Using public procurement to advance gender equalityTill toppen

Using public procurement to advance gender equality

– a guide


In a gender-equal society, all publicly funded operations match the conditions and needs of both women and men. This guide shows how organisations can set gender equality requirements in procurement with regards to suppliers, products, services and construction contracts. The aim is to be able to offer comparable welfare and a gender-equal distribution of resources to different groups of women and men, girls and boys.

About the guide

This guide applies to procurement carried out in accordance with Swedish legislation according to the Public Procurement Act (lagen om offentlig upphandling – LOU) and the Act on Public Procurement in the Utilities Sectors (lagen om upphandling inom försörjningssektorerna – LUF).

The text refers to contracting organisations, which include government organisations, divisions, municipalities and regions.

The term "agreement" refers to both contracts and framework agreements.

The guide supplements other support resources for public procurement from the National Agency for Public Procurement, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) and Adda.

All links in this guide refers to pages or documents in Swedish, if not otherwise stated.

The guide is based on the National Agency for Public Procurement's three-stage purchasing process model: preparation, implementation, and realisation of the agreement. The guide begins with a description of how the overall national, regional and local regulatory framework is geared towards gender equality requirements in procurement.

The different stages in the process involve various operations and levels within an organisation – from political leadership or the authority's management to procurement agents and controllers. The various stages in this guide are therefore in part directed towards different target groups, but of course everyone involved need to have an understanding of the whole process.

Checklist for gender-equal procurement

The most important questions in the guide are collected together in a separate checklist. In Swedish it is produced as a fillable PDF form, so that the answers can easily be saved and used as documentation of the purchasing process. For checklist in English, please see section above.

Those participating in procurement

contribute to ensuring that the gender equality perspective is a natural part of the planning, implementation and follow-up of a procurement process

contribute to ensuring that what is procured is based on genuine needs rather than preconceived ideas about what women and men usually want to have

invite various groups of women and men to discussions prior to a procurement, and the dialogue is designed so as to emphasise a range of voices

highlight the outcome for women and men, as well as possible effects on gender equality in connection with the procurement.

A model for strategic purchasing

The illustration shows the different stages of a purchasing process, from general policy to preparation, procurement and realisation of an agreement.

Source: The National Agency for Public Procurement

The illustration shows the different stages of a purchasing process, from general policy to preparation, procurement and realisation of an agreement.

Gender mainstreaming

Gender mainstreaming is a strategy for achieving gender equality objectives. This includes the national gender equality policy objectives or other objectives determined by municipal or regional councils. The strategy means that all planning, decision making, implementation and follow-up must have a gender equality perspective. It is a strategy intended to make gender equality efforts an integral part of regular operations instead of being carried out through separate projects.

In order to firmly establish gender equality requirements in an organisation, these must be integrated into existing processes, in governance, management and follow-up. If the gender equality aspect is incorporated into existing procurement policy, procurement checklists, guides, reporting systems, communication and so on, it will become a natural part of operations for those who work directly with the issue.

The strategy assumes that overarching decisions relating to gender mainstreaming have already been made, that management follows up these efforts, and that there are knowledge and skills in gender equality within the organisation.

Illustrative example: Gender equality in procurement policy

A procurement policy is often concise and written in general terms, but the Örebro County Region writes explicitly that gender equality must be taken into consideration whenever it is deemed possible to do so:

5.3 Environment, ethical and social requirements during procurement

For procurement, relevant requirements relating to the environment and ethical and social responsibility must be set for suppliers and their products/services. The design of specific sustainability requirements is governed by the Örebro County Region's operational plan and Environment and Sustainability Programme (Miljö- och hållbarhetsprogrammet).

Requirements relating to social responsibility are governed by the code of conduct developed jointly by all county councils and regions. The Örebro County Region must pay special attention to gender equality, social considerations and social economy when it is deemed possible to do to.

Sustainable Procurement (Örebro County Region website)

Support for Gender Mainstreaming

Guide for gender mainstreaming (SALAR's website in English)

Special support for government authorities (the Swedish Gender Equality Agency's website)

Focus: Gender equality or equal opportunities?

Gender equality and equality (or equal opportunities) have many points in common, but they are not the same.

Equality means that all humans have equal value and rights, no matter who they are. The Swedish Discrimination Act recognises seven grounds of discrimination:

  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Religious or other beliefs
  • Sexual orientation
  • Impairment
  • Gender identity or expression

There are many other things that affect a person's living conditions, including socioeconomic factors, such as level of education and income.

The grounds of discrimination serve to protect minorities, who historically have been at risk of discrimination. Gender is an exception in that neither women nor men are a minority. On the other hand, everyone belonging to a minority is also a woman or a man (with the exception of individuals who have another gender identity and therefore cannot or do not wish to identify as male or female).

Gender equality means that women and men have the same rights, obligations and opportunities in all areas of life. It could therefore be said that gender equality involves equal opportunities between women and men. The basic challenge is that, as a group, men have more power and resources than women. This gender inequality is bolstered by notions of how women and men are or how they should be – what we refer to as gender norms or stereotypes. These are preconceptions that affect all women and men, regardless of other factors such as age, skin colour, functional capacity, sexual orientation etc.

Setting gender equality requirements in procurement involves attempting to solve structural challenges that are linked to a woman's or man's gender – or notions of gender – as well as preventing gender inequality.

Adopting an intersectional perspective of gender equality means analysing how gender combines with other factors . An intersectional perspective allows us to highlight conditions and circumstances for different groups of women or men, such as women of a certain age, or men of a certain ethnicity.

Gender equality has its own goal in Agenda 2030 – Goal 5 – but is also singled out in the preamble of the Agenda as a prerequisite for achieving all 17 goals.

There is broad consensus in Swedish society – as within the EU – that women and men should have the same rights, obligations and opportunities. This is expressed through the prohibition in the constitution against discrimination on the basis of gender, as well as the possibility of allowing special treatment to be given to one gender in an effort to promote gender equality.

