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So far Manuela Aru has created 12 blog entries.

Gender equality in funding mechanisms: a new webinar for RFOs on 26 January

Among RFOs, there is an increasing interest in the design and implementation of measures to improve the impact of their funding schemes on gender equality. With this regard, SUPERA has launched a series of webinars and online workshops to facilitate experience exchanges between Research Funding Organisations (RFOs) that develop – or plan to develop – a Gender Equality policy. After the first two events that took place in November 2020, a new webinar is planned for Tuesday, the 26th of January 2021 (h. 11-12:30 CET): “Gender equality in funding mechanisms“.

During the webinar, participants will have the possibility to listen to two experiences of Gender Equality Policies and measures with regard to funding research. Both experiences are from Spain, a country that has been a pioneer in the EU to develop gender equality measures.

The first experience is from the regional Government of Navarra. Juan Cruz Cigudosa García, Counsellor for the area of University, Innovation and Digital Transformation, will share the experience of the Government in using their funding mechanisms to improve the gender balance in research teams, as well as in including gender in the research content of the proposals.

The second is from the State Research Agency active at national level, directly linked to the Ministry of Science and Innovation. This agency recently approved a Gender Equality Plan.  Victoria Ley, Head of the evaluation and monitoring department, will share the content of the GEP as well as the context and process to get it approved.

The second part of the webinar will be devoted to questions and answers and exchanges with the participants.

The participation to the webinar is open to everyone; prior registration is required via the online registration form.

2021-01-15T10:57:42+02:00January 13th, 2021|Tags: , , , , |

In support of gender rights and academic freedoms: our solidarity statement


By the SUPERA Consortium

We, members of the EU-funded SUPERA initiative, express our deepest concern for the reiterated and coordinated attacks on gender rights and academic freedoms in several EU member States such as Hungary, Poland or Romania, and our most resolute support to those who, from the civil society or the institutions, defend the values of gender equality and non- discrimination and the rule of Law enshrined in EU treaties.

We manifest our strongest solidarity with women-led strikes in Poland and our firmest contempt for the attempts to undermine gender equality, gender rights – including the rights of LGBTQ persons and sexual and reproductive rights, as well as free speech and the freedom of research at universities in any member state of the European Union and beyond.

Those rights and freedoms are fundamental to open, democratic and diverse societies, and should be firmly defended wherever threatened.

Read and download the solidarity statement.

2020-11-30T18:57:21+02:00November 30th, 2020|Tags: , , , |

Experience exchange between Research Funding Organisations: register to the webinars

Among RFOs, there is an increasing interest on the design and implementation of measures to improve the impact of their funding schemes on gender equality. Sometimes these measures may take the form of a Gender Equality Plan, or of a policy, or other individual measures.

SUPERA is launching a series of webinars and online workshops to facilitate experience exchanges between Research Funding Organisations (RFOs) that develop – or plan to develop – a Gender Equality policy.

The first two webinars will take place on 13 and 18 November, 2020. Each webinar has a 90 minute duration and starts with two RFOs that explain their experience linked to the theme of the webinar. This is followed by a 40-minute Q&A and exchanges with the audience.

Webinar #1 – 13 November 2020 from 10:00 to 11:30 am CET
Gender Equality in RFOs, two experiences
Experiences from the Autonomous Region of Sardinia (RAS) and the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) on the steps in developing a comprehensive policy.

Click here for the registration form.

Webinar #2 – 18 November 2020 from 10:00 to 11:30 am CET
How can RFOs fight gender bias
Experiences from French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) and the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic (TA CR) on measures to avoid gender bias.

Click here for the registration form.

To complete and enhance these initiatives, Yellow Window developed a tool that brings together resources and examples of measures that RFOs can take (and in several cases are already taking). The tool follows the typical journey or cycle of a call for proposals and is available as a web page at this link and as a board on Miro at this link.

