Promoting work-life balance in companies

On Thursday 10th March 2022 the GSDFPGE organized the Equality Label award ceremony for enterprises in Greece, as  the closing event of the 2-year project coordinated by the agency, entitled “SHARE – Promoting work-life balance in companies and a better sharing of care between men and women”. Through the Equality Label process (at a pilot phase via this project), and for the first time in Greece, enterprises were encouraged to adopt specific GE-promoting measures in the workplace and take further initiatives on enhancing work-life balance for their employees, both male and female.

From a total of 32 small/medium and large enterprises applying, 18 were successful in receiving the pilot Equality Label, which is planned to continue as a regular bi-annual process for all private businesses in the country. 

The SHARE project is implemented by the Partnership of the General Secretariat for Demography, Family Policy and Gender Equality (Coordinator), the Center for Research on Equality (KETHI) and the Organization for the Professional Empowerment of women – Women On Top. The Project is co-financed by the REC Program of the European Commission. More information about the project is available here.

Confindustria Study on Gender Equality in Private Sector Research

Between December 2020 and June 2021, R&I PEERS project partner Confindustria Salerno, carried out a study through its Plural Women’s Committee to measure gender equality among organizations in its network that are engaged in RD&I activities. The completed report was disseminated among Confindustria association stakeholders in a series of events, meeting and workshops, and an executive summary of the outcomes is now available for download.

As part of the survey, a matrix of indicators was developed across seven clusters, and a questionnaire submitted to companies with internal research and innovation roles. Forty-two private sector organizations participated in the study, including those that directly carry out periodic or continuous R&I activities, as well as those that are involved in partnerships with research institutions and universities.

To download an Executive Summary of the Confindustria Gender Equality study results in English (7MB PDF), please follow the link below.

“COGE” Gender Equality Contest for Young People Launched

On 21 March 2022, the R&I PEERS project announced the “COGE: Contest on Gender Equality” competition, inviting young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who are studying in Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Israel, Slovenia, Spain or Tunisia, to submit a video of up to three minutes long describing their experiences, knowledge, perception and proposals for Gender Equality.

Information about the competition—including application form, rules for participation, and contact—is available online at the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/COGE

Deadline for submitting completed videos: Midnight 31 May 2022 Central European Time

The R&I PEERS project partners include the Greek General Secretariat for Demographic and Family Policy and Gender Equality, the Digital Leadership Institute of Belgium, the Confindustria association, and seven Universities and Research Institutions from Europe and the Mediterranean. The project is coordinated by the University of Salerno in Italy.

The project “Pilot Experiences for Improving Gender Equality in Research Organizations – R&I PEERS” has been funded under the HORIZON 2020 program (GA 788171) and aims to create and evaluate pilot experiences from a gender perspective which do not limit the participation and career of women in Research and Innovation.

Mentoring to Promote Women Leaders in Research

An objective of CIC nanoGUNE’s first Gender Equality Plan* is to promote initiatives that support the professional development of underrepresented genders. The plan foresees the design and implementation of a dedicated mentoring program that in the long term shall close one of the main gaps of the center in this area: the lack of female leadership among principal investigators.

The goal of nanoGUNE’s mentoring program is to empower and support mentees in developing their career and in mastering the upcoming hurdles in their professional development. Note that this mentoring program does not aim at replacing the scientific supervision, but it shall enrich the scientific training with additional advice from a wide range of professionals. This will help the researchers to achieve and maintain leadership in academic and industrial environments.

CIC nanoGUNE’s mentoring program consists of two parts. The first part targets collective or group-based mentoring with focus on gender equality. It includes talks and seminars given by leading researchers and industry representatives and round-table discussions on career issues related to the underrepresented genders. This should inspire and promote an equality spirit in forthcoming generations of researchers.

The second part consists of one-to-one mentoring of young researchers, particularly women, by both external and internal professionals from academia and industry, who will guide and motivate the researchers and offer tailored and individual advice beyond the scientific issues the mentee is facing. In this part, mentor-mentee couples will schedule several individual meetings over the course of a year to discuss future career prospects and share professional and personal concerns and advice in an informal and confidential environment.

We look forward to sharing lessons learned from implementing the mentoring program at CIC nanoGUNE. Stay tuned here for more information.

*CIC nanoGUNE, a Nanoscience Research Center located in San Sebastian (Basque Country, Spain), is made up of a team of about 100 researchers and technical and administrative personnel. In May 2018 a Gender Equality Committee was formed to secure a working environment free of gender bias. Few months later, an internal diagnosis was carried out in the framework of the EU project RI-PEERS. This diagnosis served as a basis for the development of a Gender-Equality Plan (GEP) to be implemented in the period 2019-2022.

Writing Retreat: A Unique Gender Action

At Tel-Hai College (Israel), the gender-equity unit has organized a writing retreat for women faculty for the last four years. This action arose from the notion that a retreat not only addresses the needs of women scientists regarding time constraints but also creates a supportive community within the institution that will help support women’s scientific progress.

The writing retreat has been offered to all women faculty at all academic levels within the organization. Usually, twenty to thirty women signed up for three to four workdays. The retreat takes place in a rural and quiet location, offering accommodation, meals, and basic conditions for writing and reading. During the retreat, participants meet twice: At the beginning, when each participant presented her goal for the retreat, and at the end when all shared their outcomes and thoughts. None of the activities is obligatory so that each participant can freely invest her time according to her needs and wishes.

The outcomes exceeded our expectations on several levels: First, it was efficient in terms of working products. Second, casual meetings between the participants created a sense of belonging and partnership in a supportive community. Third, these meetings created new opportunities for unexpected collaborations and mentoring relationships between faculty members who only tangentially knew each other beforehand. Finally, the retreat raised participants’ appreciation of the significance of gender-related activities that the organization supports.

From a personal point of view, this author found the writing retreat to be very effective in achieving work goals and empowering experience in terms of being part of a supportive community of women scientists. No less important, it was fun!

Author: Andrea Szuchman-Sapir, Head of the vascular signaling group at MIGAL research institute, and faculty member of the Tel-Hai College, Israel.

Gender Equality Plans as Changemaker: Successful Practices for Sustainability

The third R&I Peers Multisectoral Conference took place on 9 December 2021 with the purpose of discussing and showcasing results and good practices from Gender Equality Plans implemented within R&I Peers and other projects. The aim was to disseminate activities, practices and policies that could eventually become best practices.

Learnings from the conference include that an effective GEP should consider gender equality both in terms of an organisation’s internal processes, as well as the impact of its broader research outputs. When building and implementing a GEP there are several “building blocks” that need to be present in order to insure success. These success factors may be categorised, along with examples, as the following:

  • Process-based – including dedicated resources, internal monitoring, official endorsement, etc.; and
  • Content-based – including organizational culture, gender balance in decision making bodies, gendered research, etc.

These success factors were the basis of an exchange of good practices at the conference where the changemakers in the environment were discussed in the context of various GEP implementing bodies. To enrich and dive deeper into organisational realities, hands-on experiences were shared by stakeholders that had implemented and managed such changes internally. 

The Third R&I Peers Conference was joined by science and innovation leaders, decision makers, researchers and practitioners who eagerly shared their experience on gender equality in R&I. The original event communication may be found here. Outputs and presentations from the conference may be found below, with more added as they become available.

Do What You Like

Prof. Rachel Amir’s message to women, “Go with your dreams, with what you think is right and according to your inner desires. Do not give up. Tell yourself that you are capable, even when you are told you are not.”

Prof. Rachel Amir’s inspiring story combines spirit and science and proves, that with iron willpower and motivation, almost any dream can come true. Prof. Amir is head of the Plant Metabolism Research group at MIGAL-Galilee Research Institute, in Israel, head of the master’s program in biotechnology and responsible for advanced degrees in science at Tel Hai College. She was born on Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in the southern part of Israel and came to the Galilee in the north in her late teens.

Prof. Amir’s plan of study included more than just a bachelor’s degree; however, she felt a slight discomfort, when telling family and friends of her plan. In those days, it was not acceptable for woman members of the kibbutz to learn more than one degree. Prof. Amir, for who the bachelor’s degree was not enough, was not willing to surrender to the dictates of the kibbutz or to give up on her desires and dreams. She left the kibbutz, even before beginning with her studies. “I am proud that I funded all of my studies without asking for help”, she told. “I worked hard before starting to study, and, as was common among many that grew up on kibbutzim (plural of kibbutz) then, I did not even have a high school diploma”. She did her bachelor’s degree in Plant Protection Science at Tel Hai College in a combined track with the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Hebrew University. This was followed by a master’s degree in the Botanical Department in Tel Aviv University.

You can do it, even when they tell you “you can’t”.

When Prof. Amir says, “Don’t give in!” she knows very well what she is talking about. When she approached, Prof. Dan Levanon with the request to do a doctorate in MIGAL, he answered decisively, “It will not be!” In response, Prof. Amir said, “It will be, because I want it!” This argument was repeated a number of times, and in the end in 1988, Prof. Lebanon surrendered. From then until today, 42 years later, a special name is saved for Prof. Amir, as the first Ph.D. student in MIGAL-Galilee Research Institute. After her doctorate, Prof. Amir did her post-doctorate in Weizmann Institute in Israel. Her message to women: “Go with your dreams, with what you think is right and according to your inner desires. Do not give up. Tell yourself that you are capable, even when you are told you are not.”

Prof. Amir continues till this day to break conventions; she is often in a very male environment – in the Council for Higher Education, in an appointing committee at Tel Hai College, in MIGAL and in committees judging research proposals. “I have the energy to advance women in all these committees”, she explains.

A female mentor may have improved the balance between home and career.

Prof. Amir is married to Ofer, her partner since her last year in high school. The couple has three children, ages 28-35, and she admits that it was difficult to find the balance between work and home. “I spent more time working in MIGAL than at home.” In retrospect, if I had had a woman mentor, possibly the balance between home and career would have been different. Today, I am myself a mentor, and I recommend each female researcher to get advice from a female mentor that works in the field”.

Today, Prof. Amir is a leading world authority in the field of methionine, an essential building block of proteins, which animals and humans cannot produce in their bodies, and which has a low level in plants. When methionine is lacking in food, the motor and cognitive development of living creatures is arrested. Another research subject of hers is the regulation of active materials in pomegranates, which contain many constituents that slow down inflammation, atherosclerosis and signs of aging. A third project deals with the metabolic profile of parasitic plants (held by Prof. Amir in picture), which damage crops and cause a reduction in yield.

Don’t get upset from failures.

Yet, she does not get upset from failures, definitely not professional failures. “Failure is an inseparable part of success. I used to be sensitive to failures, but with time I understood that together with successes there are also failures, and today I know how to deal with them. In addition, I understand that I don’t understand, and in that manner, I reduce my level of frustration. Each time that I understand something, other unanswered questions arise. So, I feel comfortable in accepting this understanding, doing research and moving forward.” (Translated and partially summarized from an article in Hebrew, “Al Hazafon”, 16.6.2021.)

Gendered health research from Hellenic Statistical Authority needed to confirm data

The Hellenic Statistical Authority conducts a research about health population issues every five years since 2009. The research is attuned to the statistical surveys of the European Union members.

The 2019’s research on 8125 households, males and females over 15 years old gathers information concerning the use of health services, the maintenance of individual’s health and the factors involved such as nutrition, smoking, alcohol, fitness activity etc.

According to the 29th Informative Note of the GSDFPGE Observatory and based on the Hellenic Statistical Authority research, 44,8% women over 15 years old have had a mammography during the last couple of years (increase of 6,7% since 2014 :42%). 33,1% has never done mammography (decrease of 13,8% since 2014: 38,4%).

The results of health population for the following years 2014 and 2019 concerning the four main geographical regions are illustrated likewise: 

In 2019, 77,1% of the female population claim that are in good health while in 2014 the percentage was 71%. Evidently there is an increase.

In 2019 the 81,9% of the male population claim that they are in good health. In 2014 the percentage was 78,9%.

This shows that the majority of female population realises the importance of prevention concerning female diseases, so programs in this direction will continue to be implemented.

Marija Wakounig awarded ZRC SAZU Member of Honour

ZRC SAZU presented awards for the past year’s scientific achievements on May 27, 2021.
The highest award, the ZRC SAZU Member of Honour, was given to a woman, Marija Wakounig, the second year in a row was given to a woman (previously only men received this award for the past 16 years). The Member of Honour Award is given to top researchers who have made a significant contribution to the establishment of the ZRC SAZU at home and abroad. Women were in the majority among the recipients of the Awards  (like last year). I would also like to highlight the winner of Blue Award (this is an award given to administrators not to scientists). This year it was awarded to the cleaner Amra Sabotić and we are very proud that a cleaner got the award. Amra’s work is one of those services that seem to be taken for granted and therefore overlooked.

SHARE Project Promotes Work-Life Balance in Greece

The Greek General Secretariat for Demography and Family Policy and Gender Equality (GSDFPGE) are coordinating a two-year project entitled “SHARE – Promoting work-life balance in companies and a better sharing of care between men and women,” co-financed by the REC Program of the European Commission. The SHARE Project aims to contribute to tackling traditional gender family roles and promote reconciliation of work and private life. The project focuses on the role of the father in sharing care responsibilities and highlighting the benefits arising from family-friendly working conditions and work-life balance initiatives, both for employers and employees. In the context of the SHARE Project GSDFPGE prepared a TV commercial that will be broadcast in Greece by national and regional TV channels.