Towards violence-free research organisations: interview with Anne Laure Humbert, UniSAFE project

Anne Laure Humbert, Oxford Brookes Business School, interviewed by Paola Carboni, University of Cagliari

Gender-based violence affects many organisations, with Universities and research organisations making no exception, but despite the scale of the issue, gender-based violence in research organisations is deeply under-reported and under-researched. The UniSAFE H2020 project is conducting the first large-scale study on the topic. Following the joint #SafeResearch4All awareness campaign, we had the pleasure to interview Anne Laure Humbert,  a member of SUPERA international advisory board and also a UniSAFE partner.

In which forms can GBV occur in academic and research environments? Who are the victims and the perpetrators? Are the victims of intersectional discriminations more at risk?
The Istanbul Convention highlights four main forms of gender-based violence: physical, sexual, psychological and economic. In the UniSAFE project, we include all four but also consider other forms of violence relevant to the academic and research context such as sexual and gender harassment. We are also interested in emerging forms of violence, such as those linked to the increase in online activities, or the forms of violence not always recognised as violence such as institutional violence.

The issue of gender-based violence is often conflated with that of violence against women. While men represent the majority of perpetrators of all types of violence, and women are the majority of victims of gender-based violence, suffering disproportionate consequences, it is important to stress that both women and men can be perpetrators and victims. Intersectional factors play an important role besides gender alone. Being non-binary, trans, or from a sexual minority for example can increase exposure to gender-based violence, as does working in more precarious positions or not studying in one’s country of origin.

Is data available on how many people experience harassment and GBV in academia in Europe?
Few data are available
on gender-based violence generally across Europe, with even fewer information available in the context of academic and research institutions. The UniSAFE project will provide the first large-scale study on this topic, providing both quantitative data through a survey carried out in 45 institutions across 15 countries and in-depth qualitative data through case studies of institutional responses in 15 countries and interviews with researchers more at risk of gender-based violence. The project is currently launching a call for researchers having experienced or witnessed gender-based violence at an early-career stage, on a non-permanent contract, or as an internationally-mobile student or staff, to share their experience in an individual interview. Find out more about the interviews.

These results will be contextualised through an extensive mapping of legal frameworks and policies at the national level and within the institutions taking part in the research.
The project has already delivered 33 country reports on national and regional policies on gender-based violence in universities, research institutes and research funding organisations, that are publicly available at this link.

What does it mean to switch from an individualist perspective to an organisational violence perspective?
Gender-based violence should not be understood solely from an individual perspective, where the traits or behaviours of either victims or perpetrators are the focus of attention. Instead, it is important to understand violence as a structural issue, and part of a system that produces and reproduces inequalities between groups, including on the basis of gender. Organisations, such as for example universities, create and uphold the norms that shape this system of inequalities. Studying organisational violence therefore means also putting the focus on the environment, and what it does to enable or challenge gender-based violence at the individual level, but also how it can be violent towards individuals in its own right. This is visible when institutions not only fail victims, but in fact revictimise and blame them in turn rather than address the problem of violence itself.

What are “violence-free” organisations and workplaces?
International standards such as the ILO Convention n.190 recognise the right for individuals to a world of work free from violence and harassment. The UniSAFE project aspires to contribute to the creation of violence-free universities and other research organisations. This can be achieved by developing policies and practices to counter violence, promoting violence-free cultures and enable leaders to support this. It is not only about eradicating different forms of violence, but also about creating and sustaining structural change of an environment where individuals feel – and are – included and safe.

How can a research institution address the issue of GBV, for instance including specific actions in their GEPs? How should institutions challenge the power structures behind GBV?
The Horizon Europe Guidance on Gender Equality Plans – aimed at supporting institutions to meet the Gender Equality Plan (GEP) eligibility criterion of Horizon Europe – recommends five content-related (thematic) areas, including measures against gender-based violence, including sexual harassment. It is likely that this will lead to an increase in the number of institutions in Europe that develop and implement actions to tackle the issue of gender-based violence. A danger, however, is that if this is only done as response to a financial incentive such as access to funding, then it will fail to properly address the power and inequality structures that are at the root of gender-based violence in the first place. It seems that many institutions are realising the extent and importance of the problem as a result of societal campaigns such as #MeToo, but all too often only putting meaningful processes and structures in place in reaction to critical incidents and/or media exposure. On an optimistic note, the UniSAFE will provide many evidence-based tools by the end of 2023 for institutions that seek to eradicate the problem and change their culture, and thus create the shift in power relations that is needed to create inclusive and safe universities and research organisations.

The project’s latest developments are regularly shared on Twitter (@UniSAFE_GBV), LinkedIn, and through a quarterly newsletter to which you can subscribe here.

