Exploring gendered change: Concepts and trends in gender equality assessments

Jess Macarthur


Research Consultant

University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

Jess MacArthur is a research consultant at the Institute of Sustainable Futures at University of Technology Sydney, innovating ways to explore how women are impacted by water and sanitation programming in South and Southeast Asia.


This paper provides a way for scholars and practitioners to be critical about their own lenses when conceptualizing gender equality by recognizing the multitude of ways that gender equality can be defined.

The purpose of the paper was to understand the effectiveness of evaluation programs that assess initiatives for gender equality. This paper is a literature study on evidence published in existing academic literature on the various conceptualizations of gender equality within the development context.

Key Findings

  • Within the selected articles (n=61), 18 studies were most closely aligned with the human development approach.
  • The majority of investigations were focussed on women and empowerment. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the articles focused solely on women, and 58% of studies utilised empowerment as the key gender inquiry (as articulated in the title or abstract).

How to apply research

  • Policymakers should consider which lens they choose to approach gender equality with, and then explore how that might impact how they think about gender equality.

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About this research

    This journal article was part of a collaborative effort

    This research was funded by an external organisation, but detail has not been provided.

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    UN Sustainable Development Goals

    This research contributes to the following SDGs

    About this research

      This research was funded by an external organisation, but detail has not been provided.

      This paper was co-authored

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      What findings means

      The main finding was that there were many different ways of conceputalizing gender equality depending on the perspective taken (e.g. economic, psychological, feminist development, human development, etc.) It is important to consider the lens that is being taken, as they all imply unique ways on monitoring and evaluating change.


      This research was conducted using a systematic literature review, in which existing literature and discussions with scholars working in the same space were used as data. 52 papers and their reference lists on the topic of gender equality assessment programs were explored using a software program that mapped out various clusters of citations. These clusters informed the way that gender equality assessment was conceptualized.

      The focus of the paper was on assessments, rather than gender equality itself. Understanding how people conceptualize assessment requires boiling down/simplifying complex topics to a point where they may not represent a more complete and complex reality of the situation.


      ConceptualizationHow do people think or define, often implicitly, concepts for themselves.
      AssessmentHow programs evaluate or define a situation, usually done through research.
      Gender equalityTearing down of inequalities that perpetuate women’s barriers to being able to have equal access to roles and opportunities as men, and to make their own decisions (i.e. the definition in the Beijing platform for Action 1995)

      Related resources

      The full paper is not available open access

      MacArthur, J., Carrard, N., & Willetts, J. (2021). ‘Exploring gendered change: concepts and trends in gender equality assessments’, Third World Quarterly, 42(9), 2189-2208.

      Thank you to

      for helping to prepare this research