Promoting gender equality in research institutions and integration of the gender dimension in research content

EC - FP7

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a) European Commission initiatives and policies

by Federico Zemborain - published on , updated on

Gender equality through structural change initiatives

In 1996, the EC adopted the ‘gender mainstreaming’ approach in order to integrate the gender equality objective into all its policies. Since then, the EC has had a leading role in developing and implementing gender equality policies at the level of the Directorate General for Research and Innovation, funding key research projects and coordination and support actions through the successive FP work programmes, and producing extremely valuable reports [1] on gender and the place of women in science with the contribution of several expert groups, and the inputs from its policy advisory group, the Helsinki Group on Women in science, and their Statistical Correspondents.

Recommendations from the reports have increasingly stated the need to focus on the deeply embedded structures of inequality. In an effort to address this situation, since 2007, the successive FP7 “Science in Society” (SiS) calls and projects have evolved from programmes supporting women researchers to programmes aiming at structural change in research and higher education organisations, and the integration of the gender dimension in research.

The most effective, innovative and enlightening EU-funded projects have made it possible to:

  1. be provided with a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of segregation mechanisms in research and their underlying causes and effects, covering almost thirty years of research developed at European, national and regional levels on gender and science [2];
  2. develop sex-disaggregated statistical indicators, the “She Figures”, published every 3 years since 2003, which have developed into a solid benchmarking tool for researchers, policy makers and human resource managers concerned by women and science;
  3. create a database of gender equality programmes in science and technology developed in North America, Australia and Europe [3] and offer policy recommendations as well as best practice examples in a report on structural change in research institutions published in 2011 [4];
  4. foster the dialogue on gender and science between European science leaders and adopt ensuing recommendations in a number of European higher education and research institutions [5];
  5. co-fund the implementation, since 2010, of tailored gender action plans within European research organisations and universities collaborating through consortiums [6].

The gender dimension in research contents

Efforts towards the integration of sex and gender analysis into research contents have been more recent and have included:

  1. In 2009, the EC funded the production of a “Toolkit on Gender in EU-funded Research” as a means to provide a number of concrete examples on how to introduce the gender dimension in FP7 research projects in different thematic scientific areas. As training sessions were taking place all over Europe the need for such a tool and the obviousness of the increased quality of gendered research and mixed teams became widely shared.
  2. The EU-US “Gendered Innovations” project went a step further in promoting the use of sex and gender analysis as a means to create new knowledge and innovation . This peer-reviewed project develops practical methods of sex and gender analysis for scientists and engineers and provides case studies – in science, health, medicine, engineering and environment – as concrete illustrations of how integrating the gender dimension in research can lead to better research and innovation.
  3. The FP7-supported genSET project also initiated in 2011 the first Gender Summit, an event dedicated to supporting and advancing excellence and effectiveness of research and innovation at all levels through the inclusion of gender. Three summits have followed since then, in Europe (2012 and 2014) and North-America (2013) and will continue in Africa and Asia (2015).
  4. The GenPORT project, a comprehensive web portal financed through the 2012 SiS work programme launched in 2013, will, before 2017, facilitate access to a wealth of research, statistical data, policy reports and practical resources on gender and science, technology and innovation.

[1] European Commission: ETAN Report (2000), ENWISE Report (2004), Gender and Excellence in the Making (2004), She Figures 2003, She Figures 2006, She Figures 2009, Mapping the Maze: Getting More Women to the Top in Research (2008), Benchmarking Policy Measures for Gender Equality in Science (2008), Gender Challenge in Research Funding (2009), “Stocktaking 10 years of “Women in Science” policy by the European Commission 1999-2009” (2010).

[2] Meta-analysis of gender and science research:

[3] 2008, PRAGES project (Practising Gender Equality in Science):

[4] European Commission (2011).”Structural change in research institutions: Enhancing excellence, gender equality and efficiency in research and innovation”:

[5] 2009 GENDERA and genSET projects actively involved the main players through debates both on the persistent obstacles and the definition of responses to overcome existing limits to the full participation of women in science and research decision making. CF

[6] Four campaigns of calls on structural change in research institutions have already been carried out. They are strongly inspired from the US National Science Foundation’s flagship ADVANCE programme, developed since 2001 (see section b.3.3). Laureate projects are INTEGER and GENIS LAB (2010 workprogramme), FESTA and STAGES (2011), GENOVATE and GENDERTIME (2012), EGERA, TRIGGER and GARCIA (2013). They are acting as catalysts for the larger community of research institutions through dissemination activities and the production of guidelines. More projects should add to this network of structural change practitioners through calls GERI-4-2014 and GERI-4-2015 launched in Horizon 2020.