This section explains the policies that SwafS pursues to achieve its aims.

Gender Equality

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been increasing scientific attention dedicated to its differential impacts on women and men, highlighted early on in this publication in The Lancet, and also documented on the EIGE webpage.

Among issues concerned are: clinical sex and gender differences in responses to the virus; mortality rates; clinical trials and side effects to different drugs and vaccines; impact on domestic and gender-based violence; impact on reproductive health and rights; impact on the healthcare and caregiving professions, which are occupied by women at 76%; as well as on work-life balance and economic equality.

Different actions are under way to address these sex and gender aspects of the COVID-19 crisis, including an ad hoc case study on “The sex and gender impact of the COVID-19 pandemic” developed by the European Commission’s Expert Group on ‘Gendered Innovations‘, which builds on the latest scientific literature, as well as on Horizon 2020 projects, to document the following key issues: sex differences in immune responses, dosing and sex-specific side effects of vaccines and therapeutics, gender-specific risk factors (for e.g. healthcare workers and caregivers), gender-sensitive prevention campaigns, gender-specific socioeconomic burden of public safety measures. A factsheet based on this case study, and presenting recent actions undertaken by the Commission and other EU-level actors, has also been produced. Additional related information can be found on this dedicated webpage.

The European Commission is committed to promoting gender equality in research and innovation. It is part of the European Commission Gender Equality Strategy for 2020-2025, which sets out the Commission’s broader commitment to equality across all EU policies. 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 in 2016), 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.


Closing gender gaps in 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 and Associated Countres 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.

The Commission publishes an ERA Progress Report, which highlights the progress made towards the completion of the ERA. The latest edition, the ERA Progress Report 2018, assesses the current state of ERA and the progress made on ERA implementation in 2016-2018.

» Council Conclusions on advancing gender equality in the European Research Area

The Council adopted on 1st December 2015 the "Conclusions on advancing Gender Equality in the European Research Area".

It called 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 gender balance among full professors and in decision-making bodies, including scientific and administrative boards, recruitment and promotion committees as well as evaluation panels. The Council highlighted the importance of a better integration of the gender dimension in research content. The Council also invited the Commission and the Member States to consider including a gender perspective in dialogues with third countries in Science, Technology and Innovation.

In 2016, Member States designed National Action Plans (NAPs) with concrete actions to advance gender equality. Research performing and funding organisations are encouraged to implement institutional changes, in particular through gender equality plans (GEP). The European Commission through Horizon 2020 provides funds to research organisations for the implementation of GEPs.

» 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 Cofund on gender equality: GENDER-NET Plus

GENDER-NET Plus is the first European Research Area Network (ERA-NET) Cofund scheme to be dedicated to the promotion of gender equality in research and innovation. Funded under Horizon 2020, the project was launched in September 2017 and will run until 2022.

The GENDER-NET Plus consortium gathers 16 national funding organisations coming from 13 countries (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Canada) committed to strengthening transnational collaborations towards a common goal: advancing gender equality in research institutions and the integration of the gender dimension into research and innovation contents and programmes.

GENDER-NET Plus is a follow-up to GENDER-NET, funded under FP7 which was the first ERA-NET on gender equality in R&I. GENDER-NET brought together 13 national programme owners and managers from across Europe and North America sharing a commitment to gender equality and attracted a growing network of observers – many of which later joined the GENDER-NET Plus initiative.

» 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 has been funding several important initiatives which aim to support networking, among which:

  • 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
  • ACT, which is developing an international network of Communities of Practice (CoPs) as agents to develop gender equality actions in research performing and research funding organisations in the European Research Area, and offers an online hub CoPs in connection with the GenPORT portal.

» 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.

To help Universities and Research Organisations to set-up, implement and evaluate Gender Equality Plans, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation in cooperation with the European Institute for Gender Equality has developed the GEAR Tool, Gender Equality in Academia and Research. Visit the GEAR Tool.

» 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 2018-2020, the gender dimension is explicitly mentioned in 110 of the 473 topics distributed in 13 work programme parts.
    A full list of these topics is available on Funding and tender opportunities. 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


» Standing Working Group on Gender in Research and Innovation

The Standing Working Group on Gender in Research and Innovation under European Research Area and Innovation Committee (ERAC SWG GRI) is a policy advisory committee that advises the Council of the EU, the European Commission and member states on policies and initiatives related to gender equality in research and innovation.

This group is the successor of the Helsinki Group on Gender Equality in Research and Innovation that was established by the European Commission in 1999.

» SHE 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, academic 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 indicators 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 such as the Handbook, are available through the e-Library.

Download the She Figures 2018 report

» Projects funded by the FP7 and H2020 framework programmes

Horizon 2020 projects


The CALIPER project: Linking research and innovation for gender equality



Leading Towards Sustainable Gender Equality Plans in research performing organisations



Gender Equality Standards for AHMSSBL institutions throughout Europe



Certification-Award Systems to Promote gender Equality in Research



GRant AllocatioN Disparities from a gender perspective



Gender Equality Actions in Research Institutions to traNsform Gender ROLES



Supporting and Implementing Plans for Gender Equality in Academia and Research



Agriculture and life sciences, including Research and Teachning


GE Academy

Gender Equality Academy



CHAlleNging Gender (In)Equality in science and research



Supporting the Promotion of Equality in Research and Academia



Pilot experiences for improving gender equality in research organisations



Communities of PrACTice for Accelerating Gender Equality and Institutional Change in Research and Innovation across Europe



ERA-NET Cofund Promoting Gender Equality in H2020 and the ERA



GENDer equality in the ERA Community To Innovate policy implementatiON



Gender Equality in Engineering through Communication and Commitment



Taking a Reflexive approach to Gender Equality for institutional Transformation



Evaluation Framework for Promoting Gender Equality in Research and Innovation



Gender Equality Plans for Information Sciences and Technology Research Institutions



Gender Baltic Consortium on Promoting Gender Equality in Marine Research Organisations



Promoting gender balance and inclusion in research, innovation and training



Systemic Action for Gender Equality



Gender tools for more STEM careers



Gender Diversity Impact – Improving research and innovation through gender diversity



Gender Equality Network in the European Research Area



Leading Innovative measures to reach gender Balance in Research Activities


FP7 projects


Effective Gender Equality in Research and the Academia 



Gendering the Academy and Research: combating Career Instability and Asymmetries



Gender Portal



TRansforming Institutions by Gendering contents and Gaining Equality in Research



Promoting gender equality in research institutions and the integration of the gender dimension in research contents



Transferring Implementing Monitoring Equality



Transforming Organisational Culture for Gender Equality in Research and Innovation



Structural Changes Promoting Gender Equality in Research Organisations



Structural Change Toward Gender Equality in Science



Female Empowerment in Science and Technology Academia



Institutional Transformation for Effecting Gender Equality in Research



SHE Euro Mediterranean Research Area



Gender in Science and Technology Lab



Towards Women in Science & Technology



Improving the gender diversity management in materials research institutions



Gender Debate in the European Research Area



Interests and Recruitment in Science. Factors influencing recruitment, retention and gender equality in science, technology and mathematics in higher education



Gender in Science



Higher Education Leading to ENgineering And scientific careers



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



Practising Gender Equality in Science


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