Gender equality and inclusiveness: Vienna is increasingly trying to become a city with structures, environments and equal conditions for both men and women. “Policies for women are a remedial job,” explains Ursula Bauer, head of the department for gender mainstreaming of the Municipality of Vienna, “while gender mainstreaming is prevention”.
Bauer explained that the department looks at gender-differentiated data and provides guidelines and training, to ensure that services are accessible. He likens the department’s role to that of a watchdog, tasked with ensuring that all areas of the city take into account gender inequalities. «Nobody can escape», he jokes: «We are like a spider’s web».
In practice, integration takes many forms, such as ensuring government agencies use careful language or that public transport reserves seats for parents. And, again, the wide sidewalks for mothers and fathers traveling around Vienna in prams or with children, or the fact that much of the city, including the entire public transport network, is wheelchair accessible.
Another key area is urban planning. Gender planning expert Eva Kail is trying to make Vienna a city attentive to gender equality even as it shapes its spaces public. Inspired by feminist planning literature, Kail began exploring the subject 30 years ago and received the budget and political support to make it a priority. “It was time to look at the whole city from a female point of view,” she said. Kail collected data on how and by whom the city’s public spaces were used and found that the female perspective was often lacking. He explained that the predominantly male planners had based their projects mainly on their interests and their daily life experiences, neglecting the perspectives of other population groups.
The new park projects, which were tested in six pilot projects in 1999 and 2000, took into account the safety concerns common to many women. “We made sure that the main path was well lit, as straight as possible and that the bushes weren’t too close, ”Kail explained. And these innovations “have worked very well: since then more girls have gone to the parks.” Now every new or renovated park in Vienna follows these principles.