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Gender in research: Tackling inequalities for an inclusive European research area

Despite significant progress over the last decades, gender inequality still remains a prominent issue in the EU. Published to mark International Women’s Day 2022, this Results Pack seeks to raise awareness of the importance of a gender perspective in research and innovation.

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Promoting gender equality and women’s better representation in our European society is a longstanding commitment of the European Commission. Yet structural and individual barriers remain that significantly impact on the health, wealth and happiness of both women and men in Europe. EU-funded research is helping to provide a deeper understanding of gender aspects and how these barriers emerge and persist. Under the Horizon 2020 SwafS work programme, close to EUR 83 million has been allocated to projects on gender equality in research and innovation and related actions. Gender balance is also an essential step towards getting women to participate in the decision-making process, and have equal opportunities to pursue their careers. Notably, women are still under-represented within research roles. Despite making up almost half of PhD graduates in the EU, women hold only a quarter of top positions such as full professorships, and only 11 % of patent applications are filed by women. The 2021 Ljubljana Declaration, endorsed by 36 countries, including 25 Member States, as well as by the European Commission, highlights the need to be proactive in mainstreaming gender equality across research and innovation. It emphasises that gender equality contributes to the integrity and societal responsibility of research, leveraging scientific and technological quality to higher standards, namely through integrating a gender dimension in research and innovation content. The Commission has reaffirmed its commitment to gender equality by making the possession of a Gender Equality Plan an eligibility criterion for higher education and research organisations applying to the Horizon Europe framework programme. Integrating a gender dimension into research designs is an inseparable part of the excellence criterion in proposal evaluations and it is paramount for the quality and usefulness of research results in the short or long term. A further objective of Horizon Europe is increasing gender balance throughout the programme, with a target of 50 % women in related boards, expert groups and evaluation committees. Only 38 % of the experts assessing EU research project proposals are women, so to bridge this gap, women from all areas of expertise are invited to register as evaluators in the European Commission database of experts. To keep track of EU progress, the Gender Equality Strategy Monitoring Portal brings together data aligned with the three main strands of the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025: ending gender-based violence, closing gender gaps in the labour market, and achieving gender balance in decision-making. It will help make sure that the Commission delivers on its commitment to achieve a Union of Equality. This Pack highlights six ERC-funded frontier research projects on gender equality in addition to three successful EU-supported actions to further gender equality in research. Projects in this Pack cover a wide array of gender aspects in research, including a gendered understanding of law, individual and structural drivers of gender disparity, gender biases in education, employment and healthcare, and tools to support the development and deployment of Gender Equality Plans, as well as national-level policy coordination on gender equality in the European Research Area. 2022 marks the European Year of Youth, featuring activities focused on drawing more young women into research fields. These further the aims of International Women’s Day, to foster a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive, and free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. Cutting-edge research, shaped and delivered with a strong gender dimension, will help bring those ambitions one step closer to reality. Projects featured in this Pack include CIC and Struct. vs. Individ., which examine the drivers of gender inequality, both personal and societal, while GENDERACTION, GEARING ROLES and GE Academy offer networking tools and capacity building for overcoming these barriers within research and innovation institutions. The effects of gender disparities on healthcare and educational outcomes are the subject of MMAF and GirlsInScience respectively, showing how societal biases can impact our hearts and minds. GenderedPeace explores how to integrate women’s experiences of conflict into international law. And FATHER TRIALS examines the often-overlooked interactions between father and newborn, showing how an increased caregiving role changes his biochemical make-up, providing a case for more equitable parental leave.