Overcoming gender gaps in research funding organisations: RAS approves its Gender Equality Plan

Autonomous Region of Sardinia core team

The Regional Programming Centre of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia directly supervises and manages the regional funds for research and innovation. These funds finance basic research projects, young researchers and the investments in support of the innovation system. These functions and responsibilities of the Sardinia Region are carried out on the basis of a specific law, the Regional Law n. 7/2007, in favor of research and innovation, which currently has no any reference to gender policies. Therefore, the objective of the RAS in the activities within SUPERA project has been focused on creating an operational tool aimed at intervening on gender issues in the research field in Sardinia: the Gender Equality Plan (or GEP).

With the goal of building a GEP that could have the most effective impact, RAS started its activities by verifying the possible existence of a gender gap in the provision of resources to support research. The aim was to give indications to the policy maker and to create a favorable environment for the access to resources.

Specifically, this first phase was carried out following three guidelines:

1) ANALYSIS. This step concerns: the reference regulatory framework; the scope of applicability of the gender discipline in the research field; gender differences in the provision of grants for the implementation of research projects.

2) LISTENING. A shared and participatory path has been started among regional stakeholders on gender issues. The goal was to bring together in a hub the internal and external stakeholders, capable of providing data, suggestions and ideas useful for the drafting of the GEP. So far, the following external stakeholders participated in the hub: the Department of General Affairs and Personnel of the Sardinia Region, the agency Sardegna Ricerche, the Regional Councilor for equality, the Regional Commission for equal opportunities, Giulia Giornaliste, Corecom Sardegna, the Equality Councilor of the Metropolitan City of Cagliari and the Formez PA. This phase is dynamic as the hub is always open to the adhesions of new members. The stakeholders will support the GEP throughout its implementation phase.

3) OBJECTIVES. The definition of the objectives of the GEP led to the drafting of the Plan.

The first objective identified by the GEP is to bring about a structural change in the approach to gender issues in the Sardinia Region. Within the actions carried out to achieve this goal, it is important to emphasise the inclusion of the SUPERA principles in the PRS – Piano Regionale di Sviluppo (RDP – Regional Development Plan) 2020-2024. The RDP is the five-year regional planning document that defines the strategies and policies that Sardinia intends to implement over the course of the legislature. Consequently, the inclusion of SUPERA in the Plan represents a clear political commitment on the part of the President of the Region and his Council towards gender policies.

The second objective of the GEP is focused on Regional Law 7/2007 and it is intended to introduce corrective actions aimed at guaranteeing gender equality within the calls for basic research.

The third objective recalls the results of the descriptive analysis and the suggestions of stakeholders within the project hub. In particular, it considers the criticalities of the system of evaluation of research projects, which is not very sensitive to gender issues.

In conclusion, it is emphasised again that the GEP is conceived as a dynamic and constantly evolving tool, which can always lead to positive updates. Its structure has been defined by using the Logical Framework Approach (LFA) and indicates objectives, actions and indicators providing for appropriate actions throughout the life span of SUPERA.

The RAS Gender equality plan is available at this link.

Working conditions, time usage and academic performance in Covid-19 times: preliminary UCM survey results

Maria Bustelo, Paula de Dios Ruiz and Lorena Pajares – Universidad Complutense de Madrid

As part of the planned work at the SUPERA project, the UCM team had started to design a study on gender roles and academic time usage when the Covid-19 crisis broke out, last March. This initial idea turned into a specific survey of how gender roles apply to situations of lockdown for academics and researchers. In May 2020, a survey on working conditions, academic time usage and academic performance during the Covid-19 crisis was designed, and in June 2020 it was launched at the Complutense University of Madrid with a high response rate: more than 27% of the total Faculty Population, reaching almost 1.600 responses.

The preliminary results are clear in confirming strong gender roles’ segregation in academic time usage & performance, and significant differences between female and male academics in many of the studied variables. Moreover, these differences have aggravated and increased during the pandemic, while in general female faculty have experienced a significantly harder time working remotely during the Spring confinement than their male counterparts.