2022-01-12T17:36:41+02:00November 30th, 2021|Tags: , , , , |

The University of Coimbra approved the Plan for Equality, Equity and Diversity 2019-2023

By Mónica Lopes, Universidade de Coimbra

In April 2021, the University of Coimbra approved its Plan for Equality, Equity and Diversity 2019-2023. It was first drafted by the SUPERA team, based on the results of the participatory gender diagnosis, and further harmonised and framed within the wider institutional strategy for Equality, Equity and Diversity, whose principles were recently endorsed by the UC.

The Plan, chronologically aligned with the 2019-2023 UC Strategic Plan, is both a means and a mechanism for its full implementation. It embraces the vision defined in the Strategic Plan’s Citizenship, Equality and Inclusiveness pillar: “promoting active, enlightened, socially responsible and inclusive citizenship, by preserving the right to have rights, respecting dignity, equality and the right to difference, so that all people can reach their full potential, based on a collective formulation of common goals and challenges”.

The UC’s Plan for Equality, Equity and Diversity 2019-2023 is a comprehensive plan, structured around nine strategic objectives, defined to tackle the challenges identified in the baseline assessment:

  1. Mitigate horizontal segregation, by promoting the integration of women and men in scientific/study areas in which they are underrepresented;
  2. Combat vertical segregation, by removing institutional barriers to career progression and support professional development;
  3. Improve the conciliation and balance between work/study and personal/family life;
  4. Ensure inclusivity in the governing bodies;
  5. Integrate equality, equity and diversity into the University´s structures and policies, ensuring the sustainability of proposed actions;
  6. Integrate a gender perspective and the principles of equality, equity and diversity into all scientific areas, educational and research contents, as a component of academic excellence;
  7. Raise awareness of equality, equity and diversity in the academic community;
  8. Promote inclusion and minorities’ protection policies, prevent discrimination and combat harassment and violence at all levels (sexual, sexist and moral);
  9. Deepen citizenship and equality, by continuously implementing improvement measures.

Each strategic objective is broken down into specific objectives operationalised into 56 measures and initiatives in the action plan, which incorporates different types of activities – data collection and analysis, awareness-raising, capacity-building, and transforming structures and processes. Each strategic objective is associated with a set of measurable goals, representing the expected impacts. Regular monitoring of the Plan’s actions and objectives will be aligned with the monitoring of the UC´s Strategic Plan, and materialised by the assessment of the degree of implementation of activities and the analysis of the outcomes achieved in the corresponding key performance indicators.

Recognising the quality of the UC’s Plan for Equality, Equity and Diversity, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality, Rosa Monteiro, publicly highlighted it as an example to be followed by other Higher Education Institutions: “The first Plan for Equality at the University of Coimbra. This is how an equality plan should be designed. (…)  Well-defined areas and objectives, goals to be met based on clearly stated indicators. A model to be adopted by other plans.” Source: Rosa Monteiro’s Facebook profile

The first Equality Plan of the University of Coimbra is an important milestone in the pathway and commitment to promoting equality in the institution, standing in line with its values, and proactively acting to include its principles in the University´s policies, processes and practices. This commitment results from a perspective of social responsibility, and a commitment to make the most of the privileged role of the University, as an entity which produces and conveys knowledge, in the promotion of a social environment characterized by substantive equality between men and women.

The English version of the Plan is available at this link.

XI European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education: save the date!

The Women and Science Unit of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation and the Ministry of Universities, in cooperation with the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), the Spanish Institute of Women, and the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT), are pleased to invite you to the 2021 Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education: https://www.genderequalityconference2021.com/

The European Conference Gender Equality in Higher Education (GEHE) is an academic forum to communicate new research and analysis on gender and science. These conferences also welcome presentations on the development of gender equality policies as well as on the implementation of gender equality plans in research performing organizations (RPOs) and research funding organizations (RFOs). The topics of the Conference that include a new thematic area on gender, science and COVID-19.

The 11th edition of GEHE was planned to be hosted by the UPM, Madrid, in September 2020 but the pandemic led to postpone the event. The Conference will be online from the 15th to the 17th of September 2021. More than 200 abstracts were already received and evaluated by our international scientific committee last year.

The online edition will include different activities:

  • Plenary conferences by main speakers.
  • Oral communications in parallel sessions.
  • Symposia/workshops.
  • High-level panel as closing event at ETSI Industriales –UPM (live streaming).
  • Online networking activities.

