Gender-sensitive data collection and monitoring: the experience of CEU

Ana Belen Amil, Central European University, interviewed by Paola Carboni, University of Cagliari

Implementing gender equality policies in academic environments requires the availability of gender-sensitive data to support evidence-based decisions. The challenge to properly analyse such data is huge, if we consider that not only it should be systematically collected and stored, but also monitored and updated over time.

With this in mind, following the experience developed during the gender equality baseline assessment performed within SUPERA, CEU’s Gender Equality Officer Ana Belén Amil and CEU’s Institutional Research Officer Anna Galacz developed a “Handbook of gender-sensitive data collection and monitoring”.

The drafting process required the involvement of several university units, responsible for the collection and storage of different data sets, and the result is a tailor-made, step-by-step guide to data collection and management, with a solid gender equality background. The Handbook is currently under revision, in collaboration with prof. Anne Laure Humbert, researcher at the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice at Oxford Brookes University and member of SUPERA’s international advisory board, and will be publicly released in the next months.

In the following paragraphs, Ana Belén Amil provides us with several highlights about the process that led to the development of the Handbook and some practical examples and advice.

What does “gender-sensitive data collection and monitoring” mean?

In short, gender-sensitive data collection means that gender is systematically included as a variable at the moment of collecting data on individuals. It is also know as “gender-disaggregated” data. Without it, it is impossible to assess the status of gender equality in a given context (in an institution, in a country, in a continent, for example) for a particular indicator. Once the assessment on that indicator is done, and an gender inequality is found, different types of measures shall be applied to improve such inequality. During the monitoring phase, data is collected and analysed once again on that particular indicator to assess if the measures taken had led to progress in gender-related terms (and if so, to which extent). Monitoring can also occur for indicators in which no inequality was found but that, according to research, tend to show gender inequalities. This way we can closely follow an indicator and be aware of any deterioration that might occur.

Can you give us some practical examples of why is it important for a research institution to collect data in a gender-sensitive way?

Collecting data in a gender-sensitive way only makes sense if a research institution is interested in promoting gender equality among its staff, students (if we talk about a university), research content and knowledge transfer. This might sound as an obvious interest on the side of HE&R institutions but, depending on the particular (political) context in which the institution is embedded (at a national or regional level), improving gender equality might not be a goal for the institution or might not be easy to pursue.

Assuming that the interest (and feasibility) are there, then there is no way to take evidence-based measures for the promotion of gender equality without a proper assessment to know where we are standing vis-à-vis a variety of indicators. To give an example: gender-disaggregated data on salaries is paramount to diagnose gender pay gap in an institution and act upon any disparities that such indicator might show. Collecting the gender of principal investigators across research teams will enable us to analyse gender disparities in leadership positions and design measures to correct them if needed.

How did you became aware that managing data with a gender-sensitive approach is a key asset for a university?

This became evident to me during the assessment phase of the SUPERA project. We had developed many indicators, and when we started approaching different Units in the University to provide us with data to run the calculations, we found that many of this data was not collected at all, was collected in a way that did not allow for statistical analysis (i.e., on paper, no digitalization), it was inaccurate, or dispersed across different units without a central database. This made it impossible (or too time-consuming) to analyse data and see how badly (or well) we were doing in certain gender equality indicators. That is when the idea of the Handbook came up: as a response to all data gaps that were found during the diagnostic phase.

Which university offices are involved in such an in depth-analysis?

It very much depends on the University and its structure. In the particular case of CEU, lots of offices are involved since the scope of the data needed is very wide. Human Resources Office and Student Records Office – Admissions Office collect  data on employees and students respectively. Academic Cooperation and Research Support Office collects data on research projects (externally funded). Institutional Research Office is key for performing calculations. This list is not comprehensive but covers the offices with the highest involvement in data collection.

Which are the key action areas in which the monitoring indicators are organised? Can you describe them with some examples?

The data collection and monitoring are organised in key action areas that follow the European Commission’s suggestions with some adaptations that were more suitable for our University. Some examples of areas and their indicators are:

  • Gender Equality in leadership and decision making: gender distribution in leadership positions (Rector, Provost); gender distribution in the Senate – both of them from a historical perspective.
  • GE in recruitment, retention and career progression: gender distribution of the average time it takes for staff to be promoted, gender distribution of academic staff turnover, gender distribution of Faculty recruitments.
  • Work-Life Balance: gender distribution of average time taken for parental leave.
  • Gender in research and knowledge transfer: gender distribution of researchers in research teams, number of courses that incorporate a gender dimension in their syllabi.
  • Sexual harassment: number of cases registered, severity of the cases.

How can you adopt a non-binary and intersectional approach in data management?