The presentation shows some preliminary results related to the fact that female faculty staff have experienced a much harder time during the lockdown than their male colleagues. For example, women show significant differences in claiming that they have felt more sadness, preoccupation, anxiety and stress, feeling overwhelmed, and of losing control than men. Also women ranked significantly higher in working at unusual hours, in having difficulties for working without being interrupted, and in using concentrating on work as a way of dealing with the situation. Men claim more than women that they have taken advantage of the lockdown to catch up with academic work.

Differences in time devoted by women and men to care and domestic work have been aggravated during lockdown. Gender roles in academic work are not only confirmed before the pandemic, but also aggravated during lockdown: women claimed to devote more time to class preparation and to students’ attention, and men to writing and sending to publish papers/articles.

Regarding the academic time usage perception, before lockdown females claimed to devote slightly less weekly time than men to academic work (approx. 20 minutes less), but during lockdown figures reversed, claiming women one hour and a half more weekly than men.

Further analyses are being performed by the SUPERA-UCM team, who is also working, along with the Gender Equality Nodes Network at the UCM, on the development of recommendations and proposals for actions to be integrated as part of the upcoming GEP.

Short outline of the first results (presentation on SlideShare).

Video of the presentation of the first survey results, given by Maria Bustelo (Associate professor of Political science and Public administration at UCM and SUPERA Coordinator).

2020-11-26T13:02:43+02:00November 3rd, 2020|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Design, discuss, approve! The path of UNICA towards the GEP publication

Ester Cois and Luigi Raffo, University of Cagliari. Interview by Paola Carboni

In the meetings of June 29th and 30th, 2020 the Academic Senate and the Board of the University of Cagliari approved the Gender Equality Plan designed in the framework of SUPERA. Now the GEP is available as an open access book at this link. Here’s the main highlights of the process that led to such an important milestone.

The process of design of the UNICA gender equality plan started with a baseline assessment of gender equality within the institution, in early 2019. Can you give us some details of the situation at the time of the assessment?

Since the beginning of the process aimed at involving the University of Cagliari as a whole in the development of its Gender Equality Plan, the UNICA core team has been able to contact all the types of stakeholders at the various levels of the organisation: from the top positions of the administrative structure, up to the teaching and research staff, the technical staff and the wide community of students. Every kind of interaction with the different categories of employees and students at UNICA has provided an opportunity to register many forms of resistance, with respect to the issue of improving gender equality within the organisation, but in general their frequency and tenor have been lower than we initially expected, probably due, above all, to the institutional support formally offered by the University’s governing bodies, on which the SUPERA project has always been able to count, starting from the endorsement expressed by the Rector in all the phases of the work carried on so far. It is therefore important to distinguish between the institutional level and the individual and occasional level: while in the first case there have been no explicit or implicit obstacles to the efficient development of the work conducted by the UNICA Core Team, some resistances have been instead expressed at the level of the single individuals involved in various forms in these early stages of the project.

Specifically, there have been three main relevant touch-points with regard to resistances: the documentary analysis related to the current rules and policies on gender equality in the University of Cagliari (when the administrative and executive officers did not express any form of resistance, rather being fully collaborative and effective in transmitting the requested documents); the collection of quali-quantitative administrative data related to the four thematic key-areas of the baseline assessment (when the staff of the various Departments contacted didn’t expressed as well any kind of resistance, neither explicit nor implicit, showing an excellent collaboration and an enthusiastic attitude to make themselves useful for the completion of the required task); the completion of the qualitative questionnaire on gender equality by the teaching and administrative-technical staff and by the students’ body, which was the only event in which several types of resistances emerged, on the individual level, although we can consider the response rate to the Survey quite satisfactory: respectively 29% of the teaching and administrative staff and 9% of the students.

