Welcome to the discussion - we will start 10:00 CET!

Welcome to this e-discussion on gender equality in decision-making in R&I and HE!

Gender equality and gender mainstreaming have become one of the European Research Area priorities –and gender-balance in decision-making is one of three key objectives. Women’s representation in academia decreases the higher up the academic ladder – culminating in the very small percentage of women in decision-making posts, on boards and in committees and as heads of institutions. In 2017 only 27% of board members (including leaders) and 21.7% of heads of institutions in the higher education sector were women (She Figures, 2018:115).

My name is Rachel Palmén, I am senior researcher at the Open University of Catalonia as well as being affiliated to Notus. I have been involved in various European Commission funded projects looking at gender equality in research and innovation. The first large project I worked on was GenPORT where I wrote various research syntheses and policy briefs. I then worked on the EFFORTI project where we developed an evaluation framework for gender equality interventions in R&I. I am currently working on the TARGET project where we support institutions designing, implementing and evaluating gender equality plans and I am currently involved in the ACT project. In the ACT project from Notus I am currently leading the ERA Group on Gender Equality in Decision-Making – and this e-discussion is the first activity that this group holds.

We have experts joining our discussion who will share their knowledge on the topic based on their research expertise. Invited experts will engage with participants to discuss some of the key debates in this field including quotas and targets, gender knowledge and competences in decision-making bodies and power. This will be followed by a more practical focus on strategies for action.

Key issues to debate:

  • What can we learn from different experiences of applying targets and quotas to create more gender fair decision-making bodies?
  • How do you address the double burden when the same few women have to participate on many different committees/ boards?
  • What are effective ways to build gender competence in decision-making bodies?
  • How can we effectively deal with ‘non-action’ and resistance to institutional change?

Whilst the discussion will start at 10:00 I will now ask our experts to introduce themselves:

Comments

Rachel Palmén's picture

Yes I agree! 

chris h's picture

Do you have any examples of gender fair decision-making bodies which you use as key reference points?

durannihan's picture

Dear Rachel,

Thank you very much for the envokign question. I would like to share with you an extract of the literature that might be a useful start. 

"although at the EU level there are initiatives against discrimination based on diversities (e.g. Article 13), the Organization, is perceived to be deeply “gendered” and “racialized” (Syed & Ozbilgin 2015, pp. 2-3). Likewise, the UN is criticized for being “male-dominated in its norms, attitudes and procedures” (Chauvet 2013, p. 4) and the situation is no different in Germany as Botsch (2015) records, despite initiatives, women in decision-making positions are still underrepresented either in political and economic realms (p. 11). This is critical given that “gendered power asymmetries [i.e. Herrschaft in bureaucracies]” implicitly determine which claims find room in policy-priorities (Caglar, Prugl and Zwingel 2013, p. 341), which hint at the notions of “asymmetrical negotiation” (Eule, et al. 2018, p. 2717)" (Duran 2020).

aknapinska's picture

To my mind in Poland we have serious problems with convincing the politicians, other decisive bodies, and even scientists themselves that introducing quotas is a vital solution in terms of gender equality. They say - we have sufficient number of female researchers, it's far better than in Western Europe, so any "artificial" ways of increasing shares of women isn't needed. The word "artificial" is crucial in my opinion - it's treated as something which is beyond being fair. I'm wondering if it's only the case of Poland?

Pat's picture

There is often an automatic negative response to the use of the word quotas. I support quotas but sometimes it is not useful to use the word- just to say that such a percentage needs to be achieved- and if possible tie the achievement of that to state funding..

Of course there will be resistance- men usually do not want to share power and women do not want to feel that we/they are 'special cases'....So finding a way of seaking to those issues/concerns is critical

alhumbert's picture

Interesting that it is the word that is so sensitive, rather than the idea itself!

Maria Caprile Elola's picture

it may be because there is no consensus about the final aim - for some is eradicating gender inequality, for others it goes beyond - complete degendering. Gender should be not the foundation for any discrimination or inequality, this is shared by everbody. But I support the view that the final aim is degendering, that is: eradicate binary genders (norms, values, etc...), approach gender identity as something which is diverse and in flux, and break the link between gender and power, resources, opportunities... Anyway, thw word must reflect what is common and shared

julijamazuoliene's picture

Hello, my name is Julija Mazuoliene. I am a PhD student at Lithuanian Social Research Centre. The Centre is a part of ACT project. 

