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Centre for Academic Development

Gender mainstreaming in higher education

The aim of this page and the information gathered here is to provide a basic understanding of one of the university's official mandates, gender mainstreaming, and how it affects our activities. It explains basic concepts related to sex, gender, gender equality and equal opportunities. There is also information and materials on how you can develop your teaching, in terms of both format and content, from different gender and gender equality perspectives.

Key concepts 

Gender equality means that women and men should have the same power to shape society and their own lives.

Equality, on the other hand, is a broader concept. It refers to equal and fair relations between all individuals and groups in society and that all people have equal value and rights in society.

Equal opportunity is the right to coexist in justice and on equal terms regardless of gender, gender identity or gender expression, ethnicity, religion or other beliefs, disability, sexual orientation or age. These are also the seven grounds of discrimination in the  Discrimination Act.

Sex is used to describe the bodily sex while gender is used to describe the socially constructed gender that is created and shaped through expectations, norms and cultural interpretations. However, the distinction between sex and gender is not easily made because bodies (sex) must also be understood through cultural expectations and norms. These are interpreted differently in different cultures and eras.

Norm critical pedagogy (“normkritik”) is a concept that describes a way of understanding and critically examining norms in everyday life. It is not about "criticizing" norms; they are important to navigate in the social world. However, norm critical pedagogy aims to make visible expectations and values that are not always so easy for us to detect.

Intersectionality is the "intersection" between our different identities based on, in addition to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, functionality, age, etc. This means that we do not have one identity at a time but that we orient ourselves between different identities and power structures throughout life.

Gender equality or gender?

The strategy used by Swedish authorities, including Swedish higher education institutions, to achieve the Government's gender equality policy goals is called gender mainstreaming. For Swedish universities and other higher education institutions, the goals are to

  • combat gender-based study choices
  • develop the form and content of teaching
  • promote equal career paths
  • promote equal distribution of resources
  • developing evaluation and follow-up.

Gender mainstreaming involves the integration of a gender perspective and a gender equality perspective to strive towards gender equality. You therefore need to have an understanding of what a gender perspective and gender equality perspective mean for education at Swedish higher education institutions.

A gender equality perspective highlights the gender distribution and power balances in an organisation or other context. In education, this can involve promoting broader recruitment, broader participation and broader student completion. Unlike “increased” recruitment, participation and student completion, it is not just a matter of increasing the total number of students, but rather that the number of women and men who are recruited to, participate in and complete study programmes should be as evenly distributed as possible. At Örebro University, we also work to broaden recruitment, broaden participation and broaden student completion based on social background, ethnicity, functionality and age.

Having a gender perspective in study programmes is more about the content and implementation of a course. Integrating a gender perspective into your courses can mean allowing students to explore how course content – such as course literature, case studies or examination tasks – takes gender into account or highlights the living situations of women, men and non-binary people. The content can – but does not have to – be about gender equality.

Mainstreaming means that a gender and gender equality perspective must be an integral part of the activities, from planning, decision-making and implementation to follow-up.

The Centre for Academic Development is the university's pedagogical support unit and can help you integrate different gender and gender equality perspectives in the form and content of your courses.

Getting started with gender mainstreaming

We have provided some suggestions on how to go about integrating gender equality into your programme. You can find both information and support materials on the How to integrate perspectives in your programme page.

In-depth introduction on gender and equality in education

This is a more extensive lecture with Felicia Garcia, educational developer and former lecturer in gender studies. It is aimed at those who wish to get an introduction to what gender, gender mainstreaming and norm critical pedagogy is about, as well as practical examples of how she herself have applied these perspectives in her teaching in various disciplines at Örebro University. The main focus is on how you as a teacher integrate a gender perspective in different subjects and how she has handled sensitive and controversial subjects through practical but empathetic confrontation, motivation, visual aids and humour. The lecture is given in English with English subtitles.

(45 minutes, including breaks)

Introduction: Gender mainstreaming in higher education

Gendered Innovations

Here, Londa Schiebinger from Stanford University presents the website Gendered Innovations and their web resources consisting of research articles from various subjects. What they have in common is that they include a gender / gender equality perspective.

Group discussions on gender equality and gender identity, gender and sex

The following two videos, a documentary and a lecture, together give a picture of gender equality and gender identity, gender and sex from different perspectives. Have the students watch both videos as homework before class or watch the videos at a scheduled time together with the students. Then plan time for group discussions, with each group taking notes and reporting how they have reflected on a number of questions. Suggested discussion and reflection questions can be found further down the page.

No more boys and girls – can our kids go gender free?

This BBC documentary (59 minutes) explores cultural and societal perceptions and expectations of gender and differences between girls and boys, women and men. The video examines how these beliefs influence behaviour, which in turn affects learning and neurological processes. Medical doctor and researcher Javid Abdelmoneim conducts a social experiment in a school classroom in England to see whether gender equality can be achieved through educational intervention, for example by practising skills that are considered naturally belonging to another gender. If you would like help with subtitling the video, please contact This is an email address.


The biology of gender, from DNA to the brain

X and Y chromosomes. Are these the obvious distinctions between women and men, female and male? What are the actual gender differences in brain structure and activity and how do they arise? In this 13-minute video, researcher Karissa Sanbonmatsu explores the biological basis of gender and discusses the nature of bodily sex and socially constructed gender. If you would like help with subtitling the video, please contact This is an email address.


Discussion questions

  • Based on what was shown in the BBC documentary and Sanbonmatsu's TED Talk: What interpretations/statements about gender/sex roles have you encountered in your life?
  • Have they been confirmed or challenged by these videos?

Have you yourself been confronted with different expectations about your gender identity, gender role or expected abilities based on gender (“gender event” in Sanbonmatsu's terms)?