We do not have enough information to infer that the asymmetry between females and males in the completion of the questionnaire among the students’ body (72% vs 28%) can necessarily identify a gender bias with respect to the interest in this matter. In the same way, it is not possible to surely assume that the distrust towards the anonymity guaranteed by the tool may have played a role in retaining a part of the population contacted to complete the survey (especially in the teaching and technical-administrative staff). From this point of view, we were in fact prepared to distinguish a gender-related resistance to other types of resistance, which in this case could simply be due to the fear of being identified after expressing opinions or declaring personal experiences on sensitive issues. In any case, detecting the resistances has been a useful starting point to understand where and how to focus the actions and strategies necessary to develop an approach as participatory as possible in the co-creation of the GEP, on different levels: in the first instance, starting with the involvement of the Hub as a support, advice and expertise channel within the various areas of UNICA as an institution; secondly, it has been important to correctly identify all types of resistances with respect to the issues related to gender equality, because failing in recognizing these critical nodes could have also blocked the subsequent implementation of the GEP throughout UNICA as an organisation.

So, beside its main goal, the baseline assessment was an interesting moment to understand if and how our institution was able to collect important gender related data, cross information from different database that usually don’t talk to each other. It was not a straightforward procedure, but we obtained the data and now we know how to automate such process.

The GEP design has not been a top-down process, but rather a participative one. Which parts of the university community were involved? Was this a positive experience from your point of view?

The SUPERA core team of UNICA has a quite large size: fifteen people with different background and responsibility. This aspect gave us the opportunity for starting the process internally, but we obtained important inputs from several working groups on specific topics, in the form of four fab labs:  two of them involved administrative staff to discuss the issues related to work-life balance,  the third involved Ph.D. students to discuss about career progression, and the last one was with assistant professors and dealt with sexual harassment. We preferred fab labs to online platforms as tools to guarantee inclusiveness and maximize the participation of representatives of the whole research and academic community in the decision-making process. We also organised several meetings with the SUPERA Hub, a structure foreseen by the project which, in our case, is composed by 12 people with roles at the top of UNICA organigram. The people we involved represent the complete community of UNICA, though for the next activities we want to enlarge the participation of students, that we involved so far only during the preliminary survey and through their Senate/Board representatives.

Gender-disaggregated data collection and management have the first place among the GEP actions. Can you provide us some examples of what can be achieved if data about staff, students and research products are collected using this method?

The disaggregation of data by gender is a first step to detect, both in terms of snapshot of the current situation and in terms of trends to be monitored for the near future, the persistent asymmetries with respect to career mechanisms in the university, or even with respect to the perception of the perspectives opened by their degree courses by male and female students. Mechanisms that cannot be explained by aggregate numbers.
For example, with regard to the enhancement of the skills acquired in their degree course and the perceived encouragement to undertake a future congruent profession, slight but significant differences persist between male and female students, given that less than 30% of the former declared having perceived a differentiated treatment in this sense compared to 40% of the girls.

What is the purpose of the mentoring activities and why are they important in a GEP?

Mentoring activities by senior colleagues are useful to ensure that junior academics’ personal goals are consistent with the institution’s expectations. Many studies have shown that female researchers are less productive than their male counterparts. For example, for Italy, we suggest to read the article by Marianna Filandri and Silvia Pasqua “Being good isn’t good enough: gender discrimination in Italian academia” (2019).

Quoting their words, “gender differences in publication output could explain the lower percentage of women among associate and full professors in Italian universities. If this were the case, there would be no gender discrimination and policies should be promoted to sustain women’s research activity. A second possible explanation of the gender gap in Italian academia could be women’s reluctance to apply for promotion. Previous literature has shown that women are less self-confident than men and therefore are less likely to apply for high-responsibility jobs and career advancement, and, specifically for academia. Again, if this were the case, we could not claim that gender discrimination exists and policies to sustain female researchers through mentoring should be promoted”. Therefore, the planning within our GEP aimed at supporting female researchers’ careers through mentoring activities, through the identification of peers within all structures, appears as a valid tool to reduce the asymmetry of opportunities that bind women more in reaching top positions.

Family-friendly policies always have a central role in gender-equality policies in the workplace. Which is the situation in UNICA and which further improvements can be achieved with the actions contained in the GEP?

