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Gender Equality Plans for Information Sciences and Technology Research Institutions

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More balanced gender representation in STEM research for positive impacts on policy and society

Gender equality is more than a buzz word to be hashtagged or bandied about – it has to be actively ensured. Tailored gender equality plans can help research-performing organisations to minimise gender imbalances, through improved organisational structures.

Digital Economy
Society

The EU-funded EQUAL-IST project has done precisely that with gender equality plans (GEPs) for information sciences and technology (IST) research and institutions. The work involved six research-performing organisations (RPOs) (University of Munster, University of Turku, Kaunas University of Technology, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, University of Minho, Simon Kuznets Kharkiv National University of Economics) tasked with examining the internal institutional state of gender equality, designing their GEPs and implementing the corresponding activities. Results were then shared with the relevant audience (e.g. professors, gender experts, students) to increase awareness and engage them in activities.

Research, science and policy to represent all of society

Drawing on EU policy guidelines and theoretical as well as empirical findings on gender equality in research organisations, EQUAL-IST targeted ICT/IST faculties and departments in a preliminary stage of enhancing gender balance, to develop GEPs. Underlining the importance of making advances in this area, project coordinator Vasiliki Moumtzi states: “The under-presence of women in key areas of STEM academia is increasingly recognised as a key factor in the gendering of research content, including the shaping of science priorities, research agendas and methods.” The project aim was therefore to influence organisational structures, discourses and behaviours. This could be achieved by fostering permanent institutional changes through the GEPs. Its key priority was to encourage the RPOs to ensure that the actions on their particular GEPs will remain ‘permanent’ beyond the end of the project duration. “All RPOs focused their efforts and managed to ensure continuity, and different ‘embedding mechanisms’ have been put in place to integrate gender equality measures in existing rules, procedures and routines,” Moumtzi adds.

Tools, communication and synergy

From amongst the project’s varied actions and successes, Moumtzi singles out the EQUAL-IST Toolkit and the CrowdEquality platform. The first offers examples of good practices, concrete initiatives, tools and guidelines suitable for implementing structural changes for gender equality at university or RPO level. The toolkit is designed specifically for tailoring to ICT/IST research institutions. The CrowdEquality platform has been the central means for participatory co-design of tailored GEPs. It is dedicated to being an inclusive community empowering men and women globally to freely discuss issues of gender equality in research institutions. Project work will continue to impact across social, policy and research areas. “We have contributed to the European Research Area objectives on gender equality by developing sustainable GEPs in six RPOs across the EU aiming to increase the number of women researchers, over a long term,” Moumtzi comments. The RPOs have communicated the achievements of GEP implementation and structural changes with their respective local and national policymakers. “At EU level,” she adds, “we have documented our key learnings and recommendations on how to strengthen and support institutional change through Horizon Europe, and we have communicated this information to the European Commission Policy Officers of the Gender sector of Inclusive Societies DG Research and Innovation.” EQUAL-IST partners have actively shared project work and results through relevant conferences, more than 20 scientific publications, general communication materials, and workshops in the 6 RPO countries (Germany, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Ukraine). In December 2019, the project published the open-access book ‘Institutional Change for Gender Equality in Research’. When asked about future plans, Moumtzi notes the wish to further expand the synergy created between related projects as well as continuing knowledge exchange.

Keywords

EQUAL-IST, research, gender equality, GEPs, policy, society, gender equality plans, research-performing organisations, women researchers

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