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How frontier research advances innovative ideas and perspectives on gender

Gender is much more than just the simple and traditional dichotomy between men and women. Gender issues impact all of our lives and the very concept of gender is being re-examined and redefined. This CORDIS Results Pack highlights some of the recent frontier research on issues relating to gender, funded by the European Research Council. It features the work of ERC grantees whose projects are working either within – or in several cases across – a multitude of academic fields within the humanities and social sciences.

Society

The EU has made great strides over the past few decades in tackling gender discrimination through, among other means, specific and targeted equal treatment legislation. These measures have often been driven by organic social change, arising from the significant increase in women’s participation in the formal workforce that began in the 1970s. Other contributing factors are more recent: such as social media campaigns to end violence against women and to break the silence about sexual harassment experienced in all types of workplaces, and in society at large. Whilst there is still more work to be done to achieve real gender equality, much of the progress made has advanced and consolidated the rights of women. Today, a ‘gender mainstreaming’ approach to policymaking is broadly accepted. This method involves the integration of a gender perspective into the preparation, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, regulatory measures and spending programmes. For instance, the EU recently launched its Gender Equality Strategy for 2020-2025 which has, as its core objective: “A union where women and men, girls and boys, in all their diversity, are free to pursue their chosen path in life, have equal opportunities to thrive and can equally participate in, and lead, our European society.” Much of the research set out in this Results Pack seeks to provide a fresh perspective on what equality and diversity look like, whether through a philosophical re-examination of pregnancy, a socio-historical account of influential women editors in Europe, or through a detailed analysis of the specific circumstances of female refugees.

Gender: a key variable in research

Gender is a significant variable in research, which is a factor that is all too often overlooked. The current COVID-19 pandemic highlights this fact: men seem to be at a higher risk of suffering severe complications when falling sick with the disease. Yet, it is women who are often more exposed to the wider social and economic impacts of the disease. They perform higher-risk jobs e.g. in retail or hospitality, and bear a disproportionately higher burden of caring for children and older relatives. Gender dimensions have often been overlooked in ‘research design’, says Eveline Crone, vice-president of the ERC. “Yet, understanding all aspects of human diversity is crucial for advancing the frontier of knowledge and achieving true equality in society.”

Exploring gender across disciplines

The common purpose of the 12 projects that feature in this CORDIS Results Pack is to challenge prevailing assumptions in mainstream science and society, and to shed new light on gender relations. This they do by harnessing a cross-cutting approach to gender that brings together perspectives of political science, sociology, history, international relations, law and philosophy. This collection of projects provides a tantalising snapshot of some fascinating, recent research. The scholars behind these efforts help advance our understanding of sex and gender, and their impact on society and individuals. Their work allows us to better comprehend one of the fundamental elements of human experience.

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