UNICA complies with Italian legislation on compulsory maternity leave and optional leave for biological and adoptive parents (Paternity leave, parental leave, rest for breastfeeding, child sick leave). Detailed information on any type of leave is available at the university website in transparency handbooks, which clarify that after a first period of parental leave (30 days for Admin staff and 45 days for Faculty members) there is a cut in salary, which drops to 30% of the full amount. As confirmed by interviews with the Personnel office and by administrative data at hand, parental leave is not used by Faculty members. In the period under our first review for the baseline assessment report, only 3 women have ever opted for parental leave, and in the same period 29 women (about 7.8% of the total) were absent due to compulsory maternity leave. Among technical and administrative staff there is a higher use of parental leave: about 4% of men and 13% of women used it, and in the same period 27 women (5% of the total) were absent due to compulsory maternity leave.

Since 2015, UNICA is committed to pursuing family-friendly policies, whose direct beneficiaries are students and personnel. We can mention, for example, the Baby-Card (Tessera Baby) and Pink Room (Stanza Rosa) projects that aim to promote study and work-life balance. There is evidence of a gradual but steady process of institutional learning within the domain of family-friendly policies. The ultimate goal of promoting gender equality, both in terms of quality of services offered and quantity of potential beneficiaries involved, can be achieved only through the constant monitoring of the ways in which these practices are implemented. The collection of administrative data about the number of potential beneficiaries, the actual use of the services and the dissemination of transparent information about the services to prospective and current students are essential for estimating the effect of the policy and suggesting further improvements.

During the designing of our GEP, we have explored the individual experiences of work-life balance policies and tools set out by the University for its staff and students. Nearly 70% of staff respondents share household chores and childcare duties with their partner. Among them, the large majority (nearly 70%) said there was a largely unbalanced division of those duties, a result that is in line with a well-known picture of gender asymmetry in the division of household work in Italy, where men’s contributions are among the lowest in Europe. Clearly, there are exceptions to the rule, and changes are evident among younger, better educated generations. Women’s greater family duties and responsibilities explain why female staff say they have turned down more often than their male colleagues an appointment or other professional growth opportunities (22% and 10% respectively).

Among students, 16% of respondents to our preliminary survey said they shared household or family chores with their partner (351 students, of whom 76% females and 24% males). Gender division of household work seems more balanced among these students, perhaps due to their belonging to younger population cohorts, compared with those of staff respondents, responding to social pressure to have greater symmetry in gender and family roles. Less than one out of four students stated they perceived a marked imbalance in the distribution of household chores, with a prevalence of female students (27%) compared to male students (18%). A similar finding also applies to caring for children and other family members, both with regard to the limited percentage of those saying they experience an asymmetry in their distribution on the basis of gender (17% of respondents), and to the gap in this regard between female students (20%) and male students (7%).

One of the main objectives of our GEP is obviously to contribute reducing the initial gaps as much as possible, and to enrich existing strategies to favor work-family reconciliation. Just to mention one of the actions envisaged in this direction, we included in the GEP a support to people returning to work after a leave, aimed at maintaining the career path, through the definition of an internal regulation that establishes dedicated reductions in the workload and specific evaluation criteria (in the case of personnel subject to evaluation) for workers who return to work after the birth or adoption of a child or after a period of illness.

Among the actions of the GEP, training has its place and relevance. Which are the goals of this training that will address decision makers, researchers and students?

The objectives in this area aim at mainstreaming Gender Equality at the institutional level: the inclusion of Gender Equality issues in the organisation structure and in the strategic planning and mission of the University, the implementation of gender-specific measures and practices, and the revision of existing procedures in which Gender Equality issues should be considered. From this point of view, our GEP has identified the need of offering training to the staff in leadership positions, including the training for the mentors. But also training and guidance activities addressed to academic staff and students to deconstruct gender bias and promote a gender inclusive work and study environment; or regular training sessions for research staff to add a gender perspective in their work in any disciplinary field.

Which is the role of gender-sensitive communication in a cultural change for gender equality?

