Gender mainstreaming was introduced to the European Union in 1997. It was heralded as a new strategy for achieving gender equality in employment within Europe. The idea of gender mainstreaming comes from feminist theoretical and political activism, which has sought to make equality between women and men central to state policy.
The formal adoption of gender mainstreaming policy by the European Union raised hopes among feminists. However, well over a decade after it was introduced, the impact of gender mainstreaming on inequalities at work in Europe has been limited. Partly this is because, despite the importance of equality agendas, economics and notions of competitive advantage within organization still tend to override policy concerns about gender equalities.
In the context of European employment, the main objective of gender mainstreaming has been to address long-standing inequalities such as the gender pay gap which continues to exist between women and men workers. However, in March 2012 it was reported that the UK Office of National Statistics had found the gender pay gap in the UK to be larger than previously thought with women's hourly pay found to be on average 10.5 per cent below that of men.