Gender Balance in Research and Innovation

Gender Equality is a core theme discussed in international frameworks. In fact, the European Union has deemed it a political priority. This provides guidance in addressing multiple strategies to ensure equality for all genders in all professional fields. A significant disparity was then noticed within the field of Academia, and how gender plays an important role in various positions of such institutions.

As an attempt to pilot experiences for improving gender equality in research organizations, a project named R&I Peers was started. This is a European Union-funded project, and it seeks to create and validate specific actions and strategies to improve gender equality. It was necessary to identify the lack of women in research and innovation spaces especially when it came to higher position jobs. There was also a need to address practices founded in collaborative efforts to incentivize gender balance within academia and research posts. In order to accomplish such, this project was able to implement seven Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) in different research and innovation organisations.

The GEPs are as follows:

  1. Work-life balance
  2. Mentoring
  3. Gender-sensitive language
  4. Raising Awareness about Gender Equality within the organisation
  5. Integrating Gender in research and Curricula
  6. Reducing the Gender-Gap in Decision-Making bodies
  7. Supporting career and excellence of female researchers

These plans carried many strategies by several partners involved in the project. On one hand, the road was not easy as many partners did face a number of challenges but on the other hand, they were able to claim for victories at their levels of success of what was indeed achieved. Not only that but also, they were able to make predictions of future priorities that would not allow efforts made so far to disappear in time.

Multiple organizations also faced many barriers to implementing their GEPs limited due to factors beyond their own control. For instance, organizations such as Change promoted activities such as training for gender workshops for novice teachers. Unfortunately, there were barriers faced with national political instability, work overload, and the issue of job insecurity. In the same vein, some organizations have highlighted the need for further involvement of institutions and government actions to promote gender equality.

A testimony from experts based in Solvenia were shared on the final conference of this project. The issue of how gender equality efforts are mainly done by women in these institutions but there are no additional payments for any form of consultancy. In fact, there is an assumption that extra work done by women in gender equality efforts is done out of free will. Also, there is a lack of connection of experts and people in a position of power who are able to bring forward such plans and implement them effectively.

An effort from Slovenian partners on #ACTonGender had the goal to share mechanisms by gathering people who wanted to foster change within institutions. however, the major issues are on national legislation, as national regulations is intertwined with practices that are not seen as gender discriminatory. Most women researchers in Slovenia are researchers, but they end up staying in the same positions which can hold mostly “symbolic” and not “actual” power. In other terms, there is a convenient staging of professors and the field of research starts being seen as “feminised”.

One other aspect of importance that should be taken into account is inclusion of gender diversity in multiple fields such as the economy. It is necessary for policies and affirmative activities to be approached with care, as is hard for elite and protected groups to feel threatened by such GEPs as they do not want to leave positions of power.

Moreover, the importance of this project is not only involving a European scope but also reaching beyond. For instance, a South African organization which has identified also the disparity of gender equality in the area of innovation and research. Furthermore, the implemented efforts such as gender equality recruitment, unconscious bias training, and the application of longer shortlist to hire more women in positions of power, emphasize that this is not a battle Europe fights alone.

After a long 4 years in progress, the project is sadly over and what is left is to reap from the results gained after this time. R&I Peers will leave a mark on everyone involved but more importantly, it has been able to set a base for other projects to build from it and GEPs can be further developed in order to bring down the existing disparity.

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.

Practical Tips for Tackling Sexism in Media and Public Discourse

The Hellenic General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality recently published two Practical Guides respectively targeting media professionals and journalists, and women politicians and candidates for public office, in order to tackle sexism in media and public discourse.

These guides include practical tips and communication techniques to help women in the public sphere respond to, and even prevent, sexism and stereotype-driven behavior. The guides contain general information and statistics on the position of women in public discourse and their empowerment needs. They outline concepts, provide a conceptual framework within which sexism may operate, and provide case studies and examples that can be used by anyone interested in tackling stereotypes and sexist behavior in public debates. 