Managing the communication of a research institution is a multi-faceted challenge. Universities are, at the same time, learning environments, places where scientific research takes place and workplaces for large communities of human beings. Teaching, research, outreach, public engagement, fundraising, promoting enrolments, establishing partnerships are only some of the tasks a university must manage according to its mission and values. Nevertheless, universities must act as places where knowledge can be developed and shared at the highest levels, ensuring academic freedom and visibility to all the actors involved, including the less represented within the framework of inclusion, for example because of their gender. In this sense, universities play a fundamental role in communication the importance of the principles of equity, inclusion and enhancement of differences in their messages and organisational behavior. See also the Guidelines for gender-sensitive communication in research and academia, developed within SUPERA.

Can you give us some examples of how an integration of gender contents in research can be performed? And in teaching?

Understanding that any research oriented to people needs or behaviour has a gender dimension is not easy and it is not easy to explain it to people, like researchers, that are rightly proud of their intellectual freedom. The same happens for professors about the freedom of building the syllabus of their courses. Examples can change their point of view, and there are plenty of them, for example in the unsuspected field of Artificial Intelligence. The presence of its results in daily life is pervasive, so there are many examples easy to understand. Since this field is largely dominated by male researchers, even limited changes can have a large impact and can lead to large improvements. With regard to teaching, we decided to work at voluntary level, creating discussion groups for professors interested to give space to gender related dimension in their syllabus, for example with regard to the proportion of female authors mentioned in their bibliographic references.

When can we expect to appreciate the first outcomes of the GEP actions? Which is the timeframe of the initiatives?

Our GEP is composed of 32 actions to be completed before the end of 2024. However, it is foreseen that a large number of these actions will give results already before. In particular several informative events (like courses for PhD students) will be already active from the next year.

2020-11-07T12:28:30+02:00October 26th, 2020|Tags: , , , |

The Gender Equality Plan of the University of Cagliari now released in open access

In June 2020, the University of Cagliari has approved its first gender equality plan. Now the full document has been published by UNICApress, the University publishing house, and it’s available online in italian at this link.

2020-10-07T13:15:22+02:00October 6th, 2020|Tags: , , , |

Return to “normalcy”? Gender-sensitive policies for institutional change after the Covid-19 crisis

By Francisco Rodrigues, Center for Social Studies – University of Coimbra

The escalation of the COVID-19 crisis into a global pandemic brought about unique set(s) of circumstances and resulted into a period of uncertainty and inconvenience, as the paradigm of social and professional relations quickly shifted.

Much has been written and discussed about the possibilities of accelerating progress on various fronts, by capitalizing on the adaptations and solutions brought about by this new reality. The same logic can be applied to the higher education context and gender equality, by recognizing and understanding the many issues, both new and old, that the current crisis brings (see, for example, Malisch et al, 2020), in order to identify any windows of opportunity that may exist.

Uncertainty, by its essence, raises questions. Combined with inconvenience in the form of loss, harm, or drawbacks, it may become the incentive for the development of answers: solutions towards effectiveness, comfort, productivity and the overall betterment of the situation.

Communication technologies in general, and the Internet in particular, have been instrumental in the development of the current workplace, as their ever-growing ability to communicate instantly, more effectively, and providing tools to solve more complex problems is the defining feature of the present moment in almost every sector of activity. However, there is an inescapable lag between technological development and its widespread use.

Many higher education institutions are clear examples of this, integrating newer technologies  at slower paces due to  a variety of factors, such as scale – large numbers of staff and students; internal variability – multiple campuses, units, types of staff and areas of activity; non-profit purpose – making funding and liquidity dependent on external sources; and traditional organizational structures – bureaucratic and hierarchical, with multiple governing bodies and levels of autonomy.

