Transformative gender interventions: Linking theory and practice using the “bifocal approach”

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Translating the well-established theory of the gendered organization into strategic interventions that build more gender equitable organizations has proven to be difficult. The authors introduce the emergence of the “bifocal approach” and its subsequent development and examine the potential of the “bifocal approach” as a feminist intervention strategy and an alternative means of countering gender inequalities in organizations. While pre-existing transformative interventions focus on more immediately apparent structural change, the focus begins with the development of individuals. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


Developed through iterative cycling between theory and practice, the “bifocal approach” links the existing focus on women’s development with a focus on transformative organizational change. The bifocal approach deliberately begins with the organization’s current way of understanding gender in order to build towards frame-breaking transformative change.


The authors show how the bifocal is able to overcome some of the main difficulties of earlier transformative approaches, maintaining organizational access, partnership building, sustaining a gender focus and ultimately sustaining the change effort itself. The bifocal approach seeks structural change, however, the change effort rests with individuals. The development of individuals, as conceived within the bifocal approach was designed to create a “small wins” ripple effect, linking individual (agency) and organizational change (structure).

Practical implications

The bifocal approach offers a comprehensive re-modelling of traditional interventions for other scholars and practitioners to build on. Organizational interventions previously categorized as “fixing women” could be re-examined for their capacity to provide the foundation for transformative change.


The contribution of this paper lies in proposing and examining the bifocal approach as a feminist intervention strategy that overcomes the dualism between the existing frames of organizations and the transformative frame of scholars, in order to move practice and theory forward.


Authors: Jennifer Anne de Vries and Marieke van den Brink

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