SPEAR: Designing a sustainable and effective Gender Equality Plan for Research Institutions

Besides helping us clarify our initial objectives and create a comprehensive stakeholder map, Horizon Results Booster provided us with materials for joint dissemination and supported us in building a social media campaign

Projects involved

Gender equity is still far from being a reality in Europe. With huge differences among member states, there still persist a number of gender stereotypes in lots of fields like care, education, the labour market or businesses. This is also true in the Academia and research institutions, where women hold less than 25% of the leadership positions and work more frequently under precarious working contracts compared to men.

The SPEAR project tackles these problems by designing sustainable and effective Gender Equality Plans (GEP) for research institutions. This is possible through the implementation of GEPs in Research Performing Organisations based on a distinct methodology committed to Creative, Open, Mitigating, Processual, Accountable, SMART and Sustainable (COMPASS) changes. The COMPASS tool offers an innovative approach that follows a methodology to help potential gender equality practitioners in their work.

“What the project aims to do is increase the number of gender equality plans which are implemented in institutions. This is something that we have managed to achieve in our project, to challenge the prevalent barriers in order to give everyone equal opportunities to proceed with their career prospects without discrimination, glass ceilings, stereotypical expectations”, explains Evdokia Bairampa at Europa Media, one of the implementation partners of SPEAR.

SPEAR focuses on practice and processes, like the underlying structures, procedures, activities and working conditions. This means that the project does not employ a fix-the-women approach, nor does it merely focus on changing the numbers of women in research. This aligns with the recent evaluation of gender equality in Horizon 2020 which points out that improving gender balance is important, but not sufficient to foster required institutional changes. SPEAR consequently focuses on support, learning, practice, collaboration and sustainability.

Horizon Results Booster: enhanced dissemination and impact

The SPEAR team wanted to enhance the impact of the project results by joining forces with similar initiatives and focusing on dissemination. They turned to Horizon Results Booster and requested support through Service 1, Module B, which helps research teams with the dissemination plan design and execution. With the support of HRB experts, they formed a cluster with other related projects in the field of gender issues.

The Booster helped us a lot to clarify and identify our stakeholders, which was actually one of our main objectives. We discussed ways to set up gender equality plans in different universities. Finally, we decided to create a kind of online tool, called GEP Starter, and promote it on the 8th of March, which is the International Women's Day. Thanks to this tool, those who are not familiar with gender equality plans can easily get started,” says Evdokia Bairampa.

These materials can be used either by individuals or groups so they can get inspirational materials, examples of good practices and implement such a plan within their institutions.

Gender Equality Plans – why are they important?

Thanks to SPEAR, nine research organisations across Europe are implementing gender equality plans aimed at improving gender equality in decision-making processes and systems, strengthening gender equality in research and career development, integrating gender into study programs and improving the quality of life and work.

“This is very important because we find out that with gender equality plans you can among many things, work systematically toward the kind of safe and supportive working environment for everyone to feel comfortable with their career development and their expectations. As women are still generally underrepresented in Academia, especially at the top ranks, this will benefit everyone, but will have the greatest impact for those who are most different to the existing norms of what a researcher is,” Evdokia Bairampa added.

The “She Figures 2021” publication by European Commission has shown that while there has been some progress towards improving women's representation in decision-making and leadership positions, women represent less than 25% of heads of institutions in the higher education sector.

When it comes to doctoral graduates, women continue to be inadequately represented in technical professions and their proportion is lower (25%) among self-employed professionals in Science and Engineering and Information and Communication Technologies.

To learn more about SPEAR, visit www.gender-spear.eu

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