The Challenges of Research During Covid-19 for Women

The past year has been special in many ways. The pandemic has exposed everything that was already weak and on shaky foundations, but which, in the heightened circumstances, has collapsed and crumbled: from health systems to democratic arrangements, which are under threat in many places… The pandemic, with its necessary reinforcements to contain its spread, such as quarantine and the shutdown of public life and the compulsion to work from home, has unfortunately dealt a particularly heavy blow to women. The burden of caring for the family, educating the children and carrying out daily household chores has fallen on them. This made the pursuit of research a major challenge. Here is a testimony form Slovenian female researchers.

Dr. Helena Seražin

Researcher at the France Stelet Institute of Art History, where she has been working for the last few years on the MoMoWo (Women’s Creativity since the Modern Movement) megaproject, which has included numerous exhibitions and events, and she was also co-editor of this year’s excellent monograph Into the Fore, which brings together 40 pioneering women in the field of architecture, design and construction in Slovenia.

Dr. Helena Seražin

“Although the virus closed us in between the four walls of our home in the spring, it did not stop me from carrying out my research and editorial work. Like most of my colleagues at the institute, I was not hindered by teaching or child protection at home and other related factors, but as a consequence, I shouldered some additional, unforeseen work in solidarity. It also took a great deal of the proverbially feminine ‘bravery’ to be able, with the help of my colleagues, to realise my commitments in these uncertain circumstances, particularly on one of the projects that ended this autumn; the most challenging of these was the organisation and execution of the international scientific conference at the end of August, which took place partly virtually and partly in situ in Nova Gorica. There was virtually no time for actual rest this summer, because in the break between the two quarantines, in addition to organising the aforementioned conference, I was in a hurry to gather material in archives and libraries for the possible autumn closure of institutions and homework, which did in fact happen. Of course, what we have collected will not be sufficient for writing scientific papers, so we have already established a kind of informal network with some of our colleagues, through which we exchange information or scans from books in our home libraries. I am now rushing off with my last commitments, including the preparation of a paper for an international zoom conference, which, at least in my experience so far, will not be able to replace the usual face-to-face meeting where scientists, especially in informal meetings, can exchange ideas very fruitfully and pave the way for further collaborations in the form of international projects.

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R&I PEERS Contributes to Gender Equality in CEE Conference

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.

Tanja Petrovič of ZRC SAZU, R&I PEERS Project Partner

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.

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:

Heidemarie Uhl Receives 2020 ZRC SAZU Member of Honour Award

Dr Heidemarie Uhl Receives ZRC SAZU Member of Honour Award 2020

One of the target areas of the ZRC SAZU’s Gender Equality Plan (GEP) focuses on practices to promote of female researchers’ results and achievements. Analysis of existing promotion practices at ZRC SAZU conducted in the GEP preparatory phase revealed that senior male researchers’ results are promoted more frequently than those of female researchers.

The disparity is particularly visible when it comes to awards. The analysis of award honoring practices, focusing on the past twenty years, was based on the data on winners and nominees for ZRC SAZU awards: The ZRC SAZU Gold Award, the ZRC SAZU Silver Award, the ZRC SAZU Researcher of Merit, and the ZRC SAZU Member of Honour. Currently, more female researchers than male researchers are employed at ZRC SAZU, but the data show that the majority of awards was received by male researchers, who lead in all categories. Specifically, 18 men and 9 women received the Gold Award, and 10 men and 5 women received the Silver Award. In the investigated period, not a single woman became an ZRC SAZU Member of Honour. The Member of Honour award is given to top researchers who make an important contribution to the establishment of the ZRC SAZU at home and abroad.

This trend, however, was reversed in 2020, when the ZRC SAZU Member of Honour Award was bestowed upon Dr. Heidemarie Uhl, a senior researcher at the Institute of Culture Studies and Theater History at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and lecturer at the universities of Vienna and Graz. In her research, Dr. Uhl focuses on constructions of identity in 19th and 20th Century Central Europe, on National Socialism and the Holocaust in Austria, and on selected episodes of 19th and 20th century European cultural history.

