Implementing Gender Equality Plans at the Tunisian Agency for Scientific Research Promotion

The National Agency for the Promotion of Scientific Research (ANPR) of Tunisia is a public agency under supervision of The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Its primary mission is providing services to professionalize the management of research activities in partnership with effective and equitable socio-economic operators. It plays a crucial role in interfacing with and supporting research organization in the valorization process of research results and technology transfer. As a Research Funding Organization (RFO), ANPR works in a national context, which recognizes the important historic place occupied by women in society in general, and in the field of science in particular.

IEEE: Female Researchers in the Maghreb

Tunisia has always been considered as one of the most advanced Arab countries in terms of women’s rights, thanks to a family code promulgated in 1956, followed by the amendment of the labor codes, the penal code and nationality. These legal regulations have strengthened the rights of women in Tunisia.

March 1, 2018 marked the formal adoption of the Gender Equality Plan (GEP) by ANPR, which represents a fundamental action of R&I PEERS project and a key tool for encouraging the improvement of gender balance in ANPR, in its capacity as a Tunisian piloting partner in the project.

The ANPR GEP covers the following six target areas:

  1. Mentoring
  2. Raising awareness of gender bias in decision-making bodies
  3. Raising awareness of importance of gender perspective in research content and curricula and promoting female academics ’research
  4. Improving gender-sensitive language in ANPR’s documents
  5. Work-life balance
  6. Raising awareness of gender equality

In the framework of the GEP implementation, ANPR has carried out awareness-raising actions by organizing workshops and training for the benefit of key actors, including mentors, decision-makers, et al. ANPR promotes awareness of the role of women in the R&I ecosystem and showcases achievements of female Tunisian researchers through participation in several national and international events. This latter includes hosting a desk for the RI-PEERS project as part of an exhibition on Horizon 2020 projects at the 9-10 September 2019 high-level conference on “Tunisian-European Science and Innovation Days” [TESI], jointly organized by the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MESRS), European Commission Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission (DG RTD), and the Delegation of the European Union (DUE) in Tunisia.

Who Are Women

ANPR also participated in the January 2020 international Information Day on Horizon 2020 Calls within the H2020 “Science With and For Society” (SWAFS) Work Programme, by providing testimony on the RI-PEERS project and underlining the importance of the gender dimension in research organizations. Leveraging modern communication tools, ANPR also moderates a dedicated Facebook Group promoting “Success Stories of Tunisian Females in Research and Innovation”.

A community for equal opportunity has also been established that provides a space for discussion and reflection around gender issues in the R&I ecosystem. Thanks to the period of general confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic, ANPR was able to experiment with remote work as an alternative favoring work-life balance, as provided for in the GEP, despite the legal limits of its adoption for public officials. The evaluation of this mode of work is in progress .

ANPR at Horizon 2020 SWaFS Information Day – January 2020

Other activities that are planned for implementation by the end of the R&I PEERS project include the following:

  • Regular training sessions for early career researchers;
  • Awarding of the Women in Science Excellence Prize; and
  • Establishing channels to report anonymously disrespectful behavior, abuse and sexual harassment.

The GEP is an innovation in the practices of Tunisian public administration in general, and in the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research institutions in particular. Its implementation raises many challenges that can inspire other structures within the same ministry and far beyond!

Gender Equality Plan Case Study: University of Salerno

The Gender Equality Plan (GEP) of the University of Salerno–elaborated in the framework of R&I PEERS project, and approved by the Academic Senate and Board of Directors–is a comprehensive document offering a clear and focused strategy on gender equality for a university made up of more than 40.000 people.  It is organised around six target areas whose achievement will be monitored through selected indicators:

  • Gender Perspective in Research and Curricula;
  • Improving use of gender-sensitive language;
  • Work-life balance;
  • Raising awareness of gender equality in UNISA;
  • Mentoring;
  • Reducing gender gap in decision-making bodies.

The GEP intends to carry on the legacy of OGEPO (Interdepartmental Observatory for the Gender studies and Equal Opportunities) and the CUG (Unique guarantee committee for well-being in the workplace) that since 2011 are committed to the achievement of equality between women and men and well-being for all.  Indeed, some of the GEP’s activities aim at reinforcing the already existing actions such as:

  • Courses on gender studies/gender equality;
  • Training on gender equality and diversity management for University administrative staff;
  • Initiatives on gender-based violence phenomenon;
  • Gender budgeting;
  • Nursery and summer camp for students and workers’ children.

