Gender Equality in Scientific Research

A smart thing to do for an innovative and fairer EU society, but the pace of change is still too slow. In European Union countries, women account for 45 per cent of those who achieve the title of doctor of research but only 30 per cent of active researchers and 20 per cent of professors. [1]

The future of Europe will be based on an innovative and sustainable economy, underpinning inclusive and fairer societies, and science and innovation are central players in this context. Gender equality is a fundamental right but today it is also increasingly the “smart” thing to do for an innovative and fairer society.

EU public policy is now clearly aware of and willing to seriously address the problem. This was the gist of the message sent by Eva-Maria Stange, Saxon State Minister for Higher Education, Research and Art, as she opened the closing conference of GENIS-LAB, the “Gender in the Science and Technology Laboratory” [2] project that sought to understand the reasons behind this problem and took action to promote greater gender equality in six research institutions in Europe (http://www.genislab-fp7.eu/).

GENIS-LAB, financed by the EU 7th Framework Programme, aimed at establishing efficient “gender management systems” to achieve structural change for gender equality in six scientific organizations across Europe. Through GENIS-LAB, such “structural change” took different forms in the various institution involved: from innovative, competency-based HR systems to hire and retain the best nuclear physicists in Italy, to introducing gender as a quality criteria in university management scorecards in Sweden, or raising researchers’ awareness of the importance of challenging stereotypes, to create a better and more inclusive chemistry research environment in Slovenia.

The Centre’s experience in “how to promote equality at work” has played an important role in this process as ITCILO experts accompanied each institution in a participatory process of self-assessment based on the “ILO Participatory Gender Audit”, which was the starting point for the design of specific tailor-made actions, further supported by technical experts from the Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini and Associazione Donna e Scienza. The Project activated a process that involved every area (managers, researchers, and administrative staff) of the six organizations in discussion, identifying obstacles and defining strategies to overcome them.

Guidelines are available here (link to PDF):

[1] EC, 2013. Gender in Research and Innovation: Statistics and Indicators. Brussels.


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