sponsors of scholarships year on year.

    The internal and external brand of the TAFE focussed on offering education and advancement to women into STEMM, construction, engineering and leadership, but this does not match the scholarships areas of sponsorship – which were generic in nature and dependent on the applicant’s chosen field of study.

    Actions

    The scholarships manager decided that they needed a more qualitative understanding of potential scholarship applicants and their needs. The manager conducted an online survey sent to multiple databases of students. In addition, they used their external networks through student associations to talk with past and current student about their scholarship application experience. The manager also interviewed a few sponsors of scholarships to understand, their openness to diversifying eligibility criteria and, why some sponsors were leaving. In consultation with a few external networks, this scholarships manager positioned their focus on the gender impact assessment as encouraging more enrolments of international students when borders opened (by lining up sponsors proactively) and as supporting local students with reskilling while career transitioning.

    This would support women, who would otherwise not be able to financially support further education, and support the TAFE to increase enrolments of students who then continue their education in subsequent courses. In addition, aligning the scholarships gendered and intersectional focus would reinforce the TAFE’s brand (internally and externally) as supporting all women into STEMM pathways.

    A desktop competitor analysis of scholarships offered by other reputable TAFEs showed a gender inclusive and progressive lens on how scholarships are offered. This is a further case for change as part of their business recovery.

    Outcomes

    The data collection and analysis helped to define and challenge assumptions to understand the context better. The main assessment was that applicants from intersectional backgrounds, who needed a scholarship, needed more than just tuition fees covered. For example, applicants living with a disability who had mobility needs needed sponsorship of accessible transport and living to ensure they could participate in learning. Migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and international students needed sponsorship of accommodation and living expenses. Transgender enrolled students needed access to funds to support their transition as this usually would mean halting education or sacrificing education to fund medical expenses.

    Interviews with scholarships sponsors revealed that they were keen on applying a gendered and intersectional lens to criteria, and were prepared to tailor their scholarship to address disadvantage, by offering it to Aboriginal; Mature Age or Young Women; Culturally and Linguistically diverse women; and women with a disability and also opening up applications to anyone who identified as a woman.

    From this process, clear options and recommendations emerged, which the scholarships manager proposed to the head of department.

    Next Steps

    Through a consultative process with a range of stakeholders, including student bodies, migration agents, TAFE communications professionals, senior leaders, managers and sponsors, the following options were agreed on and are currently being implemented:

    • Eligibility criteria now address intersectional barriers (e.g., it is now inclusive of student visas, spousal visas and other forms of visas, as opposed to only being offered to permanent residents and citizens).
    • There are now specific scholarships in place for anyone identifying as a woman and specifically women who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Women with a Disability, Women from a Migrants, Asylum seekers and Refugee background, Women from different life stages. The criteria of proving ‘disadvantage’ is less onerous and the scholarships now fund more than just tuition, but accommodation, living, mobility and other supportive funding, based on specialised needs.
    • There is now a direct link with scholarships targeted to encourage women applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter STEMM fields, aligning the TAFE’s internal and external brand and focus.

    The public commitment to gender equality and intersectionality, due to the changes in scholarships to be more inclusive, has resulted in positive media coverage, driving an increase in TAFE enrolments.

Reviewed 08 November 2022

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