Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Integrating gender equality into academia and research: legal, policy and other stimulatory initiatives in the EU Member States III/VII

Legal framework
The purpose of the Directive 2006/54/EC (recast) is to ensure the implementation of the principle of equal opportnities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation. The Directive contains provisions to implement the principle of equal treatment in relation to: a) access to employment, including promotion, and to vocational training; b) working conditions, including (gender) equal pay, return from maternity, paternity and adoption leave, and sexual harassment; and c) occupational social security schemes. It also contains provisions to ensure more effective implementation by the establishment of appropriate procedures. Although this Directive applies to research and higher education institutions as employers, some EU Member States have developed specific legislation to achieve the overarching objective of mainstreaming gender equality in public research and higher education. By November 2015, 14 EU Member States2 had included the overarching objective of integrating gender in public research in their national general equality and/or anti-discrimination legal frameworks (see Figure 2). In most cases, it is the status of higher education institutions and research organisations as public bodies and employers, which determines whether they are explicitly covered by the general equality and/or antidiscrimination legislation. These provisions primarily target equality in the workplace, equal access to decision-making positions and fighting sexual harassment and discrimination. Specific provisions requiring research and/or higher education institutions to implement structured gender equality plans exist only in eight EU Member States3 (see Figure 2).

Policy framework
22 EU Member States4 have put in place policies promoting gender equality in research. It was found that a policy framework on the integration of gender in research may exist in countries lacking legal provisions on the same topic. This is the case of Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia. On the other hand, countries with a comprehensive legislative framework, such as Austria, were found not to reflect this into a comprehensive policy framework. There is a high degree of diversity in the different dimensions covered by these policies and in the intensity of their implementation.
In 165 out of 22 Member States where policies are in place, the main focus is on equality in participation in research activities and gender balance in access to management and decisionmaking positions. In other countries, although these basic dimensions are not covered, other aspects are considered, such as promoting work-life balance (GR), or establishing a partnership between equality and research governance bodies (PT). Policies on the integration of a gender perspective in knowledge production could be identified in three countries (BE, FI and FR), while policies on the integration of a gender dimension in curricula are present in four (BE, FI, HR and SI). Worth noting is that French and Spanish policy documents include specific measures directed at fighting gender-based violence.
Ensuring support (or absence thereof) for the implementation of Gender Equality Plans is also a point of divergence in the policies identified in the EU Member States. Only eight countries6  include supportive measures for establishing and implementing Gender Equality Plans.  The fieldwork of this project also provided evidence that Research Funding Organisations have increased their involvement in the implementation of policies that promote gender equality in research. Nevertheless, the degree of support still varies considerably among countries.

Other stimulatory initiatives

 The most widespread initiative seems to be the L’Oréal-UNESCO awards for female scientists, which has been implemented over the last years by 12 Member States7. This practice consists of awarding female senior researchers and granting fellowships to doctoral and post-doctoral researchers. The Athena-SWAN Chart initiative was established in 2005 in the UK with the aim of encouraging and advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicines (STEMs). In 2015, the Charter included the research areas of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Business and Law. Also in early 2015, the Athena-SWAN charter was extended to Ireland. Other stimulatory initiatives have been identified in different EU Member States such as the Charter for Gender Equality in Higher Education and Research in France, or the Charter for More Women in Management and Operation Chain Reaction in Denmark.

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