Tips for Tackling Sexism in Media: 

Journalists can constructively contribute to decreasing sexism and stereotyping behavior in media in the following ways:

  1. When we cover a story as journalists, we make women ‘visible,’ even when they do not shout. 
  2. We change the narrative – Tip 1: The story that suggests women are weak and at the mercy of their emotions, and men are logical and strong, as well as women’s saviours, is a problematic narrative. We include in our reporting men who show sentiment and kindness, and women who need no saviour. 
  3. We change the narrative – Tip 2: As journalists, we do not abide by stereotypes that suggest that showing sentiment is the proof of weakness, nor that cold logic is always a show of strength, intellectual or otherwise. Remember there are fine lines, for example cruelty is not strength. 
  4. In harassment and femicide stories, we analyse what happened, offering a three-fold, deep analysis. We do not stigmatise the victim. 
  5. We find allies against sexism—colleagues, representatives of institutions, organizations—and we form a community with them.
  6. We give a priority to anti-sexist education of children, eg. games and toys are not forbidden or required play for children of a specific gender. 
  7. We use inclusive language.                                                
  8. We look for women experts who can contribute to our reporting.

Tips for Tackling Sexism in Public Discourse: 

A woman politician or candidate for public office, or any woman exposed to public discourse, may consider the following guidelines when they become the subject of sexist or stereotyping behavior: 

  1. Assess the situation calmly and practice a confrontational and dissuasive reaction. 
  2. Speak openly and state when you are being interrupted, including when someone “protects” you, thus implying that you are unable to manage the conversation yourself.
  3. Use arguments when you are accused of using your feelings.
  4. Correctly state your status when someone refers to you with a diminutive.
  5. Immediately flag any comment made because of your gender.
  6. If you receive a comment because of gender, disapprove of your interlocutor and ask for an explanation.
  7. Be vocal if you feel that what you are saying is not heard.
  8. Answer calmly if the comments are about your gender.
  9. Be prepared and ready to react.
  10. Speak through your own experiences.
  11. Reverse stereotypes, and if possible, generalize. 
  12. Bring the issue of gender to the fore.

The guides were elaborated in the framework of the project “Capacity building for women candidates and media stakeholders in public debates in Greece” (“GENDER_PUBLIC DEBATE”) implemented by the Centre for European Constitutional Law (coordinator), in collaboration with the National and Kapodistrian University Athens Department of Communication & Media Studies, and the General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality, with co-funding from the “Rights, Equality and Citizenship” Program (REC) of the European Union, 2014-2020.

Links to additional content:

International Day of Women and Girls in Science with ZRC SAZU

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science will be marked by the traditional roundtable on 7 March, taking place at the premises of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport . The roundtable will be divided in two parts: first, the participants will try to elaborate the strategies and measures to ensure the translation of one-time measures for increasing equal opportunities in the academic sphere into longer-term changes. Second, Gender Equality Plans developed by various research institutions will be presented, with specific focus on ZRC SAZU’s Gender Equality Plan. It will be presented by Dr. Oto Luthar, the Director of ZRC SAZU, and Dr. Tanja Petrović, the coordinator of the R&I PEERS project at ZRC SAZU

An important meeting

In the framework of the R&I PEERS project, a workshop for early career researchers was organized on 22 February hosting Dr. Dean Vuletic from Vienna University. Dr. Vuletic discussed the various strategies for successful applications for international scholarships as well as the opportunities for young scholars’ career advancement.


Photo by: Marko Zaplatil

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

Gender Equality Best Practices

Today, the R&I PEERS project released Deliverable 6.2 of the project, a report on gender equality best practices that aims at identifying best practices related to gender equality in research organisations, targeting all types of functions and stages of a research career, from starting to management and decision-level.

The review has  focused on practices functional to the R&I PEERS project, in order to be useful for the R&I PEERS piloting organisations to improve their organisational policies and adequate better their strategies for achieving gender balance.

The findings have been clustered and collected following the taxonomy of strategies and indicators identified in previous reports, D3.2 and D3.3, respectively. The present research has also been built around the concrete targets and preliminary priorities identified by our piloting partners, which were collected extensively in Deliverable 3.1 “Analysis of Country Guidelines”, and briefly compiled below:

  1. Work-life balance
  2. Mentoring
  3. Gender dimension in research and curricula
  4. Gender balance within the organisation (in committees, research teams, job offering and recruitment panels, decision-making bodies, high management teams)
  5. Gender sensitive language in organisation’s documents
  6. Female researchers’/staff career and excellence (and career progression)
  7. Raising awareness of gender equality within organisations

These seven preliminary priorities have been taken into full consideration in the selection and analysis of the existing practices and gender policies.