The pursuit of gender equality is also seen in laws and regulations such as the Discrimination Act, the Swedish Education Act, and the Official Statistics Ordinance, which all set requirements regarding gender-disaggregated statistics (divided by women and men, the two sexes legally acknowledged in Sweden).

The general goal of Swedish gender equality policy adopted by parliament is that women and men shall have the same power to shape society and their own lives.

Gender equality goals (the Government Offices' website)

Strategic purchasing begins with governance

The illustration shows the different stages of a purchasing process and highlights the overarching decisions that govern the procurement process.

Source: The National Agency for Public Procurement

The illustration shows the different stages of a purchasing process and highlights the overarching decisions that govern the procurement process.

Gender-equal procurement begins with policy documents

Gender equality is one component of a socially responsible procurement. Procurement legislation states that, amongst other things, a contracting organisation should keep social considerations in mind during public procurement where justified by the nature of the procurement object.

Gender equality is also an essential element of efforts relating to the Global Sustainable Development Goals in Agenda 2030. It is itself a goal (Goal 5), but is also highlighted in the preamble of the Agenda as a prerequisite for achieving all 17 goals. Gender equality efforts thus contribute to the implementation of Agenda 2030.

In order for public procurement to have an impact on gender equality and for long-term changes to be gained, clear decisions and guidelines are needed from management, as well as established procedures for following up and providing feedback. (It is of course possible to set requirements for gender equality in procurement even without overarching decisions in place, but the gender mainstreaming strategy requires a functioning chain of command, from management out to all operations.) General requirements regarding social considerations in procurement that can be found in legislation or political commitments need to be adapted and clarified by means of policies, guidelines and internal support documentation that is used in the actual procurement work.

Gender-equal procurement in government authorities

The Swedish government has adopted a national procurement strategy. One of its seven objectives is that public procurement shall contribute to a socially sustainable society, in which gender equality is mentioned as one important aspect. The strategy is mainly aimed at government authorities, but can also support municipalities, regions and other contracting authorities.

The National Public Procurement Strategy (PDF)

Many government authorities are assigned to work with gender equality by means of their directives or budget and policy specifications. For a few years now, extensive work has also been under way to develop the efforts of authorities regarding gender mainstreaming with support from the Swedish Gender Equality Agency.

Special support for authorities (the Swedish Gender Equality Agency's website)

About 30 government authorities are also subject to the Ordinance on Anti-discrimination Clauses in procurement contracts, and are instructed to include special stipulations for preventing discrimination on the part of suppliers when awarding contracts. The purpose of this is to increase the impact of the prohibition against discrimination in the Discrimination Act.

Ordinance on Anti-discrimination Clauses (Förordning om antidiskrimineringsvillkor – 2006:260) (Swedish parliament's website)

Gender-equal procurement in municipalities and regions

Elected officials in many municipalities and regions have made political commitments to provide services equally to different groups of women and men, and to distribute resources fairly between the genders. One common way of doing so is to endorse the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life – the so-called CEMR Charter –, which includes provisions relating to public procurement. By the end of 2020, 112 municipalities and 18 regions had endorsed the CEMR Charter in Sweden.

The European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life (in English)

The CEMR Charter was adopted in 2006 by the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR). The Charter is a tool for municipalities and regions to use in integrating a gender equality perspective into political decisions and in their practical work. SALAR endorses the Charter and encourages its members to sign it.

When municipalities or regions outsource some of their work, Article 12 comes into play:

The Municipality or region must ensure that the supplier to whom the contract is awarded takes on the same responsibility for ensuring or promoting gender equality as the municipality/region would have if it had provided the service itself. The municipality also undertakes to use its powers in accordance with EU procurement legislation to set requirements regarding social considerations as stipulations for performing the contract.

By means of the CEMR Charter, the signatory is obligated to ensure that employees or consultants responsible for procurement and contracts relating to external services have the knowledge necessary in order to keep the gender equality dimension in mind in their work.

Focus: the CEMR Charter on public procurement

Article 12 – Public Procurement and Contracts

  1. The Signatory recognises that, in carrying out tasks and obligations involving public procurement, including contracts for the supply of products, the provision of services, or the execution of works, it has a responsibility to strategically promote equality of women and men.
  2. The Signatory recognises that this responsibility is of particular importance in instances where the provision of an essential service to the public, for which the Signatory remains statutorily responsible, is contracted out to another legal entity. In such cases, the Signatory shall ensure that the legal entity awarded the contract (regardless of type of ownership) accepts the same responsibility to ensure or promote gender equality as if the Signatory were providing the service directly.
  3. The Signatory further undertakes to implement, wherever it deems appropriate, the following steps:
    • Prior to entering into any significant contract, it shall consider the relevant gender implications as well as prospective opportunities to promote equality lawfully;
    • To ensure that the prospective contract’s gender equality objectives are taken into account in the contractual specifications;
    • To ensure that the prospective contract’s terms and conditions also take into account and reflect those objectives;
    • To use the power conferred under European Union public procurement legislation 11 to lay out performance conditions with respect to social considerations;
    • To ensure that staff or advisers responsible for public procurement tasks and the letting of contracts receive all pertinent information, including through training, on gender-responsive public procurement (GRPP) and the gender equality dimension of their work;
    • To ensure that the terms of the principal contract include the requirement that all subcontractors also need to comply with all applicable obligations to promote gender equality.

Preparing procurement for gender equality

Planning, identifying, analysing

The image shows the different preparatory stages of the purchasing process: planning, identifying, and analysing the needs of the market.

Source: The National Agency for Public Procurement

The image shows the different preparatory stages of the purchasing process: planning, identifying, and analysing the needs of the market.

Preparations include planning, identifying and analysing the needs of the market. The order in which the various activities are carried out can vary, and in many cases, they are performed in parallel.

