Activities that pursue greater gender equality in research aim to integrate, whenever relevant, sex and socio-cultural differences in all phases of research. The concept of 'gender' in this context includes not only the socio-cultural but also the biological differences between men and women.
To ensure gender equality in research and to produce better quality research, equal consideration must be given to the life patterns, biological differences, needs and interests of both women and men.
Since sex and socio-cultural differences are fundamental organising features of life and society, recognising these differences has important implications for scientific knowledge.
Ever since the Treaty of Rome, the European Union has consistently advocated gender equality as one of its core policies. Yet, despite the efforts to promote gender in research, women remain under-represented and the issue of gender is far from being systematically addressed in research projects. What's more, there are sound reasons for the research community to invest in a gender-sensitive research agenda. Investing in equal opportunities for men and women in research makes for teams that perform better and attracts top-level researchers. Similarly, investing in a gender-sensitive approach to the research content makes for higher quality and validity.
To further promote gender equality in research, the European Commission's Research and Innovation DG has published a gender toolkit and is supporting training activities. The toolkit and one-day sessions provide the research community with practical guidance on how to integrate gender into research. A first series of training sessions ran from September 2009 till September 2010. Due to the success of this initiative the European Commission has decided to prolong the offer. A second series of trainings will take place between March 2011 and February 2013. Locations are spread across Europe. Participation in a session is free. More information and the training calendar can be found on the project website. Organizations that are interested in hosting a session are invited to email@example.com.
In addition, FP7 supports the work of a gender expert group in various fields of science, technology, medicine and engineering to promote the integration of gender in European research. The objective is to analyse ways in which better gender integration sparks creativity and encourages innovation by opening new perspectives, questions, and ideas for solving the major challenges that the EU has to face. http://www.genderedinnovations.eu
The policy of equal opportunity between men and women is enshrined as one of the European Union's objectives in the Treaty of Lisbon. Articles 2 and 3 state the commitment to gender mainstreaming by establishing equality between men and women as a specific task of the European Community, as well as a horizontal objective affecting all Community tasks. The treaty seeks not only to eliminate inequalities, but also to promote equality.
Under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), the general conditions of standard contracts obliged each contractor to promote equal opportunities between men and women in the implementation of their project. Contractors were required to show how they had taken into account any gender issues associated with the subject of the proposal. Contractors of Integrated Projects (IPs) and Networks of Excellence (NoEs) were also required to include a Gender Action Plan (GAP), setting out specific measures designed to promoted equality within their projects.
GAPs included specific activities designed to address the balanced participation of men and women, to promote gender equality throughout the project, and to address the gender dimension of the research content. In addition, under FP6, evaluators were asked to ascertain whether there was a gender equality aspect in a project and, if so, if it was being adequately addressed. Assessment of gender equality was conducted during FP6 and its predecessor, the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5).