Angela Wroblewski's picture

I would see a gender fair decision making body as a body which includes gender competent men and women who are willing to reflect on a gender bias in their decisions. As this is quite difficult to achieve it is necessary to have someone in the body who moderates this reflection.

Rachel Palmén's picture

Yes -. this makes sense! 

Vasileios Voulgarakis's picture

So, does this person need to moderate the body to indicate the biases at first place, and prompt the member to elaborate on their reflections? 

Angela Wroblewski's picture

yes, I think so. In Austria we have a equal opportunities working party at each univeristy (defined by law) which participate in all appoitment procedures (without a right to vote). their job in fact is exaclty to point out to potential biases in the assessment of candidates. the working party has a quite strong position because if they raise an objection the appointment procedure is stopped. but we don't have something similar in other decison making bodies.

Vasileios Voulgarakis's picture

Alright, I can see how this can work. Really helpful that there is an active law and that the modearting party can actually evaluate the decision making.

Vasileios Voulgarakis's picture

Hello everybody, really interested on how this e-discussion will unfold.

My name is Vasileios (Vassilis) Voulgarakis and I work as communications manager for a SME called ViLabs. We carry out on project management of EC Horizon2020 Actions and Gender Equality projects is an area that we are quite active with two completed and two more ongoing.

In January we kick-started Project CALIPER; our consortium conists of 2 SMEs, 1 Pan-european professional association of early-stage career academics, 7 Research Performing Orgs (RPOs) and 2 Research Funding Orgs (RFOs). The scope is to link R&I for Gender Equality on the STEM areas, that is, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. One of the core goals is to promote female researchers on higher and middel management and to key positions of decision making, as well as to foster the gender dimension on research. Hence, the current discussion topic is quite relevant and interesting for us.

What we plan to do is that during CALIPER, the status of gender (im)balances will be assessed and Gender Equality Plans will be drafted by Working Groups established to each RPO/RFO involved to the Project. The project will last 4 years and we hope that we will achieve a structural change to the involved Orgs and the best practises out the project's roll out will be communicated to influence more Orgs to move forward and start implementing engedering policies.

Personally, Gender Equality Actions is a new territory for me and I'm very motivated to educate myself as a person and as a professional. 

Looking forward to an informative session.

Thank you for organising this!

mavrikiou's picture

This issue has been discussed recently in my University , ie to apply quota in external Evaluation Commitees for the promotion of academics. There was resistance. The first reaction was that it is very difficult to find so many women across the various disciplines and in higher positions to be members of such Committees...

Other than that we do not have any quota policies

Pat's picture

Making gender competence a key criterion for appointment to all line management positions in HE - including Rector/President is crucial- and defining that not only to refer to awareness, but also evidence of past successful attempts to achieve gender equality. This was incl as a recommendation in HEA (2016)

alhumbert's picture

My problem is always that it is not clear what 'gender competence' means. Many people think they are gender competent, but in fact they do not realise what they don't know...

Pat's picture

Yes- there is evidence that those who THINK they are most competent are sometimes among the most biased... This is where I think it is useful to link to evidence of successful attempts to promote gender equality

Rachel Palmén's picture

I think this is a good point. I think that it is really important to recognise 'gender competence' as made up of both the knowldge and skills that are needed to effect successful (institutional) transformation towards gender equality. This needs to be recognised  (and positively evaluated). This in fact is the other side of the coin - that as you say when it comes to 'gender' many people are convinced that they are 'knowledgable' based on their own experiences. This suggests the need for greater recognition of the key skills and knowldge needed to effect (institutional) change for a greater gender equality. 

Angela Wroblewski's picture

I agree with you. However, if you ask candidates in an appointment procedure to explain which gender issues they would prioritiese and how they would approach them you see very soon if a person is gender competent or not (or at least well briefed). I think it makes a difference if this is part of the set of criterias a person has to fulfil for a post (a must have) or if it is just a nice to have. I think it is similar to social competence which is often required but not really evaluated in a procedure. I  think it is necessary to develop strategies and ways to deal with this criterion seriousely in appointment procedures.

