Advancing gender equality in research and innovation
An EU-funded project has set up a network of national policymakers and civil servants to advance gender equality in science, technology and innovation in the European Research Area (ERA). Europe will benefit as more women have the opportunity to contribute their skills to research and innovation.
© SolisImages #135301177, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com
Gender equality in research and innovation has advanced in most EU countries, but it is by no means universal, according to the 2018 report by the Standing Working Group on Gender in Research and Innovation. The report indicates that the gender gap is increasing between less and more experienced countries in supporting gender equality in research and innovation.
In response, the EU-funded GENDERACTION has created an innovative policy community for implementing gender in ERA countries by establishing a network of national representatives. All EU countries and 16 non-EU countries participate in the ERA, which aims to enable the free circulation of researchers, scientific knowledge and technology among members.
The project, which ends in March 2021, is preparing policy briefs on advancing gender equality in the ERA, bringing together policymakers and other stakeholders, organising training and capacity building events and developing collaborations to advance gender equality.
'Our capacity building actions are contributing to higher awareness at national level and will have, the plan goes, impact at national level policymaking', says project coordinator Marcela Linkova, head of the Centre for Gender and Science at the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Republic in Prague, Czechia. 'We are learning what works and what does not, what strategies policy officers take at national level and discuss how these can be transferred to different countries.'
Large differences across countries
Talented women continue to be under-represented in EU research, innovation and entrepreneurship, especially in the areas of artificial intelligence, robotics and digital technologies, says Linkova, where recent studies show it is vital to ensure that gender and other biases are addressed.
The 13 members of the project consortium and five associate members began by analysing EU countries' national action plans for achieving gender equality in research and innovation. The plans aim to foster scientific excellence and wider range of research approaches. One of the priorities is to ensure gender diversity and equality in research teams.
'GENDERACTION's analysis of the national action plans revealed large differences across countries as well as different levels of integrating gender equality policies,' says Linkova.
In June 2018, the project announced its policy brief series on Horizon Europe, the EU's proposed EUR 100 billion research and innovation funding programme that will run from 2021 to 2027, after the end of Horizon 2020, the current programme. The aim of these briefs is to ensure Horizon Europe continues to advance gender equality when funding research and innovation.
'Our policy briefs on gender in Horizon Europe created heightened awareness of the need to boost the gender equality provisions in the draft programme, and we actively communicated with the negotiating teams at national level in our partner countries,' says Linkova.
She adds: 'We are convinced that gender equality policies and the gender dimension in research and innovation are crucial for the future programme and should be adequately reflected and integrated into official documents and be included in the agenda for further discussions.'
Gender in international cooperation
The European Commission's 2016 Science and Innovation for Development report states that women's empowerment is 'key to all development and gender equality should be a core part of all policy strategies'. Yet, says Linkova, it is rarely addressed in EU countries' policies and strategies for international cooperation in science, technology and innovation.
Because countries have differing opinions on gender equality, and how to achieve it, concluding agreements on international cooperation in research and innovation may encounter difficulties.
To help overcome these differences, the project has provided guidelines on incorporating gender equality in the preparation of international agreements, proposal evaluation and funding decisions.
GENDERACTION has presented recommendations on gender in open science and innovation to ERA decision-makers. Open science is an EU strategy to make scientific knowledge as accessible as possible, contributing to better and more efficient research and to innovation in the public and private sectors.
'Our partners are engaged at national level with relevant stakeholders in ministries and other relevant bodies to highlight the importance of gender in open science and innovation policies,' says Linkova.
The project found that most policy documents related to open science and innovation adopt a gender-blind approach. However, consideration of gender issues in the development of open science and innovation policies could promote gender equality and eliminate gender biases.
Several recommendations have already been developed for national authorities, research funding agencies, research organisations, research teams and individual researchers.