For more information about this and other R&I PEERS reports, please visit here or contact the R&I PEERS project coordinator.

Indicators for Monitoring GEPs

Today, the R&I PEERS project released Deliverable 3.3 of the project, a report that aims at “making operative” the activities undertaken in previous stages of the project. In particular, the report provides R&I PEERS piloting partners with two tools aimed at collecting gender relevant data for both planning and monitoring the implementation of their customised Gender Equality Plans (GEPs), i.e. their specific institutional targets and strategies. The two proposed tools are:

  1. The “Template for data Collection” which is a methodology for data collection; and
  2. The “R&I PEERS Fields of Actions and Indicators”, which are gender equality indicators and measures.

The definition of a sounding methodology, to design and implement GEPs based on evidences from institutional data, along with the adoption of a strong set of indicators, to monitor the implemented measures and their impacts, have been acknowledged by EIGE as crucial elements to ensure gender equality in academic and higher education organisations, as well as research performing and research funding organisations (EIGE, 2016A). As the piloting organisations taking part in the R&I PEERS project are of that nature, the methods and tools proposed in this report are aligned with those recommended by EIGE.

This report has been written as a tool to aid our piloting partners in their task of achieving the three main targets of ERA (European Research Area) stated in the EC’s document Guidance, i.e. facilitating the implementation of targets to promote gender equality in research and innovation. The overarching targets are: Equality in scientific careers, gender balance in decision-making bodies and positions, and gender dimension in research & innovation content. Based on these three overarching targets, the R&I project piloting partners have built a list of more concrete targets or preliminary priorities which have been outlined in Deliverable 3.1 “Analysis of Country Guidelines” and are also compiled below:

  1. Raising awareness of gender equality within organisations
  2. Gender dimension in research and curricula
  3. Gender balance (in committees, research teams, job recruitment panels, and career progression)
  4. Work-life balance
  5. Mentoring
  6. Gender sensitive language in organisation’s documents
  7. Female researchers’/staff career and excellence

These seven preliminary priorities have been taken into full consideration in the design of the two tools presented in this report and further introduced below.

Two tools for data collection

Methodology: “Template for data Collection”
The methodology proposed in this report, the “Template for data Collection”, is a framework to collect sex-disaggregated data from secondary sources, such as administrative databases and human resources department information systems, about the following “field of action” within our piloting organisations: Demographics, education and qualification, career path, work organisation and research outputs. For each “field of action” a number of variables are proposed along with descriptions, examples and relevant classifications.

This tool is intended to be used by our piloting organisations as a reference to measure the different dimensions of gender equality in their respective academic and higher education organisations, research performing organisations and research funding organisations. This tool has also been conceived as a baseline to develop GEPs. In particular the “Template for data Collection” serves to collect sex-disaggregated data for what EIGE defines the “Diagnosis Phase” or the characterisation of the current status regarding gender equality in the GEP development process within an organisation.

Indicators and measures: “R&I PEERS Fields of Actions and Indicators”
The “R&I PEERS Fields of Actions and Indicators” tool proposes a translation of the seven identified gender equality target areas (see list § 2.1) by piloting organisations into empirical measures, and link those to a subsequent list of indicators to state their impact.

Moreover, for each of the seven preidentified target areas, a number of specific dimensions are also defined. Those dimensions are, in turn, linked with the data collection methods suggested by the “Template for data collection” tool to harvest the relevant data within the organisation, and with a plausible list of indicators and measures to be implemented to make GEPs effective. To ease the reading and the use of the “R&I PEERS Fields of Actions and Indicators”, each target area is visualised in a diagram that also presents the corresponding dimensions and the relative indicators schematically (see § 7).

Further resources
Along with the two main tools described above, the report offers an outlook on the use of statistical indicators in the evaluation of policies for human resources in science and technology. In addition, a review of existing tools to target gender equality, most of which were produced in the framework of other EU-funded projects, is provided with direct links to relevant information in order to valorise the knowledge produced by those projects, exploit their results and facilitate and enrich the activities of the R&I PEERS Consortium.

