Genset: Gender Equality for Science Innovation and Excellence
by Stella Melina Vasilaki, FORTH/IACM
GenSET was an innovative project aiming to improve the excellence of European science through inclusion of the gender dimension in research and science knowledge making. It functioned as a forum for sustainable dialogue between European science leaders, science stakeholder institutions, gender experts, and science strategy decision-makers, to help implement effective overall gender strategies. The goal was to develop practical ways in which gender knowledge and gender mainstreaming expertise can be incorporated within European science institutions in order to improve individual and collective capacity for action to increase women’s participation in science.
Between March and June 2010, three genSET Consensus Seminars brought together 14 European science leaders to share knowledge and experience and arrive at a consensus view on the gender dimension in science and on the priorities for gender action in scientific institutions. The Science Leaders Consensus Panel represents extensive knowledge of different scientific fields and sectors, with over 500 years of scientific and leadership experience; involvement in appointing over 4000 researchers; direction of over 300 major research programmes and research funding of over €500 million; executive decision making through over 100 Executive Board positions; and research publication record exceeding 1000 peer reviewed research papers. They collaborated with a group of equally high-ranking gender experts, who provided expertise through lectures and research evidence during the Consensus Seminars.
The consensus recommendations call for action in four priority areas of the gender dimension in science: science knowledge making, deployment of human capital, institutional practices and processes, and regulation and compliance with gender‐related processes and practices. All of these recommendations are meant to be included within an overall institutional science strategy. The work of the Science Leaders Panel has highlighted only the beginning of an important dialogue between gender experts and leaders of scientific institutions.
Here below there is a summary of the consensus recommendations:
- Recommendation 1:
Leaders must be convinced that there is a need to incorporate methods of sex and gender analysis into basic and applied research; they must “buy into” the importance of the gender-dimension within knowledge making.
- Recommendation 2:
Scientists should be trained in using methods of sex and gender analysis. Both managerial levels and researchers should be educated in such sex and gender analysis. Training in methods in sex and gender analysis should be integrated into all subjects across all basic and applied science curricula
- Recommendation 3:
In all assessments – paper selection for journals, appointments and promotions of individuals, grant reviews, etc. – the use and knowledge of methods for sex and gender analysis in research must be an explicit topic for consideration. Granting agencies, journal editors, policy makers at all levels, leaders of scientific institutions, and agencies responsible for curricula accreditation, should be among those responsible for incorporating these methods into their assessment procedures.
- Recommendation 4:
Research teams should be gender diverse. Institutions should promote gender diversity of research teams through a variety of incentives (eg quality recognition and allocation of resources) and through transparency in hiring.
- Recommendation 5:
Gender balancing efforts should be made in all committees, with priority given to key decision-making committees. Panels for selection of grants and applicants must be gender diverse. This must be the goal for management teams as well.
- Recommendation 6:
Institutions should seek to improve the quality of their leadership by creating awareness, understanding, and appreciation of different management styles. This can be achieved through training, self-reflection, and various feedback mechanisms. Diversity training, specifically, is essential in this process.
- Recommendation 7:
Women already within scientific institutions must be made more visible. All public relations activities from scientific institutions should be gender‐proofed (represent women appropriately), while avoiding tokenism. This could be done by including women in all promotional campaigns for scientific careers, by leaders nominating women for prizes, and by recognizing women’s achievements appropriately.
- Recommendation 8:
Assessment procedures must be re‐defined to focus on the quality, rather than quantity, of individuals’ publications and research output. This must be consistently applied in individual, departmental, and other levels of assessment.
- Recommendation 9:
Persons with disproportionate committee and administrative duties should be provided with additional support staff or reduced teaching assignments to ensure that their research does not suffer.
- Recommendation 10:
Policies and procedures specifically affecting working conditions that differentially impact men and women in scientific institutions must be reviewed and revised, ensuring positive benefits for personal and professional development for both men and women.
- Recommendation 11:
Specific strategies should be employed for attracting women to apply for scientific positions. Announcements for recruitment should be formulated so that they encourage women to apply. That is, announcements should be broad, rather than narrowly focused. Job criteria for employment should be objective and transparent. Additionally, leaders should not just rely on self‐initiated promotion but also encourage and promote applications, not just accept them. Finally, if there are no women in the applicant pool, the positions should be re‐advertised.
- Recommendation 12:
Explicit targets to improve gender balance and action plans to reach them must be included in the overarching gender strategy of scientific institutions. The progress must subsequently be regularly monitored and be made public.
- Recommendation 13:
Gender issues must be an integral part of internal and external evaluation of institutions. Policies at all levels must require this inclusion. This should begin with a critical review of gender mainstreaming processes within each institution, identifying current successes and failures. A member of the leadership team should be responsible for gender-related issues, such as following up on the gender action strategy for the institution.
genSET was a project funded by the Science in Society Programme of the European Commission’s 7th Framework, in the area of Capacity Support Action.
The full report ‘The Consensus Report: Recommendations for Action on the Gender Dimension in Science’ is found on the project website:
Stella Melina Vasilaki, FORTH-IACM