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Gender Equality Plans for Information Sciences and Technology Research Institutions

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EQUAL-IST (Gender Equality Plans for Information Sciences and Technology Research Institutions)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-05-31

It has been demonstrated that Information Sciences and Technology (IST) is among the research sectors most affected by gender inequalities at all levels. For addressing and solving issues of horizontal and vertical segregation in research and administrative careers, work-life balance, gender imbalance in student enrollment, and gender neutral/blind approach to IST research, the EQUAL-IST project is aimed at influencing organizational structures, discourses, and behaviours.

EQUAL-IST kicked off during June 2016 as a challenging 36 months project, involving 9 project partners, 8 universities from 7 countries, with the goal to design and implement Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) for IST Research Institutions. The main objectives of the project include a) setting up of the scene for the implementation of structural changes in the involves IST research institution towards the promotion of gender equality, b) the enhancement of gender equality at those involved research institutions through the design and implementation of tailored GEPs containing specific measures (activities/practices/interventions) to address gender imbalance, c) the monitoring and assessment of the results of GEPs implementation by refining the gender equality measures and ensuring their effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability and d) boost of gender equality in research organisations at national and international level.
During the whole project period the consortium has been working as a team, committed to reach the common goals. Finally, it managed to achieve successfully the objectives set.
Initially, RPOs designed six Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) using the robust approach and methodology of the project. The consortium followed a process of different research activities starting by a State-of-the-Art analysis to investigate the situation at other research institutions and result in good practices, while in parallel the partner RPOs organized the groups of people to be involved in the process impacting gender equality operations, called GEPs Working Groups and they also investigated the national policy framework for gender equality in their countries resulted in the so called National mini reports. This in-depth investigation of best practices in combination with the gender related policy framework facilitated the transition to the next important phase of the project, which was the development of a Gender Audit methodology and its implementation to analyse the status of gender equality at each involved RPO. For this, two Capacity Building Sessions were organised presenting the methodological guidelines for internal gender audit within IST research organizations, and facilitating their adoption and customization by the EQUAL-IST RPOs.
As an initial step towards the design of GEPs, a thorough assessment of the internal state of the art was to be conducted by using a participatory auditing method. Τhe six RPOs proceeded, from February until end of April 2017 to implement Participatory Gender Audits at their organizations. The gender audits were conducted to get a complete picture based on existing available data of the internal situation of gender (in)equality in each IST/ICT Department Faculty and to start with a first round of internal consultations by way of an audit both with research purposes (collect information and assess perceptions, beliefs, resistances) and with action oriented goals (initiate a consensus building process about the more urgent challenges to be tackled, stimulate bottom up participation in collecting and discussing proposals, ideas and solutions) in view of the next step of crowdsourcing GEPs’ designed via the CrowdEquality platform.
The robust approach of the EQUAL-IST project involved the development and use of a crowdsourcing platform “CrowdEquality”. The rationale behind the crowdsourcing exercise was to collect ideas and trigger interesting discussions about the emerging challenges that were identified at each partner RPO during the internal audits. CrowdEquality facilitated the participatory co-design of tailored GEPs for each of the participating RPOs, but also strived to be an inclusive community that empowers men and women all over the world to freely discuss the issues of gender equality at research institutions. Each partner RPO had a dedicated anonymised space at the platform, where they could upload their internal challenges and start interesting discussions.
Following the above, the six project RPO continued the implementation of the GEPs until April 2018, called as 1st iteration phase. Then, for the next two months RPOs refined their initial GEPs based on the evaluation results of the 1st phase and continued the implementation of the updated GEPs during the period July 2018 until April 2019. Overall, RPOs received continuous support (online calls, workshops, on-line Toolkit) and specific support has been provided targeting at structural changes for gender equality at University or Research Organization level, through the EQUAL-IST Webinar Series “Towards the implementation of the Gender Equality plans”. In parallel to the implementation phases, both external and internal evaluation activities took place (online, physical meetings) to monitor the progress and secure that targets set will be achieved.
Turning to the GEP implementation assessment, EQUAL-IST has developed an assessment methodology and relevant indicators that can be used by any ICT-IST RPO who envisages to implement a GEP.
In terms of sustainability, all RPOs have been motivated and receive special guidance to keep the actions alive beyond the end of the project through structural changes. It has been impressive the fact that all RPOs designed their sustainability plans and presented that to the higher management level, who finally expressed their interest and confirmation to continue the actions, for at least the next two years.
EQUAL-IST is moving beyond the state of the art with its robust approach of participatory co-design of GEPs. The added value is to deliver new knowledge at fostering permanent institutional changes through the design and implementation of GEPs. The project contributed to the achievement of ERA objectives by preparing the ground setting in real action GEP in IST/ICT RPOs that involve more female researchers helping to the advancement of their careers, involving them in decision making and governance structures, improving their working conditions and attracting more women in the IST sector. In particular, EQUAL-IST targets at a wider societal impact by increasing the number of RPOs and RFOs implementing GEPs as well as in the long term the number of female researchers advancing their careers mobility, and, consequently, their research intensity, by improving the social value of innovations integrating the gender dimension in research programmes and content. Overall, the EQUAL-IST project has delivered to the EC its substantial key learnings and recommendations on how to strengthen and support institutional change through Horizon Europe, aiming to support and contribute to the following Framework.