From training the trainers to training the community: the experience at CES-UC

By Cláudia Araújo, Universidade de Coimbra

Throughout the duration of SUPERA, all Consortium members devoted significant efforts to training and capacity building, as, from the beginning, our project was about improvement: improving our institutions, improving the wellbeing of our communities, but also improving ourselves, as academics and as human beings. Our starting point at CES-UC was one of general lack of awareness and expertise on gender equality in academia by key stakeholders, as well as absence of institutional action or mandate in pursuing gender equality, so we were aware that our work would necessarily include training and capacity building.
The participatory approach to these activities developed in the Consortium was a fundamental step in pursuing this multifaceted improvement.

Training the trainers
Although the core team at CES-UC was well versed in gender equality in higher education institutions, and experienced in delivering training, participation in the first training sessions organised within the Consortium constituted a much-valued opportunity for obtaining new skills and gaining new insights. We appreciated the hands-on approach to acquiring knowledge, the experienced gained on working with an array of participatory techniques that we then applied in our own university, and enjoyed mobilising our creativity to design collective outcomes that could be adapted to our own institutional context. It was also an opportunity to engage partners from the University’s central services that would be able to multiply efforts across our organisation: for example, the HR Officer, selected with the purpose of fostering her ability to incorporate GE in her work, as well as her engagement with GEP implementation or the Head of the Planning Division, whose in-depth practical knowledge about the structures and procedures of the institution made him a valuable asset for foreseeing and navigating resistances.

These training sessions were also excellent opportunities to build a more personal relationship with the teams from the other universities, research funding organisations and expert partners. The added value of the personal interconnections built during these sessions cannot be understated: as we faced challenges, resistances and difficulties during the implementation of the project, we knew we could benefit, from the start, from a strong inter-institutional support network that we could rely upon – even in such unprecedented pandemic times.

We also took part in training sessions promoted by sister projects, such as the GE Academy, that were also valuable in enriching our experiences and building our capacities to pass on valuable knowledge to our own community at CES-UC, but also to network and expand our horizons.

Training the community
The Supera team at CES-UC run multiple training sessions, workshops and co-creation actions since Supera’s inception. We chose to articulate traditional exposition-based training with co-creation techniques, as that stood as the most appropriate path for our institution. That allowed us to provide innovative spaces of knowledge creation, with the participation of multiple members of the academic community: students, research and teaching staff, technical and administrative staff, and institutional leaders. We were thus able to create participatory venues where they were lacking, and support participants’ efforts in co-designing solutions for complicated gendered problems, that we then streamlined to decision-makers in the university, in the form of specific recommendations/ guidelines/ checklists. This practice also created a much valued avenue of engagement and open discussion, enabling further networking for gender equality across the institution.

This alliance-building and stakeholders empowering work was rewarding for both trainers and trainees, and the multiplying effects of the sessions cannot be diminished. We received very good feedback from our participants, who often returned for subsequent sessions with different topics and recruited colleagues and friends to join them. But these sessions also constituted a great opportunity for the Core team to reflect on its own ability to create impact, and to find support and encouragement in the interpersonal connections that were built during these encounters.

In lieu of a conclusion: training and capacity building for GEP design, implementation and monitoring
Training and capacity building are fundamental for structural change, and efforts devoted to these activities were crucial in all steps of GEP creation and implementation at CES-UC. In GEP design, there was, firstly, a need for relevant stakeholders to embrace the pursuit of gender equality as essential for a fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable institution; secondly, ownership of the GEP would be deeper if said stakeholders were involved in its design. It was to these two dimensions that the team at CES-UC firstly devoted its training efforts, which were continued through the inclusion in the GEP itself of a number of training and capacity building actions encompassing all publics that make up the academic community, devoted to a variety of themes that stood up as particularly relevant during the initial assessment (i.e., inclusive communication, recruitment and promotion, integration of the gender perspective in research and teaching content). What is more, the importance of gender analysis in monitoring and reporting were also part of the general capacity building for gender equality promoted by the Core team at the University of Coimbra.

In addition, the sessions were also an important avenue for members of the Gender Equality Hub and other interested parties to gather – in person or online – in a safe environment, and discuss how they could enhance their own work towards gender equality, often in connection to actions included in the GEP that they could pursue in their faculties or units/divisions. Training, then, was a catalyst for networking, lobbying, finding collective answers to institutional resistances, and support for initiatives taken. Human connections were built and, we like to believe, friendships were created. In that sense, SUPERA training sessions became community-building moments, with a focus on the promotion of Gender Equality.

As we move towards the end of SUPERA, we build on those connections as an essential takeaway from our hard work, and are certain our experience does not differ dramatically from that of other members of the consortium. As our final conference approaches, we look forward for another valuable moment of learning and sharing with the people who accompanied us through this journey, in the certainty that it will not be our last encounter.

2022-03-02T10:52:14+02:00March 2nd, 2022|Tags: , , , |

Gender@UC & SUPERA: the University of Coimbra at the European Researchers Night

By Claudia Araùjo, Universidade de Coimbra

On September 24th, the SUPERA team at the University of Coimbra participated in the European Researchers Night.