In order to formulate gender equality requirements and evaluation criteria, it is good to identify challenges and needs already in the planning phase. If the gender equality requirement is to contribute to a successful procurement that meets the needs and goals of the organisation, the relevant resources and skills are needed within the team that carries out the procurement.

During the planning phase, it is important to get an overview of the aim of the procurement in question, as well as understanding how and in what way gender equality can be taken into account somewhere in the requirements or during tender evaluation. Three fundamental questions need to be answered:

  • What is the purpose and the objective of the procurement?
  • What organisation(s) is/are affected by the results of this procurement?
  • What individual(s) is/are affected by the results of this procurement? What is the gender distribution amongst citizens/patients/users/students etc.? Are women and men affected in the same way? Can they benefit from the results on the same terms?

Ensure the availability of the proper skills

The gender mainstreaming strategy means that gender equality becomes an issue for all employees in an organisation, but it does not mean that everyone automatically becomes an expert on gender equality. Make sure that the team has access to gender equality competence.

  • Does the organisation have a gender equality strategist?
  • Is there a sustainability strategist who has gender equality competence?
  • Are there people in the area of activity who have gender equality competence, such as a development manager?

Define responsibilities and roles within the team so that the gender equality perspective does not fall between the cracks or becomes a task for "everyone and no one".

Collaborating with other contracting organisations may be a good way of strengthening competence and deepening gender equality analyses. Are there any authorities, municipalities or regions that have experience in working systematically with gender equality requirements in their procurements? Are there any others who have made procurements within the same contractual sector or on the basis of similar challenges to gender equality?

Illustrative example: Five municipalities share skills

Working systematically with requirements regarding gender equality or social sustainability in procurement requires specialised expertise. When five small municipalities in formed a common purchasing body, they also had the opportunity to employ a sustainability specialist.

It began in 2013, when the procurement agent in Osby quit, suddenly leaving the municipality without any procurement expertise. The solution was to share the purchasing department with neighbouring municipality Östra Göinge, which also only had a single procurement agent employed. The new organisation had three employees. Apart from gains in coordination, vulnerability was also reduced – the procurement body did not stand or fall due to a single employee.

During 2020, Hörby, Höör and Bromölla joined for the same reason: to bolster resources and expertise within the area of procurement.

Today, the five municipalities have a common purchasing body with five procurement agents, an administrator, a manager and two new services as purchasing controller and sustainability specialist. The new organisation carries out around a hundred procurements per year. During a transitional period, existing agreements are gradually phased out and largely replaced with common purchases.

The municipalities' new common purchasing policy establishes that purchases shall contribute "to a sustainable development of society and a good living environment for citizens, which necessitates the setting of environmental, social and economic sustainability requirements in procurement."

The municipality of Östra Göinge's purchasing policy (PDF)

Although individual procurement agents also previously added environmental or social requirements in certain procurements, this was mostly done ad hoc, and often without sufficient expertise. With the sustainability specialist in place, the purchasing body can begin working more systematically and strategically with sustainability requirements.

Make a time and activity plan

Identify activities that must be carried out before, during and after procurement, when they should be done and how long it takes to do them. In which areas is it relevant to have a gender equality perspective? How do you ensure that a gender equality perspective is maintained? Who is responsible for the issue in the various stages of the process? What support might be needed?

Start to think, too, about the circumstances for identifying and analysing needs and the market from a gender equality perspective. Are there any known challenges to gender equality in the contractual sector? Are there any gender-disaggregated statistics available for analysis and follow-up? If not, is there any other data that can be used to support the analysis? What possibilities are there of complementing statistics with research and other studies?

Identify and analyse the needs that are to be met

When assignments, expertise, organisation and resources are in place for working with gender equality requirements in procurement, it is time to identify and analyse the needs that the requirements are intended to meet. You also need to consider which requirements the suppliers are reasonably able to live up to.

Make use of existing knowledge and research. Many challenges to gender equality are structural in nature and are found in all sectors of society and in other regions or municipalities than your own.

On SALAR's website, there are a number of fact sheets that briefly describe challenges to gender equality in various fields of activity within municipalities and regions.

Fact sheets on challenges to gender equality (SALAR's website)

Every two years, Statistics Sweden provides a compilation of statistics regarding the conditions experienced by women and men. It provides a good overview of challenges to gender equality within different areas.

Women and men in Sweden 2022 (SCB)

Differences in the conditions and circumstances experienced by women and men are often due to structural factors. This means that challenges to gender equality are often general. The fact that women and men largely live and work in separate areas and at different levels of society is something experienced all over Sweden (and the world). Women and men largely work in different sectors and industries, engage in different leisure activities, are responsible for different parts of unpaid household and care work, and suffer from physical and psychological ill health in different ways, to give a few examples.

It can therefore be good to conduct the gender equality analysis as early as at the category level. That way, there will be basic knowledge within the organisation regarding challenges to gender equality that can serve as the basis for analysis in various procurements within one and the same category or contractual sector.

During the identification phase, issues that need to be mapped out and further analysed are identified. This may involve the following:

  • In what procurements may it be relevant to set requirements regarding gender equality?
  • Which requirements are appropriate to set?
  • What are the possibilities for setting requirements connected with gender equality for products, services and construction contracts?
  • How can you hold a dialogue with potential suppliers?

A contracting authority has considerable freedom to decide on requirements that will be set for a procurement object, as long as the basic principles of procurement are followed. One of these principles is that such requirements must be within reasonable proportion to the object that is to be procured (the principle of proportionality). This means that requirements must be both appropriate and necessary in order to achieve the aim of the procurement. The requirements must therefore not be unnecessarily far-reaching. Exactly what is proportional or not can be determined according to the procurement object on a case-by-case basis. The requirements must also have some connection with what is to be procured.