Furthermore, to be further inspired and learn from others’ experiences, a number of concrete examples of measures already in place in EU academic and higher education organisations, RPOs and RFOs is also presented. Each experience is briefly described, and the relative web link is provided to facilitate obtaining further information and reference.

Finally, the report presents an additional resource section along with the reference of resources cited in the text.

For more information about this and other R&I PEERS reports, please visit here or contact the R&I PEERS project coordinator.

Strategies for Gender Equality

Today, the R&I PEERS project released Deliverable 3.2 of the project, a report that aims at proposing potential and concrete strategies and actions for the preliminary customised Gender Equality Plans’ target areas predefined by each piloting partners. The strategies are proposed after the following two studies:

  1. A critical analysis of the work carried out on deliverable D3.1 Analysis of Country Guidelines by each piloting organisation ; and
  2. The collection, analysis and integration of employees views, perceptions and needs, harvested through an anonymous online questionnaire at each piloting organisation.

The strategies and actions proposed should be considered carefully by piloting partners and assessed according to their feasibility and correspondence to the actual needs of their organisation members. 
Preliminary target areas defined in D3.1 for each piloting organisation were aligned with survey results in order to assess their relevance for employees. Most of preliminary target areas were found relevant by survey respondents in piloting organisations. Within these target areas, some specific measures were pointed out as highly relevant by survey responses. These specific measures or actions have been included into proposals of strategies for each partner. For several piloting partner organisations, the survey has shown that employees identified as relevant additional target areas that had not been considered in the preliminary definitions of GEPs for D3.1.

These target areas are added to the existing ones, and specific strategies have been proposed for each. 
This report proposes lists of strategies for each piloting organisation GEP, organised under GEP target areas. The proposed strategies are either survey oriented, aiming at providing additional evidence for justification of planned measures, or sustainability oriented, resulting in a sustainable structural change. Sustainability oriented strategies usually mobilise various stake-holders and result in competence development and improving status quo.

This report also brings suggestions for strategies for innovation actions to improve GEP implementation, as well as a list of references to existing tools, experiences from already completed projects and insights from different institutional and national contexts for all GEP target areas and accompanying strategies.

For more information about this and other R&I PEERS reports, please visit here or contact the R&I PEERS project coordinator.

Country Guidelines on Gender Equality

Today, the R&I PEERS project released Deliverable 3.1 of the project, a report that provides an analysis of the framework variables (cultural, legislative, political, economic) in project partner countries (Italy, Spain, Israel, Cyprus, Slovenia, Tunisia, and Greece)  that may affect gender equality-related issues in piloting organisations, and that evaluates each research-performing and research-funding organisation piloting GEPs against national and ERA guidelines.

In the report, the GEP target areas defined by piloting partners address several national framework variables – legislative, cultural, economic, and political ones, covering the following broader fields:

  1. Mentoring
  2. Female researchers’ staff career and excellence
  3. Work-life balance
  4. Gender balance in committees, researchers, job offering and recruitment
  5. Gender dimension in research and curricula
  6. Improving use of gender-sensitive language in organization’s documents
  7. Raising awareness of gender equality within the organisation

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.), and between what countries commit to with regard to gender equality in policy documents and resolutions and what they really do in order to fulfil their commitments. 
Target areas defined for each GEP also address gender equality related issues and discrepancies that easily escape legislative regulations – practices stemming from organisational cultures, differences in professional behaviour of women and men, hidden forms of sexism and harassment, etc.

Finally, several target areas in piloting organisations’ GEPs aim at making a step forward from what is prescribed in the existing legislature, taking into account issues recognised by research community and civil society members, as well as at responding to the needs of employees of piloting RPOs and RFOs.
Recommendations outlined in the European Research Area Guidelines to promote gender equality in research and innovation are generally relevant for the piloting organisations and for the definition of their GEP target areas. They either help achieving goals set in the GEP target areas or point towards gaps which tend to occur between adopted policies to promote gender equality measures, and the lack of implementation of such measures in practice.

For more information about this and other R&I PEERS reports, please visit here or contact the R&I PEERS project coordinator.