In Coimbra, we organised a spot in one of the busiest streets downtown with another project at the University, GendER@UC EEA Grants, which focus on promoting the integration of the gender perspective in research. We opted for a participatory approach aimed to highlight the importance of gender mainstreaming in higher education, and invited a number of other inspiring gender-sensitive (action)research projects and initiatives rooted or ongoing at the UC to collaborate with us.

We present below the activities developed by each of our partners:

SUPERA – CES/UC

We decided to focus on the importance of the Equality, Equity and Diversity Plan of the University of Coimbra and created both a presentation and an interactive kahoot quiz that we used to engage with our audience. In the quiz, we were able to communicate both the need for Gender Equality Plans in higher education institutions (through questions about horizontal segregation, work-life balance, etc.) and the impact the plan has already had in the leadership structure of the university itself (through questions about the percentage of women in leadership at the UC both before and after the approval of the GEP). We also highlighted, through practical examples, the overarching influence of the GEP, demonstrating as it affects the whole academic community – and also the society as a whole. Another aspect whose importance we reinforced was the importance of using inclusive communication.

Figure 1. The flyer for the Supera & GendER@UC spot at the European Researchers Night

GendER@UC EEA Grants – Institute for Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Coimbra

The project GendEr@UC spoke about the importance of integrating the gender perspective in research content, through a role of examples of projects whose results were skewed due to its absence, as well as those which have successfully integrate gender into the design, analysis and presentation of results, thereby producing more inclusive, realistic, and useful research overall.

Pandemic and Academy at Home – CES/UC

The Pandemic and Academy at Home project proposed an interactive game of questions and answers about the differentiated impacts of the pandemic on the research and teaching activities of women and men in Portugal, as well as questions about the integration of the gender dimension in scientific research and the University of Coimbra.

Glass Frontiers

The Glass Frontiers project proposed an interactive presentation on how gender stereotypes affect educational and professional trajectories of men and women.

Phoenix – Citizens Voices for a Greener Europe

This project, which has recently received a grant from the European Commission, discussed the importance of integrating women in the public discussions on the Green European Deal, in particularly in citizen assemblies, by highlighting the importance of the gender perspective in addressing the climate emergency.

Figure 2. SUPERA in action at the European Researchers Night

It was also important for us to present the work of initiatives currently rooted at the University of Coimbra that are working to break stereotypes and increase the presence of women in scientific areas where they remain underrepresented, so we invited the Coimbra delegations of Women in Engineering and Girls Who Code to collaborate with us. Both were represented by both female and male students, thereby demonstrating that gender equality in higher education concerns both women and men.

 

Women in Engineering

Women in Engineering discussed the importance of including women in engineering and the gender perspective in the work of engineers through interactive quizzes, deconstructing gendered stereotypes that prevail in women’s access to STEM areas.

Girls who Code (As Raparigas do Código)

Girls who Code presented two separate activities – they had an interactive game about Gender in IT professions and brought the theme of stereotypes in artificial intelligence to discussion, an increasingly important issue in the network society, through a practical demonstration on facial recognition.

We were also lucky to count with the collaboration of the State Secretary for Equality, Rosa Monteiro, and the President of the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality, Sandra Ribeiro, who both sent videos in support of our event, and also featured some presentations produced by Journalism and Design students about gender equality at the University of Coimbra and in IT start-ups/companies.

Overall, this was a fantastic opportunity for us to present a collective narrative on why gender needs to be a factor in university governance overall, and we were lucky to spread the message to both the academic community and the general population in the city, including younger people. This was a successful occasion to disseminate our project to an audience that is normally removed from it, and our presentations and practical exercises certainly gave the public some food for thought on Gender Equality.

2021-10-07T17:36:44+02:00October 7th, 2021|Tags: , , , |

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: , , , , , , , , |

COVID-19 impact on gender equality in academia: on 9/06 an online event to present the surveys’ results

Photo by Standsome Worklifestyle, Unsplash

On June 9, 2021 from 4.00 to 5.30 pm CET, the SUPERA core teams from the University of Coimbra, the University of Cagliari and the Complutense University of Madrid will present the results of the study on the gendered impact of COVID-19 carried out in the three respective European universities.

The presentation will be introduced by Jörg Muller, expert in concepts and methods for researching the impact of gender diversity on research performance (Open University of Catalonia), and Nicole Huyghe, an expert in data analytics from a gender perspective (Boobook) will comment on the results; a final session will be devoted to the Q&A by the participants.

The participation to the event is open to everyone but registration is required through the link available here: a Zoom link to join the meeting will be sent a few hours before the start of the event.

For any question or information, please contact us at superaprojectoffice@ucm.es.