More information about the basic principles of procurement can be found on the National Agency for Public Procurement's website:

Information about the basic principles of procurement (the National Agency for Public Procurement's website)

Important questions to ask during the analysis phase

  • Is a gender equality perspective relevant? Can the procurement object(s) in a certain category affect women and men, girls and boys (and individuals who identify otherwise)? Can the procurement have consequences that make it important to conduct a gender equality analysis?
  • What consequences may the procurement have for different groups of women and men, girls and boys? Examples of questions that may become relevant involve treatment, service, and the distribution of power and resources. What is revealed in user surveys, security surveys and other forms of feedback from residents? (See checklist for identifying users below.)
  • Does the analysis show any specific challenges to gender equality within the contractual sector in question, and which the procurement can help to solve? Might a gender equality requirement result in an improvement of the procured product, service or construction?
  • Is it possible to link the procurement to the organisation's other gender equality efforts within various activities? Could the procurement contribute to any of the organisation's gender equality objectives on the general or board level? To the national gender equality policy objectives?
  • Plan now for how the gender equality requirements will be followed up. It is important to formulate specific and clearly measurable objectives or key figures for the follow-up. It is also important to write down how follow-up will be done – such as by means of self-assessment, gender-disaggregated statistics, follow-up meetings etc. –, as well as who will be responsible for the various activities.

Requirements regarding implementation or function

Requirements can be set either by specifying how the product, service or construction contract shall be performed or by describing the function; that is, what shall be achieved instead of how something shall be achieved.

By describing the desired functions, effects and results of the procurement, you leave it to the suppliers to find the best solution. For example, it is not the contracting organisation that needs to describe how a supplier shall reach an even gender distribution amongst caretakers, or how snow clearance shall meet the needs of different groups of women and men, girls and boys. For further information about different ways of setting requirements, please see the section on implementing the procurement process.

Requirements regarding gender equality could cover both the supplier and product, service or construction that is to be procured. One possible requirement could thus be that the supplier, as an employer, demonstrates how it works to meet the requirements of the Discrimination Act regarding giving female and male employees equal rights and opportunities (within the area of the company's operation that is covered by the tender).

The requirements of the Swedish Discrimination Act regarding gender equality efforts

All Swedish employers must follow the requirements of the Discrimination Act regarding taking active measures to promote equal rights and opportunities in working life. Amongst other things, this requires far-reaching efforts to promote equal opportunities for women and men in the workplace with regards to wages, working conditions, combating sexual harassment, striving to achieve an even gender distribution in various professions and at different levels within the organisation.

These requirements apply to all employers, public or private, and regardless of the size of company. Employers who have at least 25 employees must also document these efforts every year. Employers who have at least ten employees must document their efforts regarding the annual salary survey.

The Discrimination Act (The Equality Ombudsman's website, in English)

Another requirement could be that a procured product, service or construction contract shall meet the needs of both women and men, or must contribute in some other way to gender equality between different groups of women and men. Examples could include occupational health services having knowledge regarding gender differences with regards to work-related ill health on the part of women and men, or estate managers having staff who know how to act if there are indications of violence in a flat.

Illustrative example: Combat uniform for women and men

Together with Denmark, Finland and Norway, Sweden is procuring a new uniform system. This includes everything from underwear to outer garments for different climates and environments. The Nordic countries will therefore have a common combat uniform that is differentiated only by means of unique camouflage patterns.

With a growing proportion of women serving in the Swedish Armed Forces, it is becoming increasingly important for Sweden to require that all articles of clothing included in the uniform system must be suitable for both women and men in all military assignments.

Extensive tests have been conducted to ensure usability for both women and men. 400 soldiers throughout the Nordic region have used the uniform in different seasons and in a variety of environments. Their feedback has then been weighted together with lab tests in forming a technical assessment of the uniform systems.

One advantage of having a common Nordic uniform is the size of the procurement. The value of the contract amounts to a little over the equivalent of four billion SEK (400 million €), which has drawn suppliers from all over the world to compete.

The decision regarding which supplier will be given the task will be taken in the fourth quarter of 2021 after user tests, lab tests and tender documents have all been considered. The first deliveries are expected to arrive in Sweden in 2023.

From Sweden, The Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) is participating in the procurement process. The agency has a clear gender equality mandate in its budget and policy specification, and must "ensure that the products and services that the authority procures are appropriately designed for women and men" where relevant.

In order to fulfil its mandate, FMV has been working on so-called Human Factors Integration (HFI) for several years. This could be described as a systematic modus operandi for developing materials and technical systems that are suitable for all people in a certain given group, according to their physical and cognitive qualities.

In order to strengthen FMV's systematic approach to developing and acquiring usable materials for the personnel of the Swedish Armed Forces, FMV was tasked with developing a handbook for usability and HFI in 2015. Since then, FMV has developed a joint standard, guidelines, templates, support and training courses for the armed forces in order to establish the approach amongst its 1,800 employees.

FMV procures and develops materials and services for the Swedish Armed Forces, including everything from combat aircraft and submarines to equipment for soldiers. At the end of 2020, FMV had more than 600 assignments at a total value of almost 83 billion SEK.

If what is procured is produced outside of Sweden, it is important to identify the risks that exist in the supply chain with regards to gender equality. For example, in the textile industry, women comprise the majority of workers. In Bangladesh, India, Cambodia and elsewhere, reports have been received of serious forms of discrimination on the basis of gender, such as physical violence, sexual abuse and denied compensation during parental leave. Even when textiles are manufactured in Europe, such as Central and Eastern Europe, discrimination against women has been reported with regards to wages etc.

The National Agency for Public Procurement has produced an easily accessible digital service for identifying sustainability risks in connection with production in other countries.

Identifying sustainability risks in the supply chain (the National Agency for Public Procurement's website)

Depending on whether the gender equality requirements involve the supplier as an employer or the procurement object itself, the requirements will be worded in different ways in the public tender. See the following sections for further information.