The Road to UNISA’S First Gender Equality Plan

In June 2020, Maria Rosaria Pelizzari from University of Salerno (UNISA) in southern Italy, published a paper on the implementation of UNISA’s first Gender Equality Plan (GEP) entitled “The R&I PEERS project at the University of Salerno: Implementation of GEPs in Research Organisations.” The article is part of a report on proceedings from the conferenceDiversity Management: Challenges and new frontiers for research organisations,” available here (pages 197 to 210). 

“No Space for Violence” – Image from Paper by Maria Rosaria Pelizzari on UNISA’s GEP Implementation

Pelizzari’s paper aims to retrace the road that has led the Observatory for Gender Studies and Equal Opportunities (OGEPO) to achieve significant goals toward its engagement to shape and launch UNISA’S first Gender Equality Plan, the first of the seven GEPs planned within the H2020 R&I PEERS project.

Broaden Your Horizons with a Master in Diversity from the University of Salerno

The Master in Leadership, Gender Equality, Diversity Opportunities (LeGenDO) represents an important outcome in the extensive research, programmes, and activities developed within the Horizon Project 2020, R&I Peers , at the University of Salerno (Italy). This outstanding University, recognised as one of the most influential Italian institutions in terms of both research activity and teaching programs is also leader of a consortium of ten European partners of the R&I Peers Project. The Master project, approved by the Department of Human Studies (Dipsum), is one of the main actions of the Gender Equality Plan (GEP) within the domain “Gender Perspective in Teaching and Research”. The program aims at bridging the gap between business-focused and values-based, humanistic leadership skills.

Designed specifically for graduated who intend to boost their career opportunities in Gender Equality and Diversity Opportunity areas, this twelve month program also provides an excellent opportunity for professionals who want to harness and develop the right skills that add value to a business, whilst embarking on a leadership development journey.

On completion of this programme, you’ll be empowered to:

– Create a personal project work, starting from its development plan, including the aims, objectives, and resources needed for the implementation, to the impact evaluation phase.

– Critically examine and recognise the leadership potential, under a perspective of Inclusiveness, Gender Equality, and Diversity Opportunities, together with its outcomes in political, economic, and social terms.

– Understand how to respond to culture and gender assumptions and stereotypes, including LGBT, to overcome the binary category of gender and adopting gender fair strategies to combat sexist and discriminating hate speech on both traditional and online media.  

– Evaluate and experiment a range of methods and resources to develop and implement GEPs in Diversity Management and Gender Equality subjects.

– Join a global network of local and international companies and associations to broaden the impact and influence of your own project.

Important: Due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the starting date of the Master’s degree courses may be postponed to the academic year 2021-2022.

CIC NanoGUNE conducts sexual harassment trainings for directors

The R&I partner CIC NanoGUNE has held two trainings for directors on the topic of sexual harassment during summer 2020. The main aim of the trainings was to raise awareness about the sexual harassment. Different forms of violence against women (and gender-based violence) was discussed, trying to reflect upon what would be sexual harassment (although not everyone understood them the same way), with specific examples of other companies. Law and recent changes in this field were also discussed. The methodology and contents of the trainings can be summarized as follows:

1.       Basic aspects about the theory of gender

2.       Ways of sexist’s violence

3.       Sexual harassment and owing sex: definitions, types, consequences for the victim and at work

4.    The legislation about sexual harassment and owing sex

5.      Sexual harassment protocols as prevention of labour risks and as part of an egalitarian culture: characteristics, functions and procedures

New Greek Law on Gender Balance in Management Boards

On 17-7-2020 a new law on corporate management was published at the Government Gazette (Law 4706/2020, Nr of the Gazette 136/A/17-7-2020). Special provision has been taken in favour of women’s participation in economic decision making. More specifically:

On article 3 it is clearly stated that the composition of the management board of all companies registered at the Athens Stock Exchange must take the issue of gender balance into consideration through the adoption of 25% for the under-represented sex.