Maria Caprile Elola's picture

Thanks Pat! Very useful to know this recommendation. How is it working?

Pat's picture

It is also extremely important to focus on quotas in one or two key areas- particularly I suggest related to resources- money or people (i.e. recruitment/promotion). Otherwise the small number of senior women will be overwhelmed and no real change will occur. So pick your key sites..

gulsunsaglamer's picture

I agree that quotas are useful but we have to be very careful in the implementation process.

Many times male academics feel uncomfartable with this kind of policy and then here we again we face with even greater resistance

Workplace with equal opportunities should be introduced as amajor priority together with other equality policies in order to reduce resistance

alhumbert's picture

In the UK, for corporate boards, it seems that it is the threat of quotas that has been quite successful in increasing women's board representation! 

Would that work in HEIs too, and mitigate negative perceptions of those appointed under quotas?

Rachel Palmén's picture

We are very lucky to have present diffierent Community of Practice facilitators and CoP members from the ACT project. I have a quick question to you: how are the ACT supported CoPs trying to promote gender equality in decision-making bodies?

Pat's picture

Excellent q... Who are your targets? Are they only theose who are already 'convinced'? What about supportive men- gender champions on the ground or those in powerful positions? How can you translate gender equality into terms that they understand/that they will relate to/that will get them to take action?

(Am I talking/writing too much?? sorry.... I am passionate about this topic...)

rochelle.fritch's picture

This is a key issue on the FORGEN Community of Practice, as research funders we are looking at our own practices in decision-making for funding in the CoP. We are working on mapping the evaluation process and measures that have been implemented in each of the steps in the process.

Additionally, as research funders, we are thinking of the best ways to promote decision-making in the research bodies we fund.

Rachel Palmén's picture

That's great Rochelle. Can you give any examples or concrete actions of the best ways to promote decision-making in the research bodies that you fund? 

rochelle.fritch's picture

Of course, an example of this can been seen in Ireland. Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council and the Health Research Board will require Higher Education Institutions to have Athena SWAN Gender Equality Accreditation in Order to be Eligible for Research Funding. In this way RFOs can influence the culture within the research bodies that we fund.

 

Rachel Palmén's picture

Great! Thanks! 

Pat's picture

Rochelle, The recent report by Graves et al suggests that Athena SWAN in the UK has had very little effect- V sobering given the almost exclusive focus on it....

gulsunsaglamer's picture

Dear All

It is difficult to start our discussions where we have four comprehensive questions

I would like to share one of my twitter message that I sent to my colleagues on 8th of March 2019 with you

“Half of the population deserves to contribute to the development of humankind with equal rights, equal opportunities and equal responsibilities”

The main question is “how to achieve this?”

Should we put certain targets or should we use certain quotas to achieve the desired situation in a defined time period?

Who are the ones who feel that they will get benefit and who are the ones who might feel that there will be risk of losing their positions ?

I believe that if we would like to have a sustainable solution to the problem we have to be patient enough to make women who will experience the improvements in terms of gender equality to digest the achievements and also make the other half not to feel that this change will create equal opportunities for all.

Karolina Kublickiene's picture

agree, as you might face now eg in health care the shift wheer decission maker are females and somehow you could feel that they are too pro females and not thinking about men or gender diverse people. I see this very often in my department of obstetrics and gynecology.

 

Rachel Palmén's picture

Hi Gulsun, thanks for your insights. Could you explain a little bit about EWORA and how that helps to promote more women into rectorships?

Pat's picture

I think men are critical in moving gender equality forward- particiularly men at the very top. Their concern is with the future and sustainability of their organisations. They have 'made it' themselves- they have nothing to 'prove' individually. They are critical to organisational transformation which is what we are trying to achieve...

alhumbert's picture

Ireland has been very successful recently in boosting the number of women professors. Has there been a backlash to this among men at the top of the organisations? And is that starting to change the institutions or is it too early days?

Pat's picture

The interesting thing is that there has been v little negative comment. The discourse has moved since 2016 so that the idea of women having a lesser 'chance' than men is seen as unfair.. Also the HEA did a lot of work in getting HEIs to think they could gain from the Senior Leadership Initiative.(SALI)

There is resistance within the HEIS and this is shown in all sorts of ways- not all have appointed VPs in the area etc etc. over-reliance on Athena SWAN etc Its not Heaven....

