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Gender Equality


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The European Commission is committed to promoting gender equality in research and innovation (R&I). It is part of the Commission's Strategic engagement for gender equality in all EU policies for the period 2016-2019. In addition, the EU has a well-established regulatory framework on gender equality, including binding Directives, which apply widely across the labour market including the research sector.

Though gender inequalities in R&I persist, the latest “She Figures” publication shows that some progress has been made, although attrition continues to exist at higher levels of a scientific career. The most recent data indicate that women made up 47% of PhD graduates in the EU (EU-28), but made up only 33% of researchers and 21% of top-level researchers (grade A). It is even lower at the level of heads of institutions with a mere 20 %. These figures show that only limited progress has been made since 2011.

Because of the peculiarities of the research sector, specific action is needed to overcome persisting gender gaps. Gender equality is addressed in European Research and Innovation policy in two different ways: through its main funding instrument Horizon 2020, and within the European Research Area in collaboration with Member States and research organisations. It pursues three objectives, namely:
- gender equality in scientific careers,
- gender balance in decision making, and
- integration of the gender dimension into the content of research and innovation.

Gender equality in the European Research Area (ERA)

Gender equality has been one of the priorities of a “Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth” (ERA) since 2012. To this end, Member States are invited to remove barriers to the recruitment, retention and career progression of female researchers, address gender balance in decision making and strengthen the gender dimension in research programmes. Member States are encouraged to create the appropriate legal and policy environment to incentivise institutional changes in research organisations and correct the remaining gender biases.

In 2013 and 2014 the Commission published an ERA Progress Report, which highlighted the progress made towards the completion of the ERA. The new report will be published towards the end of 2016.

» Council Conclusions on advancing Gender Equality in the ERA

The Council adopted on 1st December 2015 the "Conclusions on advancing Gender Equality in the European Research Area". It calls for cultural and institutional changes to address gender imbalances in research institutions and in decision making-bodies. Member States are invited to set up guiding targets for full professors and for decision-making bodies, including scientific and administrative boards, recruitment and promotion committees as well as evaluation panels. The Council also highlights the importance of a better integration of the gender dimension in research content.

» The ERA Stakeholder Platform

The Commission set up a Stakeholder Platform to offer a forum for discussion on the development of ERA policy. In this forum stakeholder organisations interact not only with the Commission but also amongst themselves. The forum supports the establishment of partnership activities and enables consensus building.

The stakeholders involved in the Platform are the European Association of Research and Technological Organisations (EARTO), the European University Association (EUA), the League of European Research Universities (LERU), Science Europe, the Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research (CESAER), and EU-Life.

» The ERA-Net on gender: GENDER-NET

Gender-NET is the first European Research Area Network (ERA-NET) to be dedicated to the promotion of gender equality through structural change in research institutions, as well as to the integration of sex and gender analysis in research. GENDER-NET brings together a balanced partnership of 14 national programme owners from across Europe and North America – i.e. ministries, national research funding agencies and national organisations – that share a commitment to gender equality and expertise in gender and science issues.

» Networking among scientists

Scientists can contribute to change practices themselves. Networking among practitioners and professional associations, platforms of women scientists and other networks play a key role in this context. The EC funds two important initiatives which aim to support networking:

  • The COST Action, GenderSTE, which organises awareness-raising events across Europe.
  • GenPORT, an online community of practitioners, which is served by an internet portal in which organisations and individuals can participate and exchange knowledge and experience from across the world on gender equality and excellence in science, technology or innovation

» Gender Equality Plans in research organisations

Funding agencies and research organisations, including universities, are at the forefront of implementing institutional changes, in particular through Gender Equality Plans. The European Commission funds Gender Equality Plans through the Science with and for Society work programme.