Follow the news on #GEHE2021 in the webpage: https://www.genderequalityconference2021.com

Advancing in gender equality in Spain: the State Research Agency approves its first Gender Equality Plan

By Zulema Altamirano (Women and Science Unit, Ministry of Science and Innovation), Ángela Martínez-Carrasco (Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology), Victoria Ley (State Research Agency). Ph: Daniel Sone, Unsplash

In January 2021, the Governing Board of the State Research Agency of Spain (Agencia Estatal de Investigación- AEI) approved its first Gender Equality Plan (GEP) 2021-2023. As part of SUPERA, the GEP has been developed by the Strategic Group on Gender Equality (GEI-AEI), supported by the Women and Science Unit (UMyC) of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, one of the partners of our project. The GEP represents an effort to systematise and advance in the equality strategies and measures committed to in the Roadmap for the Development of the European Research Area in Spain 2016-2020, while integrating the measures already implemented by the AEI in its calls for proposals.

The GEP design is oriented towards the identification of needs and the implementation of measures to promote effective equality between women and men in R&I funding activities, which is the main mission of the AEI. The GEP includes objectives, specific measures and corrective actions, as well as the timetable for their implementation, which show the commitment of the AEI to promote effective equality between women and men in R&I activities.

Specifically, the objectives of the AEI with the implementation of this plan are:

  • To reduce inequality and under-representation of women in leadership, visibility, recognition and presence in positions of high responsibility in the R&I system, particularly significant in some scientific-technical areas.
  • To mitigate the consequences of possible interruptions in research activity due to maternity and caregiving, especially by young women researchers.
  • To promote the balanced presence of men and women in decision-making bodies and processes related to the evaluation and funding of R&I activities.
  • To incorporate sex and gender variables in proposals and to strength gender perspective in evaluation and monitoring processes.
  • To promote the careers of women researchers, by supporting the balanced presence of women in all activities arising from their research activity, including the leadership as Principal Investigators or their participation in evaluation bodies and processes.
  • To consolidate an organisational culture in the R&I system that is sensitive to gender equality and intolerant of discrimination and harassment based on gender, gender identity or orientation.

To achieve these objectives, the GEP includes, among others, the following measures:

  • To publish a report after the main award resolutions with sex-disaggregated data of the funding actions, among other indicators.
  • To analyse the success rate inequalities in the calls for proposals, identifying the possible causes and designing measures to reduce them.
  • To analyse the application and distribution by sex of the measures designed to mitigate interruptions in the research activity.
  • To design actions and training materials on gender equality and gender bias in evaluation for the staff of the AEI, the technical commissions and the evaluators.
  • To promote gender balance in the selection of evaluators.

The GEI-AEI will collaborate with the UMyC and the SUPERA project in the implementation of the measures included in this plan. In 2023, the GEI-AEI will carry out an independent evaluation of the impact of the GEP measures adopted, as well as additional measures carried out during the implementation period.

The AEI’s GEP is available in English at this link and in Spanish at this link.

2021-03-24T13:42:09+02:00March 23rd, 2021|Tags: , , , , , |

XI European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education: call for abstracts

The Women and Science Unit of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation and the Ministry of Universities in cooperation with the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) and the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) are pleased to announce a new call for abstracts for the 2021 Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education:

https://www.genderequalityconference2021.com/call-for-abstracts/

More than 200 abstracts already received and evaluated in 2020
New deadline for abstracts submission: 24th of March, 2021
See the topics of the Conference that include a new thematic area on gender, science and COVID-19

The European Conference Gender Equality in Higher Education (GEHE) is an academic forum to communicate new research and analysis on gender and science. These conferences also welcome presentations on the development of gender equality policies as well as on the implementation of gender equality plans in research performing organizations (RPOs) and research funding organizations (RFOs).

The 11th edition of GEHE was planned to be hosted by the UPM, Madrid, in September 2020 but the pandemic led to postpone the event. The Conference will be online from the 15th to the 17th of September 2021. More than 200 abstracts were already received and evaluated by our international scientific committee last year. The aim of this new call for abstracts is to give the opportunity to present new research, analysis and experiences from the gender and science community across Europe.

The online edition will include different activities:

  • Plenary conferences by main speakers.
  • Oral communications in parallel sessions.
  • Symposia/workshops.
  • High-level panel as closing event at ETSI Industriales –UPM (live streaming).
  • Online networking activities.

Follow the news on #GEHE2021 in the webpage: https://www.genderequalityconference2021.com

The Central European University GEP now available for download

In May 2020, the Central European University has approved its first gender equality plan. Now the full document is fully available at this link.

Read the interview to Andrea Krizsan, research fellow at CEU’s Center for Policy Studies and Ana Belen Amil, gender equality officer at CEU, about the GEP approval: https://www.superaproject.eu/ceu_gep/

2021-03-25T10:38:00+02:00November 6th, 2020|Tags: , , |

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

By 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.

2021-03-25T12:18:44+02:00November 5th, 2020|Tags: , , , , |

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

By 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.

2021-03-25T10:41:53+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.

2021-03-25T10:42:28+02:00October 6th, 2020|Tags: , , , |

Workshop on gender equality plans and structural change in Horizon Europe

By 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.