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.

RI PEERS Final Project Event

On 12 July 2022 in Salerno, Italy and online, R&I PEERS project partners orgnised the project’s final multi-sectoral conference on the theme of “Gender Equality policies and actions: Lessons. Impact. Sustainability.” Presentations from the event are included below, and feedback is welcome.

Also, be sure to check out the RI PEERS Project video!

R&I PEERS Multi-sectoral Conference:

1. Welcome & Introduction to the RI-PEERS Multi-sectoral Conference – Digital Leadership Institute and University of Salerno

2.  Gender & Policy: Mina Stareva, Policy Officer, European Commission – Presentation (PDF)

3. Lessons learned: Experiences from Gender Equality ChangemakersChairperson: Jovana Mihajlović Trbovc, ZRC SAZU

4.  Impact: Gender equality policies in the local ecosystem, Chairperson: Francesca D’Ambrosio, UNISA

  • Jovana Mihajlović Trbovc, ACT Project, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts – Presentation (PDF)
  • Amani Charrad, The National Agency for the advancement of scientific research – Presentation (PDF)
  • Prof. Cristina Rossi La Mastra, Business and Industrial Economics, Department of Management Engineering of the Politecnico di Milano
  • Alessandra Pedone, Confindustria Salerno – Presentation (PDF) and “Siamo Pari” Video (MP4)
  • Sigal Fishman, Galilee Research Institute – Presentation (PDF)

5. COGE Awards: Patrizia Grifoni, National Research Council – Presentation (PDF)

6.  Sustainability:  the way ahead,Chairperson: Katja Legisa, DLI

  • Yolanda Ursa, GENDER STI Project, GrupoInmark
  • Shadrack Mkansi, Science Awareness Platforms South African Agency For Science and Technology Advancement, SAASTA
  • Yiannis Laouris, MD, PhD, MS, Senior Scientist Cyprus Neuroscience & Technology Institute – Presentation (PDF)

7.  Panel Debate:

  • Bice Della Piana, PhD, Associate Prof., Dep. Management & Innovation Systems, University of Salerno 
  • Mauro Cozzolino, Associate professor of clinical psychology, University of Salerno
  • Fernando Ferri, National Research Council

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The RI PEERS Gender Equality Observatory

Gender Equality is an increasingly critical issue upon which the European Commission is focused. Many observatories for monitoring and facing gender inequalities are active and operational at different scales on the European continent, from the local to the European level. These observatories are characterized by their respective purposes, themes, data collections, geographical dimension, and depth of study on specific topics.

Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, a partner of the R&I Peers project, configured the R&I Peers Observatory (link: https://ripgep.eu/OBSERVATORY) as an online and dynamic resource aiming to provide a global vision and facilitate access to the various observatories that are already working in Europe on Gender Equality. The R&I Peers Observatory enables access to Observatories on Gender Equality from the organisation to the European level, as well as to News and Projects on Gender Equality.

Contribution to the online observatory is encouraged through a participatory approach. Once registered, participants can add news or even a new observatory. Information on the R&I Peers Observatory is strictly moderated and verified with a view to ethics, appropriateness, etc.

Different Geniuses – Stories and Business Footprints

“Different geniuses – stories and business footprints”: 17 companies from Salerno share good practices in the field of gender equality

On July 7, 2022, at the headquarters of Confindustria Salerno, the presentation of the editorial project “Different geniuses – stories and business footprints,” curated by Francesca and Giuliana Saccà, took place.

The volume, starting from the experiences of Salerno entrepreneurs, testifies how gender equality is a founding element of doing business in our province. These stories are a starting point to spread this culture even more within companies and to show that gender equality is often synonymous with innovative organizational models, performance improvement and, ultimately, greater competitiveness of the company.

The volume tells the stories and good practices regarding gender equality of seventeen companies in the Salerno area: Agrioil spa in Roccadaspide; Bioplast srl of Fisciano; Diellemme srl of Salerno; Fmts group of Pontecagnano Faiano; Antonio Sada & figli s.p.a. of Pontecagnano Faiano; Incoerenze srl of Pellezzano; Maf srl of Pontecagnano Faiano; Michele Autuori srl of Salerno; O.m.p.m. officina meridionale di precisione meccanica srl di Angri; Pauciulo Strategie s.a.s. di Nocera Inferiore; Al.to srls di Battipaglia; Re ad s.r.l. di Salerno; Rinaldi group srl di Giffoni Valle Piana; Tekla s.r.l. di Sarno; Playgarden s.r.r.l. – Tenuta dei Normanni di Salerno; Wade world network italia s.r.l. di Salerno; R.p.n. s.r.l. of Nocera Inferiore

The initiative is part of the activities promoted by the Plural Women’s Committee of Confindustria Salerno as part of the European Horizon 2020 project “R&I Peers” aimed at investigating the role of gender diversity as an engine of innovation and change in companies. Starting from a survey to measure the degree of maturity in terms of gender opportunity in member companies, we tried to evaluate the contribution of women in terms of improving business performance.

