Gender Equality Plans as change maker: Successful practices for sustainability

The R&I Peers Multisectoral conference is coming up, 9th December 2021. The purpose of this conference is to discuss and bring to light the good results and working practices within the Gender Equality Plans of the R&I Peers project, as well as of the other GEP promoting initiatives. The aim is to disseminate any activity, practice or policy that could eventually lead and become a best practice.

An effective GEP should consider gender equality both in terms of an organisation’s internal processes, as well as the impact of its broader research outputs. When building and implementing a GEP there are several “building blocks” that needs to be present in order to insure some success. These can be defined as process-based elements (i.e. dedicated resources, internal monitoring, official endorsement, etc.) and content-based elements (i.e. organizational culture, gender balance in decision making bodies, gendered research, etc.).

These will be the base elements on which the exchange of “good practices” as the changemaker of the environment will be discussed with different GEP implementing bodies. To enrich and further deep dive into the organizational reality, hands-on experiences will be shared from witnesses who had to apply and run these changes internally. 

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.

To register, click here.

Gender Equality Success at a Cypriot Youth NGO

In the context of the second R&I Peers Multisectoral Conference, participants had the opportunity to receive first-hand feedback from external project stakeholders about their experience of implementing Gender Equality Plans. One panelist, Niki Karoulla, President of Active Zone Outdoor and Physical Education Teacher in Primary Education, shared her experience of a GEP implementation at Active Zone Outdoor, a non-profit organisation she runs in Cyprus.

As a first action in their GEP implementation, Karoulla says Active Zone Outdoor–which enjoys a membership of fifteen organisations and reaches 250 young people with sporting activities in Cyprus–focused on creating gender balance in two key areas: Within the AZO board of directors, and among participants in AZO external events that focus on outdoor sports activities for youth, ages 18 to 30.

In both cases, AZO reported successes. As of 2019, their 15-member board of directors enjoys involvement by seven women, with Karoulla herself as President. Karoulla also reports that “Click and Go, ” a project promoting non-traditional sports to women, succeeded at reaching equal gender engagement across trainers, leaders, and participants. Key to this success Karoulla says, was “promoting ‘atypical’ sports to women, like mountain climbing, and also by including women leaders in mountain climbing among their training team. This latter especially “challenged important gender stereotypes in this sport,” Karoulla said.

An additional success story Karoulla shared was a program called the Youth Policy Project, which aimed to “cultivate a culture of awareness for equal gender representation in Cyprus. In dialogue among policy-makers, youth, media, coaches, trainers and athletes, Karoulla says their event succeeded in having fifty-fifty participation across the board, a genuine accomplishment.

Karoulla says that key to these successes may be that Active Zone Outdoor is an organisation “made up of young people with an open mindset” which facilitates actions to support gender equality. “Maybe also because I am female,” she adds. Looking forward, Karoulla says she hopes the experience of implementing a gender equality plan at AZO can show that other NGOs can benefit from such strategies. Critical to this she says, is that “people in charge of the organisation have to treat gender issues as impacting both male and female. It is not just an issue for women,” Karoulla says. “It is an issue for all of us.”

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.

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.