The GEP’s activities aim at going one step further in order to define a broader strategy including a special attention to the STEM field. Among the envisaged actions, we can mentioned

  • Introduction of an interdisciplinary teaching on gender equality and diversity management in all PhD courses;
  • Mentoring sessions for female PhD students, research fellows and researchers;
  • Supporting activities for financing fellowships on gender equality.

In addition, a reach programme of international conferences and workshops has been included in the GEP in order to develop a lively debate among experts around some key issues concerning women and men in research (i.e. women in STEM; gender bias in decision-making bodies; feminine leadership; gender-sensitive language), and establish scientific partnerships between the University of Salerno and European research organisations on the matter.

Letter from the Coordinator

With great pleasure, we introduce you to the first series of articles from the R&I PEERS project.

The goal of the R&I PEERS project is to create and validate pilot experiences that disrupt gender-biased approaches and unconscious rules which limit careers for women and their participation in Research and Innovation.
These articles comes at a crucial stage for the project, as results from the first months of work are emerging, while the ground is being laid for the next stage of the project, which will see the implementation and improvement of GEPs, in the seven (7) pilot organisation involved in the project, leading up the validation of the strategies proposed by R&I PEERS advisory board and other stakeholders.

Among these articles, you will have the opportunity to read about the results of the analysis made in the pilot organisations to obtain information on the framework variables (cultural, legislative, political, economic) which may affect the gender issues in research. This article provides an insight into the principles inspiring the GEPs definition, highlighting the importance of setting the proposal emerging into a relevant institutional environment.

The results of the first Mutual Learning workshop, held in Rome (Italy) on 7 November are detailed in the article “Mutual Learning Workshop in Rome”. This workshop has brought together fifteen (15) experts from the gender equality field representing universities, governmental and scientific bodies as well as enterprises to discuss the existing practices in the gender equality sphere. This first project workshop has been appreciated by all attendees and we consider it a successful experience!

To conclude, I would like to highlight that this first article come on the heels of the international week for the Elimination of Violence against Women, celebrated  19-25 November. The aim of that international initiative is to emphasise the importance of the respect to the woman that we consider, as R&I PEERS consortium, a key point to promote a concept of gender equality that can best be expressed as “women and men enjoy the same status and have equal opportunity to realize their full human potential to contribute to political, economic, social and cultural development, and to benefit fully from the results”.

I hope these articles will stimulate your interest in R&I PEERS!

Now let’s get started!

Maria Rosaria Pelizzari
R&I PEERS project coordinator

Main Drivers for GEP Implementation – An Overview

The activities performed in the R&I PEERS project’s Work Package 3 aimed at defining main drivers for Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) to be implemented in each of the seven piloting partner organisations. The work has been completed as a three-step process, as presented in the graph above.

First, targets preliminarily defined for each GEP were aligned with national (cultural, legislative, political, economic) contexts of each piloting organisation. The analysis performed has shown that, despite significant differences among piloting partner organisations (in nature of their work, status, size), there is a notable convergence in GEP target areas defined. The graph bellow shows seven main target areas that are shared by most of the piloting partners.

Most of the GEP target areas result from detecting a gap – between what is prescribed by legislation and what exists in practice (as a consequence of unequal access, prevalent stereotypes, institutional cultures, etc.), between what countries commit to with regard to gender equality in policy documents and resolutions, and what they really do to fulfil their commitments.

In the second step, to improve preliminary GEPs, the survey has been conducted in all piloting partner organisations. This way, the employees’ perspectives have been considered in redefining GEP targets. For each GEP, the strategies have been proposed to either provide additional evidence for justification of planned measures, or to entail a sustainable structural change.

Finally, in the third step, the tools for collecting gender relevant data for both planning and monitoring the implementation of GEPs have been provided to the piloting partners. The first tool offers a framework to collect sex-disaggregated data from secondary sources, such as administrative databases and human resources information systems. The second tool proposes a translation of the 7 preidentified target areas into empirical measures, and links these measures to the indicators to assess their impact.

Through activities performed in the framework of WP3, R&I PEERS consortium has set the foundation for definition and successful implementation of GEPs in seven piloting partner organisations.

Tanja Petrović