Tanja Petrović, R&I PEERS team member representing partner ZRC SAZU, joined the 12-13 November 2020 international conference entitled “Gender equality in CEE countries: Policies and practices 2020; Institutional change through implementation of GEPs at RPOs and RFOs in CEE countries.” The aim of the event was to bring together promoters and implementers of Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) developed in the framework of Horizon 2020 projects, along with researchers who are exploring gender issues in science in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The conference was organized by the Lithuanian Social Research Centre (LSRC) and Vilnius University, and sponsored by the Research Council of Lithuania.
On the first day of the event, Petrović presented the R&I PEERS project and the process of GEP design and implementation at ZRC SAZU. On the second day, she participated in a panel on “Removing barriers to the recruitment, retention and career progression of women researchers,” and discussed the ways in which the GEP adopted at ZRC SAZU addresses female researchers’ careers, excellence and prospect for career advancement. In particular, Petrović emphasized mentoring, work-life balance, and construction of excellence as three important domains that shape female researchers’ careers and define their possibilities in academia. These domains are covered in a series of strategies and actions detailed in ZRC SAZU’s GEP. Petrovič also addressed the ways these strategies have been adjusted in the monitoring phase of GEP implementation in order to better respond to researchers’ actual needs.
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.
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:
Raising awareness of gender bias in decision-making bodies
Raising awareness of importance of gender perspective in research content and curricula and promoting female academics ’research
Improving gender-sensitive language in ANPR’s documents
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.
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 .
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!
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 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’.
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.
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:
TARGET Project: SUPPORTING Gender Equality Innovating Institutions in the Mediterranean; and
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.