How do you address gender in your RIA and IA projects?

The European Commission announced in April 2021 the new eligibility criteria for the Horizon Europe program. Among the new features, one is the Gender Equality Plan: from 2022, a Gender Equality Plan (GEP) will be required for public bodies, research organizations and higher education institutions established in a EU country or an associated country, and will have to meet specific requirements.

This new regulation is a reminder that gender equality is now a political priority for the European Commission and, therefore, a transversal priority in Horizon Europe program (Article 7 (6) and Recital 53 of the Framework Regulation, Articles 2(e) and 6(3)(e) of the Specific Program) [1, 2, 3]. Indeed, despite the progress made in Horizon 2020 and ERA, a gender disparity in research and innovation persists, as shown in the She Figures 2018 [4] and the ERA Progress Report [5].

To address this GEP requirement, self-declaration from the proposal submission stage is now required (for all participant categories). The GEP will additionally be included in the validation process of the participating entity (based on the self-declaration).

Source: The A-Team

1. A Gender-what ?

A Gender Equality Plan is an action plan that must detail the concrete measures implemented by the participating entity in favor of gender equality. According to the European Commission, a GEP must:

  1. Conduct an assessment of procedures and practices to identify gender bias;
  2. Identify and implement innovative strategies to correct any gender bias;
  3. Set clear, realistic goals and monitor progress using defined indicators.

Five key factors for gender inclusion in R&D were identified through the She Figures report and are recommended by the European Commission in a GEP:

  1. Balance between work, company culture and personal life,
  2. Gender balance in leadership and decision making,
  3. Gender equality in recruitment and career progression,
  4. Gender integration in research and teaching content,
  5. Measures against gender-based violence and sexual harassment.
Five key factors for gender inclusion in R&D. Visual extracted from the webinar: A successful proposal for Horizon Europe (21/04/2021) [6].

As a new eligibility criterion for Horizon Europe, a GEP must meet several requirements and :

  1. Be a public document: signed by the management, published on the institution’s website and disseminated through the institutions;
  2. Have dedicated resources: to finance dedicated positions and teams as well as the actions implemented, and time set aside to do so;
  3. Enable data collection and monitoring: data on gender across positions, roles, and leadership positions are needed to implement concrete and effective actions, as well as to establish indicators and annual reports to assess GEP progress and results.
  4. Integrate training and knowledge building to ensure long-term commitment from the entire organization.

It is important to note here that the GEP is required for the institution itself, not for a specific project.

2. Institutions ; what can you do to give your research teams’ projects the best chance?

Doing a GEP may seem complicated at first: that’s why the GEAR tool was created! The Gender Equality in Academia and Research Tool is an online guide, developed by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), that describes step by step how to set up a GEP and provides concrete examples.

Step 1: Explain the context and dynamics of your institution,

Step 2: Analyze the state of the art in terms of the institution’s existing data and measures for promoting gender equality,

Step 3: Implement the plan with connected measures and actions, objectives that are specific and measurable by the use of defined indicators,

Step 4: Implement the plan,

Step 5: Monitor progress and evaluate the plan,

Step 6: Report annually on the impacts and progress as well as feedback from the various steps.

Gender Equality in Academia and Research Tool [7].

3. Research teams ; how to integrate gender in your R&D projects?

Gender integration in R&D content throughout the research process is also a criterion for evaluating the excellence portion of the project proposal for RIA and IA.  The gender balance in a given project will now be established as a ranking criterion for tied proposals, ranked third in order of priority.

One might think that science, objective by definition, “sees no gender.” However, this is not always the case. Numerous studies have shown that it is important to consider this dimension and that even, in some cases, taking an inclusive look at a problem can contribute to finding innovative solutions. Incorporating sex, gender, and other intersectional factors (ethnicity, socioeconomic background, etc.) into R&D approaches also provides a deeper understanding of the needs of all people. This allows for the development of solutions that are better suited to all people, thus further enhancing the societal relevance of research and innovation.

For example, studies have shown that many facial recognition systems are less accurate and perform better in recognizing faces of women, dark-skinned people – with error percentages of up to 35% for dark-skinned women’s faces [8] – or trans people – with error percentages of up to 30% for trans men [9].

Another study showed that, depending on gender, responses of patients to pain and responses of health care staff may differ: health care staff more often associate pain with a psychological rather than physical origin in women than in men [10], but men are more often prescribed pain treatments [11].

Additional examples and case studies are available in the Gendered Innovations 2 report [12] and fact sheet [13], and on the Gendered Innovations website [14], an initiative of Stanford University, which includes analytical methods in addition to case studies.

The new Horizon Europe program is thus more forcefully addressing the gender dimension, both at the level of (i) teaching and research institutions, for which GEP is becoming an eligibility criterion, and (ii) project leaders, who will have to take it into consideration at different levels of their projects (excellence, impact, implementation).

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