So, Greece is included among the EU Member States which follow the path of the positive measure of quota aiming at the increase of female participation in economic decision making. It has to be underlined that during the recent Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union (January-June 2014), our governmental organization in charge of equality between women and men promoted the European Commission’s Directive Proposal on gender balance in the composition of management boards despite the strong opposition by a minority of Member States.

Driving Gender Equality in Nanoscience

CIC nanoGUNE is one of the seven piloting organisations implementing a Gender Equality Plan (GEP) under the umbrella of the EU R&I PEERS project. NanoGUNE is a research performing organisation of medium size, employing approximately one hundred people, which focuses on nanoscience and nanotechnology. NanoGUNE launched its GEP in April 2019.

NanoGUNE is very committed to the implementation of its GEP. To strengthen the implementation of the GEP, aligned with execution of the R&I PEERS project, nanoGUNE carried out two key actions:

  1. Establishment of a Gender Equality Committee (GEC)
  2. Hiring of a consultant, Elhuyar Aholkularitza

With the aim of ensuring a credible, sustainable, realistic, and responsible GEP, nanoGUNE has consolidated a transparent, inclusive and participatory process together with its workforce. The main example was the exhaustive online questionnaire carried out between August and September 2018 which aimed at identifying the staff needs regarding eight key areas of action (Table 1).

Table 1. GEP Target areas at CIC nanoGUNE

In addition, three actions were recently carried out at nanoGUNE, in the area identified by the project as Conciliation, as highlighted in the questionnaire on addressing Work-Life Balance issues.

Table 2. GEP Survey Question on Work-Life Balance
  1. An agreement with a nearby childcare facility with discounts for nanoGUNE employees, and a special arrangement for attendees of conferences organised/co-organised by nanoGUNE in Donostia-San Sebastián
  2. A campaign to organize meetings during core working hours of the institute, between 9am and 5pm
  3. Promoting telework, where possible, depending on the position , if requested, and as required for addressing work-life balance issues

Tackling Pension Gaps and Sexism in the Public Sphere in Greece

In February 2020, four seminars took place in Athens and Thessaloniki that targeted media stakeholders and tackled sexism in the public sphere. Participants included journalists, university students in media and journalism, and women participating in public fora.

The seminars were hosted by the Greek General Secretariat of Family Policy and Gender Equality (GSFPGE) as part of a European Union project whose objective is to recognize, address and prevent gender discrimination in public debates by reinforcing the capacity of two kinds of stakeholders:

  • Female politicians in the public sphere ; and
  • Women in media, including journalists, media studies students, bloggers, etc.

The project, entitled “Gender Public Debate: Capacity building for women candidates and media stakeholders in public debates in Greece,” is co-funded by the EU Program REC 2014-20.

As part of the PEGASUS project, the event also saw launch of an Online Pension Calculator designed to help people calculate future pension benefits based on current and projected employment. By completing three fields, users are given the option to evaluate different career and family life scenarios and assess the impact of their choices on pension benefits. On this basis, they are encouraged to make informed decisions today that will support them in securing pensions.

The Online Pension Calculator aims to create awareness about the so-called “pension gap,” or difference in pension benefits between men and women, which approaches 30% in the EU and 25% in Greece in favor of men. The calculator was developed in the context of the PEGASUS project, whose aim is addressing the Gender Pension in Greece. PEGASUS is being implemented in collaboration between the Greek General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality (coordinator), the Research Centre for Gender Equality (KETHI) and the National Center for Social Research (EKKE). It is funded by the European Union’s “Rights, Equality and Citizenship” Program 2014-2020.

For more information, please visit the links below: