Women and academia: what are the prospects?

The first Doctoral seminar dedicated to the presentation of the European project R&I PEERS – Piloting Experiences for Improving Gender Equality in Research Organisations  will take place at the University of Salerno, on Friday 28 June 2019 at 10,30 am. The event, focused on gender issue in research, is organised by OGEPO-UniSa (Interdepartmental Observatory for the Gender studies and Equal Opportunities). It represents one of the activities envisaged within the Gender Equality Plan of the UniSa, approved in the framework of the R&I PEERS. At the heart of the debate there will be some key current issues concerning “Women and Science” such as university career paths, the European research area and equal opportunities policies. The seminar will include speeches of Maria Rosaria Pelizzari, Director of the OGEPO and Coordinator of the R&I PEERS project; Loredana Incarnato, Responsible for the STEM area of ​​the R&I PEERS project;  Federica Di Sarcina, R&I PEERS research fellow and expert on European gender equality policy and Annalisa Apicella, Vice-Coordinator of ADI Salerno.The event is supported by ADI Salerno, the Italian Association of PhD candidates and PhDs.

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.

Integrating the Gender Dimension in Research

At the second progress meeting for the R&I PEERS project, held in Athens on 4 April 2019, consortium members organised a workshop on “how to integrate the gender dimension into research content.”  The aim of this training was to provide consortium partners with knowledge on how to integrate the gender perspective in research in a way that does not deal with the topic of “gender” as a specific research objective.

The workshop was built around the Toolkit for Integrating Gender-Sensitive Approach into Research and Teaching developed as part of the GARCIA project, and was convened by Dr. Jovana Mihajlović Trbovc, one of the Toolkit authors hailing from R&I PEERS project partner ZRC SAZU.

The aim of the Toolkit itself is to help researchers and teaching staff understand the relevance of gender to scientific inquiry by addressing questions to their past and future research/teaching trajectories.  Using the Toolkit, then, the focus of the workshop was to:

  • Raise awareness about the value of integrating the gender dimension in research;
  • Examine how the gender perspective could lead open new opportunities research inquiry; and
  • Promote more socially responsible and sensitive scientific inquiry.

Starting from the premise that there are no ready-made solutions, the workshop participants were asked to describe a project that does not have gender component so the group could practice gender-sensitive approach from scratch.  In this way, the workshop was structured as a thought exercise in which the convenor facilitated discussions on how a gender-sensitive approach could be applied on concrete project questions, methodologies, and results.

Workshop participants were evenly divided between those familiar with gender studies concepts and those from disciplines where exposure to such concepts is rare.  This encouraged lively debate where, through exchange of knowledge between the groups, a notable achievement was an increase in understanding around the concepts of ‘gender’ and ‘intersectionality’.

Wrap-up: R-I PEERS First Multisectoral Conference

The First Multisectoral Conference of the R&I PEERS project took place in Athens on 3 April 2019, and was attended by approximately sixty participants, including Ms Maria Theleriti, Member of Greek Parliament, who also represented Mr Nikos Voutsis, President of the Greek Parliament.  The Conference was opened by Ms Marina Chrysoveloni, Greek Deputy Minister of the Interior in charge of Gender Equality and representative of Mr Alexis Charitsis, Greek Minister of the Interior, followed by introductory remarks from Ms Maria Rosaria Pelizzari of UNISA, R&I PEERS Project Coordinator.

Two project partner organizations, the General Secretariat for Gender Equality (Greece), and Agence Nationale de la Promotion de la Recherche scientifique (Tunisia), then presented their Gender Equality Plans, followed by  a speech from CIC nanoGune (Spain) on the subject of “gender equality in research and innovation in Spain,” and the situation at CIC nanoGune specifically.

A representative of Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche (Italy) then discussed the importance of using correct indicators for Gender Equality Plans and the methodology employed for identifying these indicators.  Ms Marta Artilles Viera, EC representative,  then made a remote presentation outlining ERA guidelines and Project Objectives for the R&I PEERS project.

The conference also showcased two ongoing “sister” Gender Equality projects in Research and Innovation, also funded by Horizon 2020, that promote Gender Equality Plan implementation.  Greek representatives of these projects, the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and the National Documentation Center (Greece), presented the project objectives and results achieved so far within the two discussed projects, noted below:

  1. TARGET Project:   SUPPORTING Gender Equality Innovating Institutions in the Mediterranean;  and
  2. The GenderAction Project:   Gender equality in the ERA Community

Ensuing debate highlighted the need for networking among partners at national level and incentives to strengthen the diffusion of gender in research, including toward operation of research organizations.

Representatives of Galilee Research Institute (Israel) and Digital Leadership Institute (Belgium) subsequently spoke about the importance of an online platform for maximizing the impact of the project.  And finally, a representative of the Neuroscience and Technology Institute (Cyprus) presented the Structured Democratic Dialogue methodology and explained its importance for participatory decision-making.