Gender Equality in Horizon 2020

Gender is a cross-cutting issue in Horizon 2020. It is enshrined in the core documents that established Horizon 2020, and has the following objectives:

  • Gender balance in decision making:
    The Commission has set a target of 40% of the under-represented sex in expert groups and evaluation panels. The Horizon 2020 Advisory groups have a target of 50% for the under-represented sex.
  • Gender balance in research teams at all levels:
    Applicants for funding are encouraged to promote gender balance at all levels of their teams. By signing the grant agreement, beneficiaries commit to promote equal opportunities between men and women in the implementation of their action. They also commit to aim, as far as possible, for gender balance at all levels of personnel assigned to the action, including at supervisory and managerial levels. Gender balance in teams can also be taken into account when ranking proposals with the same evaluation scores.
  • Integrating the gender dimension in the content of R&I
    To integrate the gender dimension in research content means taking into account the biological characteristics and the evolving social/cultural features of both women and men.
    The gender dimension is integrated into calls for proposals in many of the programmes of Horizon 2020. In the Horizon 2020 work programme 2016-2017, the gender dimension is explicitly mentioned in 108 of the 568 topics distributed in 13 work programme parts.
    A full list of these topics is available on the Participant Portal under the “quick finder” link on gender. In addition, applicants may also use the search engine on that page, which lists all the topics available with an explicit reference to gender, women- and/or men-related issues.

Related documents – resources

The Helsinki Group on Gender in Research and Innovation

The Helsinki Group on Gender in Research and Innovation was established in 1999. It brings together representatives from Member States and Associated Countries to promote equality between women and men in Research and Innovation.

The Helsinki Group on Gender in R&I was established to reflect and advise the Commission on the development of initiatives within the different policies and frameworks related to science, research and innovation (e.g. the Innovation Union, the Europe 2020 Strategy, the European Research Area, the Framework Programmes, etc.).

Read the full mandate of the Helsinki Group

Facts and figures

The "She Figures" publication is the main source of pan European, comparable statistics on the state of gender equality in research and innovation. It covers a wide range of themes, including the proportions of women and men among top level graduates, aca¬demic staff and research boards, working conditions for women and men researchers, the integration of the gender dimension in the content of peer reviewed scientific articles, and various indica¬tors measuring gender gaps in scientific and innovation outputs. Released every three years since 2003, the report constitutes a key evidence base for policies in this area. It is recommended reading for policy makers, researchers and anyone with a general interest in these issues.

All She Figures volumes, in addition to other relevant documents, are available through the e-Library.

The She Figures 2015 report will soon be available for download.

Projects funded by the FP7 and H2020 framework programmes

Horizon 2020 ongoing projects

HYPATIA Gender tools for more STEM careers
GENERA Gender Equality Network in the European Research Area
PLOTINA Promoting gender balance and inclusion in research, innovation and training
GEDII Gender Diversity Impact – Improving research and innovation through gender diversity
LIBRA Leading Innovative measures to reach gender Balance in Research Activities

FP7 ongoing projects

EGERA Effective Gender Equality in Research and the Academia 
FESTA Female Empowerment in Science and Technology Academia
GARCIA Gendering the Academy and Research: combating Career Instability and Asymmetries
GENDER-NET Promoting gender equality in research institutions and the integration of the gender dimension in research contents
GENDERTIME Transferring Implementing Monitoring Equality
GENOVATE Transforming Organisational Culture for Gender Equality in Research and Innovation
GENPORT Gender Portal
INTEGER Institutional Transformation for Effecting Gender Equality in Research
SHEMERA SHE Euro Mediterranean Research Area
STAGES Structural Change Toward Gender Equality in Science
TRIGGER TRansforming Institutions by Gendering contents and Gaining Equality in Research

FP7 finished projects

DIVERSITY Improving the gender diversity management in materials research institutions
GENDERA Gender Debate in the European Research Area
GENIS LAB Gender in Science and Technology Lab
GENSET Gender in Science
HELENA Higher Education Leading to ENgineering And scientific careers
IRIS Interests and Recruitment in Science. Factors influencing recruitment, retention and gender equality in science, technology and mathematics in higher education
PRAGES Practising Gender Equality in Science
SAPGERIC Structural Changes Promoting Gender Equality in Research Organisations
TWIST

Towards Women in Science & Technology

WHIST Women’s careers hitting the target: gender management in scientific and technological research

Dialogue with Carlos Moedas and Saskia Van Uffelen, 10 March 2016 Brussels

On 10 March, Commissioner Moedas participated in the Citiziens' Dialogue "Women innovate, Europe gains!", together with Saskia Van Uffelen. Following the public debate her awarded the EU Prize for Women Innovators to:

  • Dr Susanna Sargento (1st Prize),
  • Prof Sirpa Jalkanen (2nd Prize) and
  • Dr Sarah Bourke (3rd Prize).
If you have missed it, you can now watch it online