From data of the sample of the 42 companies that participated in the Survey that measures the spread of policies to support equal opportunities in companies, it emerges that:
• over 90% of companies have widely adopted life-private/work balance policies reserved for women to safeguard maternity and breastfeeding, guaranteeing particular flexibility for women for permits related to family care, integrating them with “retention” policies to reduce the risk of resignation and loss of know-how and professionalism in the company
• more than 80% of companies promote product or process innovations and patents that are generated by women
• in 80% of the companies surveyed there is a high presence of women in the highest paid roles in the company. So women hold top leadership roles and participate in meaningful business decisions.

The opportunity to hear from the hands-free voice of female entrepreneurs their very personal way of doing business and interpreting their leadership: all this is Geni Diversi – stories and business imprints, with the aim of recreating real snapshots by grasping strengths and areas of improvement of the business realities of the Salerno area.

Stories and business footprints that revealed the stories of their beginnings, passing through the crucial stages experienced, also focusing attention on the theme of innovation and their personal approach to it, networking skills, relational skills, problem solving, decision making are just some of the distinctive features of these companies that opened their doors, facilitating a storytelling that had the ambition to bring out the personal-professional experiences of their protagonists. It is the theme of gender equality that dominates, crossing stories with the desire to insist on gender policies, work and life balance strategies and the ability of companies to address the delicate issue of smartworking, flexibility and more generally the work-home interface.

The underlying goal of the entire project has been very concrete: to enhance the female talents present in our industrial fabric, but not exclusively.

The broader intent is to demonstrate what and how consistent are the social, economic and socio-organizational returns of gender diversity in companies, through the story of some “best practices” collected in the volume, with the hope that it can contribute to the evolution of the debate on these issues for a more balanced and healthy society in the relationship between life and work between men and women.


Gender Equality Facing the Challenges of the RI Ecosystem

R&I PEERS – ANPR Flagship Event: Gender equality facing the challenges of the R&I ecosystem – The GENDER EQUALITY PLAN of the National Agency for scientific Research Promotion

Through the ambitious R&I PEERS project, the National Agency for scientific Research Promotion (ANPR) in Tunisia, has succeeded in developing its Gender Equality Plan (GEP), which respects the Guidelines proposed by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) and adheres to the European Commission format. This document has been externally reviewed by members of an International Advisory Board, appointed by the European Commission.

To share this achievement with the stakeholders of the R&I ecosystem, ANPR organized a flagship event in the form of a seminar entitled “Gender equality facing the challenges of the R&I ecosystem: The GENDER EQUALITY PLAN of the National Agency for scientific Research Promotion”, on June 30, 2022, at the cultural space of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHESR). The opening of the seminar and the welcome address were jointly provided by Prof. Chedly ABDELLY, the Director General of ANPR and Prof. Francesca ROMANA D’AMBROSIO, representing the University of Salerno, the coordinator of R&I PEERS project.

The first session on “Cross-experiences on the Gender approach in R&I”, was an opportunity to shed light on the flagship experiences, in terms of the gender approach, maintained within the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and its institutions. For that, a first framing presentation on “The integration of the Gender approach in the public policies of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research” was provided by Mrs. Habiba TALBI, the Director General of the Budget Management by Objectives Unit and the Representative of the Ministry on the Interministerial Council of Peers.

Immediately afterwards, a specific presentation on “The ANPR’s Gender Equality Plan: genesis and perspectives” was shared with the public present by Mrs. Amani MAHJOUBI CHARRAD, the coordinator of the R&I PEERS project at the ANPR level. This was an opportunity for the public to discover the details of the first GEP developed by a public administration in Tunisia.

The transition was with a presentation on “The Gender Cell of the University of Sousse: motivations and aspirations”, the first and only Tunisian University having structured the gender dimension. This inspiring presentation was provided by Mrs. Insaf BEKIR, founding member of the Gender cell and the Director of IHEC of Sousse (University of Sousse).