For a non-binary approach, we made sure to adapt our IT systems to allow students to freely describe the gender they identify with. For employees this is more difficult since the software that processes employee data does not give that option; this is still a matter to be solved. Regarding intersectionality, this is much more complicated. In theory, data collection should include other variables besides gender, such as race/ethnicity, disability, age, nationality, etc. This is a very difficult task in practice; it is already extremely challenging to collect gender data systematically, even more so to collect data for variables that were never considered for analysis. Data on race/ethnicity is particularly challenging due to the sensitivity of the topic, so for the moment we are using some (imperfect) proxies for it, such as nationality and country of birth.

Which are the most challenging aspects of introducing this approach in an institution? Do you have any practical advice to give?

I found two main challenges: collecting data under GDPR, and the lack of centralized database. Collecting and analysing data in a way that is GDPR compliant should not be, at least in theory, a complicated task. But practice showed me that due to a (sometimes) too restrictive reading of general data protection regulations, the task becomes highly bureaucratic and therefore very time-consuming. I do not think there is a way around this other than getting familiar with the content of these regulations to be clear about what can and cannot be done in terms of data collection/processing.

Regarding the lack of a centralized database (in our case this only applies to the employee body; student data is much better organized), my suggestion is to work intensively with the IT Department and Human Resources Office to come up with strategic solutions to put the data “in order”. This will not only benefit gender equality related assessment but also the strategic planning of the University as a whole. It is important to raise awareness on how important (gender-sensitive) systematic data collection is for the running of the institution.

Another challenge, but this is not specific to gender-sensitive data collection, is the low level of prioritisation it tends to receive. Unless there is an urgent need derived from other aspects of the functioning of the university, this task is so time consuming and sometimes overwhelming that it gets dropped to the bottom of the list.

Is it possible to introduce gender-sensitive data management on a low-budget basis?

If by budget we only refer to financial resources, I would say yes. If we include internal human resources as part of the budget, my answer would be: it depends on the mess that the university has in terms of data management. The more chaotic and unsystematic, the more work in terms of human involvement will be required to bring order to the chaos. And this is of course specific to each institution.

What sources provided you inspiration for this work? Can you recommend some reading in particular?

The main source of inspiration was the work done by several sister projects of SUPERA, who had already developed a compilation of indicators and shared them in public deliverables. Since one of the core principles of SUPERA is cumulativeness, we built up from what other projects have done before and adapted it to our own institutional context. Of course we let go of some indicators that were not relevant for CEU, while we also added others that were not present in previous compilations, but we don’t have to reinvent the wheel each and every time.

Our main resources were the deliverables of Gender Diversity impact (GEDII), Plotina, Baltic Gender, Target, GARCIA, EFFORTI, Gender Net, and of course She Figures.

The XI European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education is approaching

By the Local Committee of the 11th GEHE Conference 

The Spanish institutions organizing the 2021 online edition of the GEHE Conference (15th – 17th September) are proud to present an inspiring and diverse program with high-level contributions received from the gender & science community and practitioners. Our goal is to provide the space for them to share their knowledge and expertise so that the public authorities can design better and more effective policies.

When the organizers of the XI GEHE Conference had to take the difficult decision to postpone the 11th GEHE Conference to September 2021, the situation was uncertain both due to the global health emergency and in relation to the organization of the Conference. Today, after considerable efforts to launch a new call for abstracts in 2021 and to adapt the whole program to an online event, the organizers are glad to communicate that the agenda for the upcoming 11th edition of the GEHE Conference has been published in our website and the registration has been closed.

Since the beginning of 2021, the Women and Science Unit of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, the Ministry of Universities, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, with the financial support of the Spanish Institute for Women, resumed work on the organization of the Conference. First, the organizers decided to open a new call for abstracts in order to give the opportunity to present new works. Indeed, given the importance acquired by the impact on the confinement in women’s research careers and the sex/gender analysis of research on covid-19, the organizers added a new topic. Then, our international scientific committee once again proceeded to evaluate the new proposals submitted following the same evaluation criteria. Taking into account both 2020 and 2021 call for abstracts, this 11th edition received more than 200 proposals, what can be considered as a success of the Conference given the difficult conditions. The organizers are grateful to the scientific community and practitioners for their committed work revealing persistent inequalities and producing valuable knowledge to build better science and innovation systems.

The online registration process was opened during June and thanks to the dissemination work conducted, more than 300 people have registered for the Conference. Our attendees come from institutions in 23 different countries, mostly European countries, but also Brazil, Canada, India, South Africa, among others. This is indicative of the global dimension of this research field and the interest in advancing gender equality policies in R&I in different global regions.

As a result of all these joint efforts, the agenda for the three days of the Conference includes 144 oral communications and 12 workshops/symposia on the different topics of the Conference. Attendees will be able to choose between more than 30 experiences with gender equality plans, more than 20 discussions on fostering scientific-technical vocations and more than 30 presentations on the integration of the gender dimension in university teaching, among other topics. The impact of the confinement on women’s research careers, to give another example, will be addressed by at least 10 presentations. In addition to workshops and oral communications, around 30 posters on the different topics will be exhibited in an ad-hoc space of the online platform of the Conference.