E-learning is an interesting example, an area that has been in development and that became mandatory during the pandemic. Since it has not been a priority in many institutions, responses were varied in terms of quickness, quality and sustainability. In general, there seem to be two main takeaways: one negative, as the immediate surge of demand presented issues of inequality and inclusivity beyond the inter-institutional. Within institutions, systems and procedures had to support a much greater variety of student and teacher contexts (gendered family structures and responsibilities, disparate internet access and digital competencies, disabilities and impairments…) at the risk of deepening existing inequalities. One positive, as it highlighted that physical proximity is not a requirement for quality education, as long as teaching and assessment solutions are aptly adapted. Information technologies have been organically gaining ground and have proven to be a powerful tool that can be used strategically to improve the quality, inclusivity and sustainability of the higher education sector.

In tandem, work-life balance provisions, a cornerstone of feminist approaches to gender equality in higher education (and the workplace in general) became a topic of public concern and debate. On one hand, the viability of telework and flexible work schedules for many roles was demonstrated when people were forced to work from home. On the other hand, this was far from an idyllic scenario, as it gave way to generalized negative tendencies (EC, 2020 ; Rodier, 2020) and specific problems, such as the steep decline in the submission of scientific papers by female authors (and sometimes an increase in male authorship), suggesting that the domestic workload became an even greater burden for women, leaving less time for research activities (Vicent-Lamarre, Sugimoto, Larivière, 2020). Once again, this double-edged sword may be positively thrusted, as the discussion on ways to move forward unravels and gains institutional and political traction, with efforts towards swift and effective solutions (Vargas Llave, Weber, 2020).

As a final remark, specifically towards the development of post-COVID gender sensitive policies, it should also be noted that in a return to “normalcy”, the gendered dynamic will not be the same in regards to multiple variables, such as the constant presence of children at home, homeschooling, mental health, free time use. This means measures and strategies developed to take into account the COVID confinement are likely suitable for future scenarios that are not as extreme. Therefore, if upcoming policy changes are done taking into account this experience and gender equality aspects, they may be transformed into opportunities to advance gender mainstreaming, both in the particular effects of the COVID pandemic and transversal issues, making institutions more resilient to future social crises.

Workshop on gender equality plans and structural change in Horizon Europe

Lucy Ferguson, Workshop Rapporteur

In the last face-to-face event many of us attended before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation hosted a workshop on “Fostering institutional change through Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) and the way forward towards Horizon Europe” on 4thMarch in Brussels. The workshop was attended by a range of participants involved in structural change projects across the EU, including project coordinators, evaluators and team members, with the aim of strengthening gender equality provisions in the future EU funding programme Horizon Europe, building on a series of co-creation and outcomes of consultation with stakeholders. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge our Italian colleagues who were unable to join in person, and connected from home, in a way that we would all come to know as normal in the months that followed. This article highlights some of the main discussions and recommendations. A full workshop report will also be published by the European Commission later this year, along with an in-depth analytical review of structural change for gender equality in research and innovation.

Opening the workshop, Jean-Eric Paquet, Director-General, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission highlighted that all public institutions will be required to design and implement a gender equality plan in order to be eligible for funding under the Horizon Europe Framework Programme. Mina Stareva, Head of Sector Gender, E5-Democracy & European values, DG Research and Innovation outlined the key pillars of Horizon Europe and how provisions for gender equality have been strengthened at the level of implementation and targeted support, and invited participants to be “bold, frank, direct and ambitious” in their contributions. Invited speaker Marcela Linkova, Coordinator of the GENDERACTION project, noted that this is a very exciting time for people working on structural change, particularly for countries that are less advanced in gender equality in research and innovation.

Following in-depth discussions of key questions, recommendations were developed in three areas. In terms of implementing gender equality plans and good practices, recommendations included: embed a focus on the process in structural change projects – participation, ownership and reflexivity; spread responsibility for GEP implementation across the whole institution in order to increase accountability for successes and failures; and develop support structures for core teams in the form of time and resources, as well as make such work visible within the overall academic culture. Recommendations to further gender equality plans included: develop synergies between the Research and Innovation Framework Programme and Structural Funds; engage civil society more substantively in structural change in research and innovation, in particular in relation to SDG 5; and consider how to strategically engage the private sector in funding aspects of GEP implementation. Finally, the participants discussed how to support gender equality plans, such as: establish a Competency Centre on Gender with an integrated Helpdesk and capacity development component; and set up a Gender Equality Taskforce to facilitate regular contact between relevant actors and stakeholders.