Analyse your needs

In order to set gender equality requirements, a clear picture is needed of the challenges to gender equality that the procurement in question may help to solve, or the way in which gender equality requirements may raise the quality of a specific activity. The aim of the analysis is to identify the need(s) that is/are to be met.

In order to identify the need, you can use interviews, focus groups, surveys, workshops etc. Try to involve different groups of women and men, girls and boys with regards to age, impairment, socioeconomic circumstances etc.

Regardless of the method chosen, the outcome of this identification should be a clearly expressed and focused need.

Identifying users

By identifying those that actually make use of products, services or constructions that are procured, you will be able to form a picture of whether the resources are distributed equally between women and men. It is also important to identify those who are not normally users and the reasons why they are not. Do women use parks or other natural areas in the municipality to the same extent as men, and during the same times? Multi-storey car parks? Do they use the outdoor gym? Where appropriate, what needs to be done so that everyone is able to use what is purchased to the greatest extent possible? Remember that the circumstances of different users vary and that they also change over time and in different situations.

If possible, broaden the survey to include different groups of women and men on the basis of things like age, level of education, country of birth and disabailities.

Checklist for identifying users

  • What different groups of women, men, girls and boys usually make use of the product, service or building/facility that will be procured? Identify the intended users/patients etc. according to gender, but also with respect to other factors, such as age, socioeconomic status, country of birth, disability, etc.
  • Is the product, service or construction used to the same extent or on equal terms? What different groups of women, men, girls and boys usually do not make use of the product, service or construction? Identify non-users, according to the above.
  • Why do certain groups of women and men, girls and boys not use the product, service or construction? Is this a problem? Does it mean that resources are not distributed equally between women and men, girls and boys?
  • What would make it possible for additional groups of women and men, girls and boys to have access to, understand and use the product, service or construction? Identify measures that can be taken, using the organisation's gender equality objectives as the starting point.

Analyse the market

The next step is to conduct a market analysis in order to gain knowledge about what the market has to offer and what suppliers there are available. Perhaps you have already done a market analysis at the category level? If so, start from there and complement it as needed. Use the results from the needs analysis in this work. What needs relating to gender equality are to be met with this procurement?

By setting gender equality requirements, you can:

  • help stimulate development in an industry by rewarding suppliers that are already carrying out good efforts for gender equality, whilst encouraging other suppliers to follow suit, both as employers and suppliers of products, services and constructions
  • encourage suppliers to reflect on their activities in that they are asked to describe how they work with gender equality and how they wish to improve these efforts
  • show clearly what the contracting organisation values and is willing to pay extra for – in this case, gender equality

An important part of the market analysis is to have a dialogue with suppliers at an early stage. This applies especially prior to setting gender equality requirements. Dialogue can involve meeting potential suppliers, experts and other parties to gain knowledge of how gender equality requirements can be set in the best way possible in the procurement at hand, as well as what solutions the market is able to offer on the basis of the goals and purpose of the procurement.

An early dialogue can open up the possibility of developing operations. If it is crucial that the organisation achieve ambitious goals relating to gender equality, an early dialogue can contribute to you receiving suggestions for solutions to the needs that must be met. The early dialogue can also help you to see new possibilities, such as shifting away from procuring a product to procuring a service.

Setting requirements in procurement is a balancing act: well-balanced requirements stimulate the market in developing its gender equality efforts, whilst requirements that are excessively high risk unnecessarily shutting out suppliers.

Example questions on which to base a market dialogue

  • Do the suppliers have access to gender equality competence?
  • How do the suppliers assess their own gender equality efforts as employers, in accordance with the Discrimination Act?
  • How do suppliers with fewer than 25 or 10 employees view their opportunity to document their gender equality efforts and their equal pay survey?
  • How do the suppliers view the opportunity to design their products, services and constructions according to the needs of women and men?
  • What is currently on the market?

During the analysis phase, an assessment is carried out of the possibility of setting gender equality requirements in the procurement in question by analysing the knowledge collected during the planning and identification phases.

A general analysis may be more or less previously done in connection with policy and strategy decisions. For larger contracts, or to adapt to the local and regional level, a more in-depth analysis may nevertheless be needed in order to make a correct assessment of that particular procurement.

Focus: Crash Course About Requirements

A contracting organisation must accept the tenders that are most economically advantageous. One way of determining this is to evaluate which tenders have the best price-to-quality ratio; that is, which tenders correspond best with the requirements that have been set regarding the procurement object.

In order to understand how different requirements work in procurement, it can be good to try and see the process from the tenderer's perspective, where the various requirements constitute thresholds to overcome in bringing a deal home.

The first threshold that must be crossed involves the eligibility criteria. These are mandatory minimum requirements that all suppliers must meet in order to even have their tenders evaluated. These could, for example, involve a stipulation that suppliers must have a certain level of expertise ("professional capacity").

Tenderers that can confirm they meet the eligibility criteria continue to the next threshold: the list of requirements. Here, the contracting organisation describes how the product, service or construction must be designed by means of a mixture of mandatory requirements and so-called award criteria.

All suppliers whose tenders meet the mandatory requirements pass on to an evaluation of tenders based on the award criteria. It is only at this point that the different tenders are compared with one another. Evaluation can be done in different ways in order to produce a comparison ratio that combines prices and quality in the tenders.

If two or more tenders prove to be comparable, the procurement agent may use additional criteria to differentiate them. These additional criteria must also be shown in the tender document when the contract notice is published.

The contracting organisation also has considerable freedom to set requirements stipulating how delivery must be carried out by setting so-called special contract terms. These must appear in the tender document so that all tenderers are made aware of what is expected of those who win the contract.

Exactly at what point during the process it is best to set gender equality requirements depends on what is to be achieved with a certain procurement. The way the requirements should be formulated and when in the process they should be set is a balance between different interests.