Rachel Palmén's picture

I think that this is a really important point that highlights the importance of how these initaitives are framed. You say: Also the HEA did a lot of work in getting HEIs to think they could gain from the Senior Leadership Initiative.(SALI) - How was the SALI  presented? As beneficial for all?  For me this is key...

rochelle.fritch's picture

I understand your concern about an over reliance on Athena SWAN. As a funding body, using Athena SWAN certification as a requirement for funding has been one of our methods to influence culture within the universities.

Would you have an ideas of alternatives that we, as a funding body, could use?

Karolina Kublickiene's picture

yes, i am really supportive for this, but based at my experience at my university i always wanted to know the statistics in respect to recruitment after women got the porfessorship.

This is the problem, how to make this change sustainable, that when women gets the porfessorship she has a sustainable strategy to pormore gender equality in all recruitments procedures

aknapinska's picture

I agree. Moreover, She Figures experts are discussing this indicator "women among professors" - is it crucial for measuring gender equality? I imagine the situation that there is a 50% share of women with grade A and power structures are persistent in favour of men.

Angela Wroblewski's picture

I think we should be  extremely careful in using the indicator "women in grade A" as an indicator for successfull gender equality policies. it just measures the representation of women in grade A and is probably an indicator for the existence / the abolishment of barriers of women into these positions. But for me this is not equivalent with gender equality it is just one important aspect and it contains the risk of reducing gender equality to the dimension of female representation.

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

I fully agree that the simple statistic of women in grade A does not mirror equality or access to power. However, the % in decision making boards / deans / rectors etc is a better indicator for that. What would be an alternative? SheFigures needs "quantifiers" - so how do you measure power? inclusion? sense of equity / equality? 

alhumbert's picture

To answer these questions, we would need data at instutional data from different sources (e.g. administrative data on number of women professors, in committees etc; survey data on well-being, sustainability of careers etc), and model the relationship between women's access to decision-making positions (lagged possibly) and some indicators of equality... 

 

The feasibility of doing this at national level, for inclusion in SheFigures for instance, is debatable!

aknapinska's picture

Women in boards - of course. Measuring "sense of equity" is more sophisticated indicator, perhaps it will be possible within ACTon Gender surveys (Gender Equality Audit and Monitoring, GEAM) which are planned this spring? 

"This online-survey will be used to monitor and evaluate the institutions that participate in the Communities of Practice supported by ACT regarding its advances on gender equality development and Gender Equality Plans implementation" 

aknapinska's picture

Thank you Angela! I see your point. This afternoon we have first meeting of She Figures Steering Group and your arguments will be very helpful. 

gulsunsaglamer's picture

The ratio of women professor does not guarantee the similar ratio at the top management level.

If we look at the last SHE Figures we can observe that there are 3 main groups of countries

1. Group has high percentage of women professors but very low number of rectors (Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey..)

2. Group has low percentage of women professors but high number of rectors ( Sweden..

3. Group has almost comparable representation at professorial level and top managemnt (UK..

The problem is very complex..

Karolina Kublickiene's picture

yes, agree

Pat's picture

I think there are real risks in expecting women to do the heavy lifting... men make up 86% of those at Rector/President in universities and 76 per cent of those at Prof level in the EU. Women are thus a minority- often marginalised and stereotyped in a masculinist environment... Institutonal transformation must involve men...

 

 

 

 

Maria Caprile Elola's picture

we say revolution will be feminist or there will be no revolution. I will add: there will be no feminist revolution without men!

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Active Threads:

2020-Apr-30

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Introduction On March 19th 2020, people from our Communities of Practice and beyond gathered for an open e-discussion on Gender Equality in Decision-Making in R&I and HE (1) on GenPort, the online portal for gender and science . This was the most active e-discussion yet on GenPort, with 146 comments and 30 participants from 20 countries (2). The e-discussion was convened by Dr Rachel...
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2020-Mar-19

2 years 3 months ago
Posted by: Rachel Palmén
Welcome to this e-discussion on gender equality in decision-making in R&I and HE!Gender equality and gender mainstreaming have become one of the European Research Area priorities –and gender-balance in decision-making is one of three key objectives. Women’s representation in academia decreases the higher up the academic ladder – culminating in the very small percentage of...
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