A conceptual and illustrated review of “Gender and Limiting Beliefs” was provided by Dr. Hafsi BEDHIOUFI, HDR Lecturer in Sociology, from the University of La Manouba. The first session was closed with a presentation on “Women and the Environment”, given by Mrs. Farah MNEKBI from the Center for Research, Studies, Documentation and Information on Women (CREDIF).

At the end of these presentations, a debate was triggered between speakers and participants focusing on the contours, the state of the art and the achievements of the gender dimension within the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and its institutions.

The second major part of the seminar was dedicated to the second session, that the objective is to promote networking between the representative actors of the R&I ecosystem in order to fertilize their respective experiences on the gender approach and this, to evolve “ Towards a pooling of efforts for an anchoring of the Gender approach”.

The very first intervention in this context, focused on the policy level “The Gender Approach: The national strategy of the Ministry of Family, Women, Children and the Elderly” and was provided by Ms. Akila BENTAIB, in her capacity as Director of Women’s Affairs.

Ms. Boutheina HAMMAMI, Program Coordinator at UN Women, ensured the transition, from the point of view of an international organization, to paint the panorama “The strategic axes of UN Women in Tunisia”.

A representative of the Arab Women’s Center for Training and Research (CAWTAR) was scheduled to speak on “Gender mainstreaming in economic research: the GERPA experience”, but for health reasons linked to the CORONA virus, Dr. Souleima MAJLEDI MANSOURI, Sociologist – Project Coordinator, could not ensure her intervention. From the perspective of the German Agency for International Development Cooperation (GIZ), Mrs. Rihab BEN YAGHLANE, Technical Expert of the Project “Support for Accelerated Tunisian Energy Transition-GIZ”, provided an intervention on “Gender & Energy – Multi-sectoral approach ».

As a last presentation, Pr. Habiba CHAABOUNI, Member of the Tunisian Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts -Beit Al Hikma, concluded with an intervention that opens up perspectives on how “Building a career in research for women “

These presentations were crowned by a debate on development paths, with and for R&I actors, having gender sensitivity as a common denominator. This debate has put into perspective, a collective intelligence for potential synergies and new initiatives in this area. Indeed, a range of strategic and operational recommendations were noted, such as the establishment of a working group and inter-institutional gender monitoring unit, working on advocacy with decision-makers, setting up collaborative projects on gender (Horizon Europe and others).

In addition, the Ministry of Family, Women, Children and the Elderly is committed to bringing together stakeholders to maintain this excitement and perpetuate this dynamic around the gender approach.

On the sidelines of this flagship event, a tribute was awarded to talented and shining Tunisian Researchers Women, distinguished by their research work: Prof. Faouzia CHARFI (Senior Researcher) and Dr. Hasna Ellouzi (Early Stage Researcher), each received a Statue of a woman, made by the pottery of Sajnane. Note that Sajnane pottery is recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. These prizes have a symbolic value and convey messages of inclusion, solidarity and complicity between both researchers and rural women.

The seminar was closed on a high note by both Ms. Francesca MALAGUTI, the Gender Focal Point at the Delegation of the European Union in Tunisia and Dr. Helmi MARDASSI, the Director General of the Management Unit for European R&I Programmes who recalled that the GEP is a prerequisite to participate in the Horizon Europe Programme.

In conclusion, the embroidery of the ANPR’s Gender Equality Plan, which remains a perfectible, evolving and dynamic document, is an inspiring pilot experience able to constitute a strength of proposal and/or influence of the public policies of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the structures under its supervision and other stakeholders’ institutions, far beyond!

R&I Peers Final Multisectoral Conference

Gender Equality policies and actions: Lessons. Impact. Sustainability.

Tuesday, 12th July 2022, 9.30-16.30 CEST, UNISA Campus, Salerno, Italy

Hybrid mode/ Info & Registration

Gender equality is a priority for the EU since the late 1990s and, to this end, a lot has been done with the implementation of Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) across Europe. 

The R&I Peers project is coming to its end and it is proud of the efforts in making gender equality in Academia and Research Organizations a reality.

The final conference wants to be an exchange with all the committed colleagues of the gender & science community about:

  • the lessons learned in implementing a gender equality plan;
  • the impact gender actions policies and strategies can have on the local and national ecosystems;
  • the challenges for the sustainability of gender equality actions and policies;

The R&I Peers invites to the conference science and innovation leaders, decision makers, researchers and practitioners ready to share and learn on gender equality in R&I. 

The conference is free, but the registration is mandatory. Register here.

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.