by Pavlos Hatzopoulos, Nelli Kambouri and Kathy Kikis-Papadakis
A research project on "Gender, Science and Innovation in Greece" is focusing on gender issues in research institutions. Its recommendations were recently publicised by the Educational Research and Evaluation (ERE) Group of the Foundation for Research and Technology – FORTH.
“The progress of Greece in integrating gender in research institutions is slow. Without being able to enjoy the benefits of labor rights and without having any privileges as a worker, you are still expected to perform all your obligations as a researcher”. This quote from an interview with a young female biologist could well be one of the principal conclusions of the research project. The research addressed the gendering processes that shape the research sector in Greece, focusing on gendered institutional structures and practices along with the analysis of gender hierarchies and gender discrimination in research institutions as these are articulated in the contemporary context of the Greek economic crisis.
The absence of an institutional framework for gender
Public research institutes in Greece have not adopted policies or strategies for integrating gender in their work, precluding, in effect, complaints about gender discrimination and barring the empowerment of women working in this sector. The findings of the research show that, overall, there is quite a limited awareness of gender equality in the research sector in Greece. In many cases, the assumed and indisputable gender neutrality of the practice of science is believed to act as the ultimate safeguard against the imposition and reproduction of gender hierarchies in the research sector.
In reality, however, women researchers in Greece face significant obstacles to career advancement in public research institutions, particularly women with extended caring responsibilities. These emanate, on the one hand, from the dual workload faced by these women researchers, and on the other, from the dominance of networks of male scientists, especially in the areas of decision-making and institutional strategy development (Katsiaboura and Vogt, 2012). As a result, few women tend to reach high-rank positions and high career grades, while most women tend to avoid standing as candidates for these positions in order to avoid the work overload. Indeed, the extensive interviews conducted during the project showed that women researchers in Greece predominantly believe that their gender is a barrier to their recruitment, to their selection as leaders of research teams, and to their career advancement.
The management of research teams is another major issue, which is not regulated or monitored by the Greek research system. We can distinguish three approaches (Schiebinger, 2008): (a) the masculinist approach, where private and family issues are silenced altogether and science is defined as a process of knowledge production without gender (b) the feminist approach, where the private sphere is integrated in the life of research teams and acts as a factor for developing a climate of cooperation amongst research team members and for producing scientific results and (c) the intersectional approach, where the categories of gender, social class, nation and race are taken into account in recruiting members of research teams and in establishing relations of good cooperation amongst them. In Greece, the first, masculinist approach is overwhelmingly dominant, and this often leads to gross violations of labour rights of precarious female researchers.
In research centres of the Greek private sector the systems of career advancement and payroll grades are linked to criteria of productivity rather than scientific excellence. In private research institutions gender inequalities are thus primarily enacted through the division of scientific work into "female" and "male" areas, which correspond to differentiated work schedules, job responsibilities and salaries. In this system, conducting research is constructed as a "female" occupation that remains very poorly paid in comparison to “male” managerial roles. Job promotion and wage increases are thus directly associated with internal mobility schemes from research to management areas, which are predominantly not accessible to women researchers.
Promoting gender equality in research: policy challenges
Women researchers cannot easily challenge gender discrimination in their workplace, since Greece lacks a comprehensive legal framework in respect to gender equality in research organizations. Even where legal stipulations are in place – for example, legislation regarding equal representation of women on scientific management committees – these are only observed on an ad hoc basis without any action taken against noncompliant institutions. The lack of a comprehensive legal framework leads to the multiplication of gender inequalities, the intensification of direct and indirect discrimination, and the prolongation of offensive behaviour towards women scientists stemming from dominant masculinist cultures.
In this context, the integration of gender in research institutions in Greece is a critical policy challenge. Positive policy actions that can promote gender equality in the research sector could include:
- The adoption of gender action plans for the promotion of gender equality by all research actors in the private and public sectors.
- The adoption of statutes on the operation of research teams, which will include in their central axes the dimensions of gender, social class, race, and ethnicity.
- The provision of substantial training on the management of research groups for men and women researchers.
- The enactment of statutes on the labour of students and precarious workers in research organizations with a goal to respect labor rights, including rights related to gender equality.
- The financing and support of networking structures and initiatives among female scientists.
 Gianna Katsiaboura and Annete Vogt, eds: “Gender studies and science: problems, tasks, perspectives”, Nissos 2012.
 Londa Schiebinger: “Gendered Innovations in Science and Engineering”, Stanford University Press, 2008