Three over-arching take-away messages were drawn from the workshop discussions. First, the need to focus on process, not outcomes.  Second, the importance of a reflexive approach. Third, the value of participation in building consensus and ownership for gender equality across an institution. Fourth, the need to explicitly acknowledge the highly political and politicised nature of structural change.

In conclusion, participants agreed that ongoing mutual learning and critical reflection – both within research and innovation and more broadly in other fields – are the key to ensuring that structural change for gender equality in Horizon Europe is transformative and sustainable.

Decentralized pathways for the integration of a gender dimension in R&E at the University of Coimbra

Francisco Rodrigues, CES-UC

The UC SUPERA team has been in direct connection with the rectorate from the beginning of the project, and more so since the transition from the baseline assessment to GEP design and subsequent implementation strategies.

Although central support and a reliable working relation are fundamental for the success of the project, this is not the most streamlined approach in the initial stages of implementation. The formal approval process is complex, requiring input from a myriad of relevant stakeholders and decision-making bodies.

For that reason, but primarily to create a decentralized platform that enables the development of specific solutions within the diverse contexts in UC, we adopted a sort of centrifugal approach. This means securing institutional backing at the highest level and leveraging it to capitalize on the various levels of autonomy within the University’s structures. The cornerstone of this approach are Focal Points for the main Research and Education Units, as they were nominated by the respective unit Directors following a direct request at a Senate session. Through capacity-building for gender mainstreaming, providing its members with adequate competencies and data on the institution’s state-of-play, such a network enables the detection and maximization of windows of opportunity for institutional change, not only at the Unit level.

As these Units enjoy scientific and pedagogical autonomy, the integration of a gender dimension benefits from this platform. Directly, it has so far led to the proposal of a seminar for final-year medicine students on gender biases in medicine (teaching, research and practice), as the Focal Point for the Faculty of Medicine identified a window of opportunity in the restructuring of that curriculum. Even though the current public health crisis postponed this process for a year, we are confident that the seminar will be integrated and work in tandem with ongoing parallel efforts in other contexts, while inspiring similar initiatives throughout the University.

Although that is encouraging, more tangible achievements have come from a different source within that decentralized approach. Shortly after confinement was imposed, we were contacted by the recently created Strategic Areas Unit, which sought to encourage female academics to apply for ERC grants. This team had come to us through the Focal Point of the larger Unit it is lodged in, the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research.

Due to the nature of the Institute and the Strategic Areas Unit, they work directly under the supervision of the Vice-Rector for Research. This allowed for that initial contact to blossom into a fully-fledged for the integration of the gender dimension in the UC’s scientific outputs and subsequent betterment of its scientific production.

This initiative entails a number of activities: a EEA grant application for combatting gender-based discrimination; the gender-sensitive revision of research-funding applications produced in the UC; the construction of a repository of relevant resources and inspiring practices with regards to the integration of a gender dimension in research; a communication campaign for the encouragement of academic excellence of researchers of the underrepresented sex in various fields and the development of a training course on the integration of the gender dimension in research, directed to researchers on all levels and fields, designed to take advantage of existing gender competencies throughout the fields and enlarging the group of gender-sensitive researchers (first edition scheduled for mid-September). This cooperative relation is promising for sustainable gender mainstreaming in the University’s scientific activities, as it is grounded on top-level strategic commitment, as well as the devotion of the supervising research structure’s resources.

The instances described are illustrations on the benefits of a decentralized approach, particularly in topic as varied and difficult to implement as integrating the gender dimension in research. For the UC SUPERA team, the most relevant takeaway from this experience is that investing in the embracement of a large and diverse number of stakeholders is complicated, time-consuming, and therefore often frustrating, but gratifying when it is time for returns, as they signify impactful and structural change.