The downside of having eligibility criteria is that they exclude all suppliers that do not meet the requirements at the time of procurement, which, in turn, means that fewer suppliers are able to compete for the contract. On the other hand, they can also serve as an incentive for suppliers to try and meet those requirements, such as by improving their internal efforts for gender equality even before they submit their tenders. Correspondingly, mandatory requirements during procurement are a watershed. Meanwhile, they do make it possible to ensure a certain minimum level for the product, service or construction contract.

A rule of thumb is that the later in the purchasing process a requirement is set, the greater the number of suppliers that will be able to have their tenders evaluated.

Eligibility criteria
Mandatory minimum requirements for all suppliers
Example: Tenderers must actively promote equal opportunities in working life in accordance with the Discrimination Act.

List of requirements – mandatory requirements
Requirements for the object of procurement (goods, services, construction)
Example: Design and construction of an activity park that meets the needs and priorities of both girls and boys.

Award criteria
Criteria for the evaluation of the tenders
Example: The tenderers must show how they plan to guarantee that the activity park will meet the needs and priorities of both girls and boys.
Additional criteria that will be used to choose between two equivalent tenders.
Example: Tenderers show how they plan to involve different groups of girls and boys in the design and planning process.

Special contract terms
Requirements stipulating how delivery must be carried out
Example: The supplier shall have an ongoing dialogue with different groups of girls and boys during design, planning and construction phases.

Implementation of procurement with gender equality requirements

The purchase itself takes place during procurement

The image shows the part of the purchasing process that consists of the procurement procedure itself.

Source: The National Agency for Public Procurement

The image shows the part of the purchasing process that consists of the procurement procedure itself.

Implementation of a public tender includes producing tender documents, publishing a contract notice, and examining and evaluating tenders that have been received. A decision is made regarding which supplier(s) have won the contract, and notification of the decision is sent to all suppliers who participated in the procurement process. Sometime afterwards, an agreement can be signed.

Implementation may vary depending on the chosen type of procurement procedure. The National Agency for Public Procurement's website provides additional support for carrying out procurement procedures.

Support for carrying out procurement procedures (the National Agency for Public Procurement's website)

Designing the tender document

As a general rule, there are five parts to a tender document:

  • Administrative requirements
  • Requirements for the supplier
  • Requirements for the procurement object
  • Basis for evaluation
  • Special contract terms

Administrative requirements

The administrative requirements must contain a brief and concise description of the procurement object, which can also be used in the notice. At this point, the contracting authority can clarify that it pays regard to social considerations (in this case, gender equality).

Requirements for the supplier

Requirements for the supplier consist of an exclusion process and eligibility.

The exclusion process aims to ensure that suppliers have not been guilty of committing certain crimes. From a gender equality perspective, it is important that a contracting authority excludes any supplier from participating in a procurement process if the authority can prove that the supplier has violated applicable environmental, social or labour law obligations.

A contracting authority may set requirements stipulating that suppliers must be eligible in certain respects. Eligibility criteria may relate to:

  • qualifications to perform a professional activity
  • having a certain economic and financial standing
  • certain technical and professional capacity.

A requirement involving technical or professional capacity may mean, for example, that a supplier must have necessary personnel at its disposal who have gender equality competence, and must have the experience in gender equality issues that is needed in order for the contract to be performed.

A contracting authority may require that suppliers prove they have sufficient technical and professional capacity by, for example, submitting appropriate references from previously completed contracts.

It is important that the chosen requirements are adapted and well balanced in relation to the procurement object and the current market. By applying eligibility, the contracting authority can thus ensure that a supplier has the capacity to perform the contract in accordance with the requirements set out in the tender documents.

Further information about requirements for the supplier and grounds for exclusion can be found on the National Agency for Public Procurement's website.

Guide for setting requirements for suppliers and grounds for exclusion (the National Agency for Public Procurement's website)

Requirements for the procurement object

The section in the tender documents that deals with requirements for the object that is to be procured is often referred to as the list of requirements or technical specifications. It is important to set requirements so that the products procured meet the needs of both women and men.

Products, services and construction contracts must take all citizens into account in a gender-equal and non-discriminatory way. Contracting organisations have considerable freedom when formulating requirements in their public tenders, as long as the basic principles of procurement are followed. The so-called principle of proportionality needs to be particularly kept in mind; that is, that the requirements and conditions connected with gender equality must be within reasonable proportion to the purpose of the procurement.

Example: Procurement of outdoor gym

When an outdoor gym is procured, the needs, circumstances and abilities of both women and men must be taken into account. Gym equipment is often designed in such a way that makes it difficult for women to use it. The rungs in monkey bars are often so thick that women or people with small hands are not able to grip them. Weights are also often too heavy, being adapted to men's exercise requirements. It is important that the entire gym is designed in a manner that is impartial to women and men.

(For the municipality, it is also important to consider the placement of the outdoor gym. If it is located in a poorly lit position in a forested area, many – especially women – may feel that it is less safe to use than it would be if it were well lit and more centrally situated).

Exactly how the requirements should be worded depends on the nature and purpose of the procurement object. For example, think about whether the requirements will consist of detailed requirements (performance requirements) or functional ones. Functional requirements specify what is to be achieved rather than giving a detailed description of how a product, service or construction contract is to be executed.

It is possible to use both detailed requirements and functional requirements for a single procurement object. Performance requirements are used to show an acceptable execution for achieving the desired function. This means that, if the requirements overlap and regulate exactly the same part, the performance requirements will outweigh the functional ones.

Example: Construction of a pedestrian tunnel. A functional requirement is that the subway shall feel just as safe to use at any time of the day or night by both and women and men. The performance requirements might state that the tunnel shall have a certain minimum width, that both the tunnel and surrounding area shall be well lit, and that it shall be possible for a person to see the entire tunnel from the entrance of either side.

