An interview with Michaela Schatz

In 2019, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) launched the Channelling Resources into women’s Rights in Europe, a two-pronged project that seeks to mobilise long term resources for women’s rights in Europe.

As part of this project, the EWL has been engaging in capacity building and awareness raising activities on the importance of gender budgeting in achieving equality between women and men. Gender budgeting recognises that budgets impact on women’s girls’, boys’ and men’s lives differently and that women face specific obstacles resulting from the historical, traditional and stereotypical distribution of power and labour. Effective implementation of gender budgeting across EU and national budgets would ensure gender mainstreaming commitments remain as a political priority and progress equality in Europe.

Since 2005, the authorities of Vienna have been investing in the implementation of gender budgeting across the annual city budget. As one of the few European cities leading the way on gender budgeting, EWL took the opportunity to interview the experts and find out more. Michaela Schatz, Head of the Department of Gender Budgeting in finance of the City of Vienna sat down with EWL to share her expertise and advice on gender budgeting.

Thank you for meeting with us Michaela, would you be able to tell us more about your role and more about how gender budgeting works practically in Vienna?

Today we are in the finance department of the city of Vienna and my task is to create and implement the overall budget and in addition I manage the Gender Budgeting Unit. Vienna has had a commitment to gender mainstreaming since 2000 and gender budgeting since 2006, we have it clearly in our Constitution.

We oversee a budget of €16 billion across the many departments for the city; we have 23 districts in Vienna and each of them do their own budgeting, 12th District Meidling also do gender budgeting for their own budget. An example, the public data from 12th District shows how many women and men are using public transportation services and infrastructure. The data they collected showed that, women are more using public transportation and pedestrian ways and men driving more by cars and bicycles, so this was considered in a €6 million project for the redevelopment of one of the main streets in Vienna recently.

It is my responsibility here at the department to make sure there we have an annual gender budgeting report included in our city budget. The report is a result of several individual reports, which I receive from all our departments. Each department had to create its own part of the gender budgeting report and I then put this all together into one big overall report. Practically, we started with the first budget of 2006 and since then all departments have to prove their services’ commitment to gender equality. They have to define annual objectives and the measures they will take to achieve these objectives, which are monitored by a report to determine if these objectives have been achieved. As coordinator, they have to tell me exactly how they will reach their objectives, and they have to prove that gender equality is being reached; if not they must search for more effective measures.

Could you tell us more about how you communicate to the general public about your work on gender budgeting?

We do make some public campaigns to show not only gender budgeting but also gender mainstreaming. For example, we ran a public campaign by changing the design of signs on city streets or on buses. The pictograms used in our trams always show a single man, a mother with a child so we changed them to a single woman and a father with a child and shared this campaign across the media, though the response was not always positive. We also develop campaigns for our staff, because it is important to take these actions (awareness raising) internally too to remind staff why they are doing this (gender budgeting measures) on a regular basis.

Have you experienced any challenges in the implementation of either gender mainstreaming or gender budgeting?

I would say the most important and also the most difficult point was to convince staff of this new topic. The initial problem was that it required more work than before (to implement gender budgeting) but we had the same number of people, we didn’t receive more capacity. So, at the start, awareness raising was the most important point for staff. Another challenge was to raise the level of appropriate data; we have a lot of data from all over the city and each department differed in the quality of data. Some of the data we had was gender segregated but a big part of it was not, so the highest priority was to improve the quality of the data.

One other big challenge was building the guidelines and to bring the topic to the staff. We started doing training for the department leaders as those responsible, but we also made training for the staff who have to define the objectives, measures and who are doing the ground level work. In these full day training, we explain the main reasons for the commitment to gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting, doing tests and role plays to engage the staff. We are also always available to help departments who are having trouble defining indicators or measures for the annual report. We have a very big network here in Vienna on gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming, and we are meeting three times per year to exchange views and hold meetings with multipliers.

So in your experience, what advice or lessons learned would you give to stakeholders for implementing gender budgeting and do you think it has been a transformative process for Vienna?

The top priority should be the approval and enforcement of gender budgeting by the political decision makers because it is a top-down principle- when the political level doesn’t commit to this then you will not be able to start, as you won’t have the needed political will. This must go down to the leaders of governmental departments and their staff which can be done through networking and using multipliers to make (gender budgeting) a public topic. Training on the topic is irresistible for those who need to implement gender budgeting and concrete guidelines are always helpful.

Yes, we have had a transformative process in the last 12 years or more. The topic of gender equality now plays an automatic role in all the topics of the city, we have gender equality checklists from City Planning to all other sections with lots of subsidies attached, so gender equality is an important issue for Vienna, it happened slowly but continuously. We have been successful and because of this we have had a lot of international delegations come to visit us to hear more about gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting. This year, we have spoken with delegations at the European Parliament, Germany and even Mongolia and Georgia.

My final piece of advice would be that you must start with data, when you don’t have the right data, you can’t map the status of gender equality in your region and you won’t know where to start- you must know the status quo and then you can work to build the right measures and objectives to make things better. If you don’t have a quality data source ready, then you have to begin by collecting it and only start developing measures when you have a good data set, so understanding that you will need time.

The EWL would like to thank Michaela Schatz and the Gender Budgeting Unit for the City of Vienna for their time and expertise.

Find out more about gender budgeting and about our latest event with European Parliament decision makers on how to strengthen gender mainstreaming in the EU budgeting process here.

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