Moreover, the program offers two plenary conferences on the 15th and 17th. Thamar Heijstra (University of Iceland) will give the opening lecture “Academic career making in a gendered environment: Men as the norm, women as the deviant and feminists as double deviants”, while the closing conference “Building feminist futures in European research: major shifts, continued contestations, new challenges” will be in charge of Marcela Linkova (chair of the ERAC Standing Working Group on Gender in Research and Innovation). The conclusions of the three days of the Conference will be addressed during the roundtable on gender equality policies in R&I moderated by the head of the Women and Science Unit. This panel includes high-level profiles at the European level, including representatives from EU institutions, civil society and academics.

The organizers hope that this interesting and inspiring program due to the high-level contributions received from the gender & science community and practitioners will contribute to reinforce the knowledge production on gender equality policies in R&I and will motivate further steps at national and supranational levels. Last but not least, the Conference discussions will be enriched by the participation of researchers, practitioners and students as attendees to the Conference. All of them are invited to learn as much as possible from the oral communications, posters and workshops/symposia as well as to make new professional contacts taking advantage of the online networking space provided by the online platform. One of the objectives of this Conference is also to enhance the European Network on Gender Equality in Higher Education, precisely in times of difficult connections and gendered impacts of the global health emergency at all levels.

For more information about the XI GEHE Conference visit the website and the Twitter profile.

Using social media to raise awareness on resistances against gender equality

Resistances against equality in research organisations: how to counter them? Many strategies can answer to this question and we at SUPERA, in a joint initiative with the sister projects GEARING Roles, GEAcademy, CALIPER and GENDERACTION, tried to collect them by launching in June a social media campaign

#COUNTERIT is a communication initiative designed to encourage people and organisations to share their thoughts and experiences about the resistances to gender equality in research and academia. The main goal of this awareness campaign was to create a social brainstorming on the topic, focusing on methods, tips and examples to counter any form of resistance.  

Each sister project started the campaign with a different approach: GEAcademy focused on highlighting the valuable suggestions of other sister projects and research organisations; Caliper firstly shared the direct experiences of its partners about the methods to counter resistances; GENDERACTION engaged its community with questions and useful resources developed in the framework of the EU funded projects; Gearing Roles preferred to adopt a step-by-step approach introducing people to the topic gradually with definitions and quotes about resistances and their features; last, but not least, we at SUPERA started with some practical advices to deal with this problem in academia, suggesting specific initiatives and a focus on gender-sensitive communication. 

Both individual and institutional experiences have been shared during the campaign. This variety of approaches was essential to analyse the problem of resistances through different points of views and support people and organisations in this process towards gender equality. Indeed, as the various contributions showed, resistances can take many forms: they can consist of a complete denial of the problem, disinterest in the issue, inaction or even complete ideological opposition. They could be cultural or social resistances, individual, institutional, implicit and explicit: raising awareness of the topic is only the first step. 

 

        

Some of the tweets published on the SUPERA’s account

We want to say THANK YOU! to all the people, networks, organisations and projects that joined us for this campaign. If you missed the campaign, please visit the SUPERA, GEARING Roles, GEAcademy, CALIPER and GENDERACTION Twitter profiles or search the hashtag #COUNTERIT

The impact of the pandemic on gender equality in Academia: three case studies

On June 9th 2021, the online event “How COVID-19 impacted on gender equality in research and academia” provided the SUPERA core teams from the University of Coimbra, the University of Cagliari and the Complutense University of Madrid with the opportunity to present the preliminary results of three studies on the gendered impact of the pandemic on the academic and research communities

The research focused on working conditions, time usage and academic production of the academic staff at UC, UNICA and UCM during the COVID-19 health emergency. The reports containing the preliminary results of the surveys have been released between February and March on the SUPERA website: see here for more details.  

The official presentation of the research results has been introduced and commented by two components of SUPERA’s international advisory board: Jörg Muller, expert in concepts and methods for researching the impact of gender diversity on research performance (Open University of Catalonia), and Nicole Huyghe, expert in data analytics from a gender perspective, CEO and founder of Boobook

Mónica Lopes, researcher at the Center for Social Studies, opened the following presentations with the results from the UC; Barbara Barbieri, Associate Professor at the Department of Political and Social Sciences, illustrated the evidences from UNICA; María Bustelo, Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Administration – and SUPERA coordinator -, closed the session with the presentation from UCM.

The slides used during the event are online on Slideshare with a CC Attribution-ShareAlike license:

The recording of the event, including the final session with the Q&A by the participants, is available on the SUPERA’s YouTube channel at this link.

2021-07-22T11:12:27+02:00July 20th, 2021|Tags: , , , , , , , , |