As long as the supplier builds a subway that meets the requirements that specify the width, visibility and lighting, it does not matter how women and men feel about using the tunnel; the supplier has fulfilled the contract.

Functional requirements in procurement (the National Agency for Public Procurement's website)

Think, too, about which requirements need to be worded as mandatory and which ones should be phrased as award criteria. A tender that fails to meet the mandatory requirements must be rejected, which makes it very important that such requirements are truly relevant.

Criterion for evaluation

A contracting organisation may make use of award criteria that result in an increased quality in order to select the most economically advantageous tender. The basis for evaluation that is to be used must be stated in the tender documents.

If the basis for evaluation that is to be used is the best price-to-quality ratio or cost, the award criteria must be weighted. If they cannot be weighted, the contracting organisation must put them in an order of priority. The organisation must state in one of the tender documents how the criteria will be weighted, or which order of priority will apply.

When award criteria are used, suppliers can, for example, describe how they work and how they carry out their efforts relating to gender equality, after which they are awarded added value according to how well they meet the criteria.

However, the criteria must be relevant to the execution of the task, and it is not possible to set requirements for anything that goes beyond the assignment itself. For example, it may be possible to set requirements stating that half of the consultants in an assignment shall be of the under-represented gender, as long as it is linked to the procurement object and the requirement is in reasonable proportion to the objective. This could involve an effort to balance the gender distribution in a certain industry or type of work.

On the other hand, it is not possible to require that half of the directors in a consultation firm shall be women, since this has no connection to the assignment itself and thereby goes beyond what is covered by the procurement object.

Example: Award criterion when procuring occupational health services

Krokom municipality wanted to procure occupational health services with gender competence. The reason was that an analysis by the municipality had revealed that the length of time women spent on sick leave was twice that of men. Self-reported ill health in the form of daily body pain was seven times more common amongst women than amongst men.

The analysis showed that rehabilitation work and the possibility of more extensive rehabilitation efforts had not been carried out with regards to the different working conditions of women and men. Amongst other things, tenders would therefore be assessed according to how gender was highlighted and analysed in the programmes on the basis of gender studies and gender research.

The assessment was scored according to a four-point scale; very good, good, approved, and subpar. A supplier that was assessed to be subpar on this point would not be evaluated further. One of the tenderers that had been assessed as "subpar" in this area appealed to the county administrative court against the procedure used by the municipality. The appeal was rejected, since the county administrative court found that the description of requested gender competence stated in the tender submission form with regards to rehabilitation programmes had been sufficiently clear and otherwise in agreement with the Public Procurement Act and the principle of transparency. (See verdict 09-08-19 of the Jämtland County Administrative Court, case no. 351-09 E.)

Special contract terms

Special contract terms clarify the rights and obligations of the contracting organisation and the supplier, as well as specifying how the delivery or task shall be carried out. A contracting organisation may set special social terms with regards to how a contract shall be performed. The special contract terms do not need to be met at the time a supplier submits its tender, but must be complied with when the contract is fulfilled. They come into force when the contract begins to apply or at another point in time determined by the contracting organisation.

One example of special contract terms are the requirements set by Luleå municipality in a framework agreement for photographic services. Suppliers in that case obligated themselves to participate in a training course to learn imagery from a gender perspective. In that way, the municipality could ensure that it would receive a gender-equal image bank, whilst the photographers were given an opportunity to receive further training.

There are no obstacles in the legislation to stipulating terms regarding gender equality in a contract. However, the basic rule, which applies to all special terms for the performance of a contract, is that there must be a connection to whatever is being acquired. The terms must therefore be connected to the procurement object. One of the reasons this is important is that requirements and terms must not result in tenderers being discriminated against in the procurement process.

In the preparatory work for the procurement legislation, it is stated that, apart from this connection to what is being acquired, the basic principles of procurement law are the only things that place limits on the special contract terms that a contracting authority may set. This applies, for example to terms that aim to promote gender equality at work, an increased participation of women on the labour market, and a balance between work and private life.

Example: Special contract terms for increasing employment and contributing to gender equality

Public contracts can be used to help people who have difficulty finding work to enter the labour market, whilst simultaneously supplying skills that the market needs.

Employment requirements in public procurement mean that the supplier in a public contract undertakes to employ or offer a job experience opportunity to individuals who are currently outside of the labour market.

Employment requirements in public procurement also provide an opportunity to promote gender equality between women and men on the labour market by evening out gender differences within various industries or professions.

The contracting organisation may encourage suppliers to take active measures to promote an even gender distribution and to increase gender equality in connection with carrying out the contract (which also puts the employer under obligation to take active measures in accordance with the Discrimination Act). This may, for example, involve the way a service is described, or the channels through which workers are recruited.

The special contract terms for employment incentive measures can be supplemented with a bonus opportunity if the supplier meets certain stated goals or tasks that have been specified in advance in the special contract terms. Suppliers can thus be encouraged, for example, to employ additional individuals from the target groups selected by the contracting organisation, or to increase gender equality by employing one or more individuals of the gender that is under-represented in the workplace (assuming that such individuals are at least almost as well qualified as those of the over-represented gender).

Procurement with the aim of increasing employment levels (the National Agency for Public Procurement's website)

Information about following up

The contracting organisation should monitor the requirements that have been set, so it is good if the tender documents describe how the contract will be followed up. Exactly what shall be followed up depends on the requirements that have been set in the contract, the type of contractual terms, and the needs of the contracting organisation. It is good to include a follow-up plan together with the tender documents containing information about when and how the contract will be followed up. The plan should also describe the follow-up of the gender equality requirements that have been set for the procurement object.

The importance of gender-disaggregated statistics

Based on the individual procurement, assess whether it would be relevant to collect statistics, and in such case what type of statistics should be requested, perhaps for use in follow-up. If the procurement of public transport requires that the contractor work actively so that female and male passengers feel equally safe, gender-disaggregated statistics will be needed in order to know how well the contractor has succeeded.