Agenda 

  • Welcome by Lut Mergaert, Yellow Window
  • Introduction by Jörg Muller, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
  • Presentations of Results 
    • CES-UC: Mónica Lopes, researcher at the Center for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra 
    • UniCA: Barbara Barbieri, Associate Professor at the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Cagliari
    • UCM: María Bustelo, Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM)
  • Comments on the results by Nicole Huyghe, CEO and founder of Boobook
  • Questions & Answers session by participants
  • Closing

The unequal effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on Portuguese women academics


By Filipa Marques, Sofia Miguel (NOVA University Lisbon) Mónica Lopes (University of Coimbra)

The COVID-19 has caused substantial disruptions to academic activities:

  • Working parents have to balance their time between academic responsibilities, childcare and domestic tasks;
  • Professors have to ensure online lectures for their students, sometimes using pre-recorded lessons, in order to mitigate the distance;
  • Researchers have to adapt to a new reality, which constrains the lab work to a minimum.

The general impact of confinement measures in the academic performance of professors and researchers has been a subject of interest, mainly because most of working professors and researchers are also parents, some with young children in their care. It is a matter of public discussion that COVID-19 is having an uneven influence with those with child/adult care responsibilities – particularly women. Female professors and researchers have been facing more difficulties to publish their research due to the confinement caused by COVID-19, according to data that show that women’s publishing success dropped after schools closed [1, 2]. A recent study indicates a sharp decrease in original research-papers submissions by female researchers in several international journals, during confinement caused by COVID-19 [3]. As the novel virus reveals an endeavour to researchers in the medical and health sciences disciplines, the proportion of published papers in such fields dramatically increased to promptly allow results dissemination. In this regard, female publication success during this period should have increased, not decreased, since women have been increasing their representativeness in these fields [4, 5]. This fact illustrates the confinement effect on women’s publication records and at the preprint and journal submission stages.

In Portugal, COVID-19 has affected professors and researchers similarly, as in other countries, facing the same challenges. Aware of this, SPEAR partner, NOVA University Lisbon, has been laying foundations towards a more equal-opportunities-academic environment that aims to implement gender-sensitive policies and help reduce the institutional gender gap.

The data on the effects of COVID-19 in female academics are still scarce. However, there are two research projects ongoing, specifically devoted to exploring the effects of the pandemic at the national level. The only empirical research already documenting the impact of COVID-19 in the work conditions and academic performance of women in Portuguese research institutions has been carried out by the University of Coimbra, within the framework of the SUPERA project. Based on a survey questionnaire of teaching and research staff, the findings shed light on gender inequalities that are shaping COVID’s impact on working conditions, work-life balance, and academic time usage and efficacy. It has been particularly more difficult to academic women, especially younger mothers in non-tenure-track positions.

In Portugal, academic women seem to be more exposed to not only the severity of psychological/emotional effects of the COVID-19 crisis but also to the increased burden of domestic and care duties during confinement. Moreover, the pandemic appears to affect disproportionately the housework and care routines of women (especially younger academic mothers), as well as the personal routines of female academics, who reported more often a reduction of leisure time during the lockdown.

The increased household and emotional burdens arising from COVID restrictions also affect the work-family negotiations and conflicts, posing differentiated challenges to reconcile the competing time demands of paid work and family. Substantial differences are observed between men and women perceptions of how the pandemic has affected their work. Female academics and academics with young children in the household most frequently emphasise the influence of COVID-19 on the amount of time dedicated to professional work. Moreover, when analysing the changes on time allocation to the various domains of the academic activity, one can observe that the reinforcement of teaching and administrative tasks during the confinement is specially bound to female dedication. In the case of young mothers, the priority given to teaching occurs at the expense of research activities (e.g., manuscript and grant writing, peer review and serving on funding panels) which are critical to career progression.

The study also gives important insights on the extent to which the distinctive burdens imposed by the lockdown to female scientists and scientists with young children impacted academic productivity. Nevertheless, it is too early to get a complete picture of this impact, as the lockdown period has been relatively short compared to normative research timelines. The outputs considered to explore the effects of the pandemic in academic productivity were mainly of scientific character but also connected to pedagogical activities, knowledge transfer and dissemination. When solely considered, neither gender nor parental status significantly affected the changes in academic output observed during the “stay home order”. Nonetheless, when considered in combination, gender and parental status displayed a significant influence in the differences observed between the pre-pandemic and pandemic period, placing female scientists with children up to 12 in a particular disadvantage.

Moreover, women without children and men with and without children have increased their output submission during the confinement, whereas younger academic mothers faced an inverse trend. This difference may further aggravate the gap between men and women, as said institutions have an increasingly research-oriented strategy. This may translate into a significant disproportion of the performance management policies regarding tenure, recognition and promotion since most academic careers evolve directly from strong publication records and academic performance [6].

Although limited in scale and scope, this study provides sound quantitative evidence highlighting gender disparities in how the pandemic has affected the scientific workforce in Portugal. Academic institutions and funding organisations should consider the inequalities regarding not only academic productivity but also material and non-material working conditions to put in place some measures. The metrics to assess funding and academic position applications rely on bibliometric indicators that tend to be unidimensional. Therefore, a requirement for academic assessment and monitoring should include institutional measures to promote career development and talent retention, a more diverse and inclusive working environment, and family-friendly policies. These would be important to provide resources for early-career academics, particularly women with young children, to attenuate the negative effects of academic productivity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article is the result of a joint initiative among the H2020 sister projects SPEAR and SUPERA and has been published also on the SPEAR website.

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

By 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.