Contested Institutionalisation

Women’s Policy Agencies and Challenges to Gender Equality in Germany

Article appearing in German Politics, Volume 18, Issue 1

Germany has created one of the world’s largest women’s policy infrastructures. But the scope as well as the effect of institutionalising women’s policy agencies is contested. Even committed proponents of gender equality note the agencies’ limited influence in important policy arenas. Critics of institutionalisation have used the fiscal crisis of the past decade to push efforts to downsize or diversify the mission of women’s policy agencies. Building on theories of new institutionalism, this article attributes recent challenges to the institutionalisation of gender politics in Germany to three sets of factors: First, to tensions between strong formal gender equality rules and weak informal equality norms; second, to powerful internal and external veto players who use their leverage to prevent gender equality legislation; and, third, to a shifting policy discourse that has reframed gender equality language in gender mainstreaming terms and might lead to significant changes in the institutional gender equality architecture