So, in order to be able to follow up gender equality requirements, statistics will usually need to be gender disaggregated. The following points should therefore be included in the clause specifying which statistics the supplier shall provide to the contracting organisation:

  • Written statistics regarding the product, service or construction that is procured
  • Statistics shall be gender disaggregated
  • Intervals for when this shall be done
  • Statistics shall be provided free of charge to the contracting organisation

It is also important to compile internal statistics regarding purchase values. This provides the contracting organisation with the foundation for a basic spend analysis that can be used in comparisons and as a tool for organisational development.

Purchasing statistics also increase transparency and give insight into how tax revenues are used in practice. From a gender equality perspective, it is important to be able to see patterns in what is purchased, how much it costs, and for which groups it is acquired. Is it mostly men or women who benefit from a new sports arena, a bridleway, a new district health care centre or a certain bus route?

Examining and evaluating tenders

Depending on how the gender equality requirements and award criteria are formulated, their significance will vary during examination and evaluation of tenders.

As regards the procurement object itself, all mandatory requirements connected to gender equality need to be met. If, instead of mandatory requirements, they are award criteria, the different tenders should be evaluated and weighted accordingly. If, for example a mandatory requirement is that at least half of procured consultants shall be women, it is not possible to accept a tender where only a third of the consultants are women. The contracting authority would not in that case have followed what was stated in the tender documents, and would therefore have failed to uphold the basic principles of procurement.

If, on the other hand, it is an award criterion rather than a mandatory requirement, in cases where half of a supplier’s consultants are women, such suppliers are granted added value when the tenders are evaluated. Those who meet the award criterion thus have a greater chance of winning the contract.

Realising the agreement for increased gender equality

Following up gender equality requirements

The image shows the stages that follow the actual procurement: implementation and management of the agreement.

Source: The National Agency for Public Procurement

The image shows the stages that follow the actual procurement: implementation and management of the agreement.

When the procurement process has been completed, it is time to realise the procured agreement. This is where the agreement is implemented into the organisation, managed and followed up, so that you can reach the goals that have been set for the procurement.

Implementing the agreement

It is important that everyone that the agreement concerns is given the information they need in order to be able to use the agreement as intended. This applies to managers and employees in the procuring organisation as well as citizens, users, patients etc. Explain why you have set gender equality requirements in the contract, in what way these requirements are expected to contribute to solving challenges to gender equality, and in what way they affect the design of the product, service or construction.

Do also describe how the agreement is followed up from a gender equality perspective and the available opportunities for citizens/users/patients to participate in the follow-up because they are women and men.

It would also be appropriate to hold a start-up meeting with the supplier. Make sure that procurement agents, purchasers and other relevant parties are there, too. At the start-up meeting, you could establish a joint follow-up plan, explain the stipulations relating to gender equality in the agreement for both parties, and go through the procedures and guidelines relevant to the specific procurement object.

Following up and managing the agreement

There is much to gain from actively following up and managing the agreement throughout the contract period; it makes it easier to achieve the objectives of the completed procurement, and can provide good groundwork for future procurements.

The aim of following up an agreement is to ensure that the supplier delivers what has been requested and meets the requirements in the tender documents.

Apart from follow-up, contract management involves internally administering all of an organisation's agreements. Further information about following up and managing the agreement can be found on the National Agency for Public Procurement's website.

Support for following up and managing the agreement (the National Agency for Public Procurement)

Monitoring a contract from a gender equality perspective

One prerequisite for a successful procurement and a good business relationship is that the contract is followed up for the duration of the agreement, and sometimes even afterwards. The contract requirements should be followed up. This includes:

  • Administrative requirements
  • Requirements for the supplier
  • Requirements for the procurement object
  • Basis for evaluation
  • Special contract terms

Deviations or shortcomings must also be continually addressed. The terms included in the tender document must state how these will be governed. During follow-up, you can clarify how these terms will be applied. Many contracts specify escalating sanctions or an action plan for how shortcomings and deviations will be handled.

In order to direct the organisation towards good purchasing practice, it is important to work on internal governance in contract management. Amongst other things, this involves conducting various kinds of analysis and communications efforts connected to administration.

Are there criteria to follow up, and is there a plan for how to do so? It is important to formulate measurable criteria or key figures for following up the procurement from a gender equality perspective. Gender equality requirements should thus always be linked to criteria for follow up. Likewise, it is important to specify how a follow-up shall be done and who is responsible for the various activities relating to it.

Focus: Methods for following up gender equality requirements

Depending on the requirements that have been set in the tender documents, the following are examples of methods that could be used for following up:

  • Follow-up meetings with suppliers, in which aspects of gender equality are included in the discussion
  • Measuring the quality, such as by means of gender-disaggregated indicators or key ratios
  • Questionnaire surveys sent to the supplier, purchaser or third parties (such as female and male patients, care users, etc.), in which the responses are presented according to gender
  • Following up self-assessments from suppliers; can be done directly by the contracting organisation or by means of national quality records, for example. Self-assessment must also cover a gender equality perspective, such as being done on the basis of gender-disaggregated statistics or in the form of a report on the efforts carried out regarding active measures in accordance with the Discrimination Act
  • Site visits at the location of the supplier to check that the eligibility criteria – for example, those relating to special gender equality competence – are met at the workplace

Following up the agreement in relation to gender equality requirements

Before a contract expires or a decision is made to extend it, you should compile a summary of how the contract has worked on the basis of the gender equality requirements. Assess whether you have achieved the gender equality objectives you had for the procurement. It is good to make this assessment both together with your supplier and internally within your organisation.

This then forms the basis for future contract management.

The evaluation of the previous contract period provides important information for the analysis phase of future procurements involving similar products, services or construction contracts.