Friday, December 2, 2016

Gender Equality Plans in research and higher education institutions in the EU IV/VII

According to the inventory carried out in the framework of this project, over 1,100 research and higher education institutions were implementing Gender Equality Plans in 2015. It is estimated that in total over approximately 1,500 Gender Equality Plans were being implemented in the EU back then. This is because in some institutions, individual departments and research institutes also implement Gender Equality Plans.
Gender Equality Plans are more common in countries where legislation include them as specific legal provisions (see Figure 3). Although they may be set in place in the form of binding legal provisions, Gender Equality Plans are generally categorised as soft policy instruments at the EU level. Despite them being compulsory by law, subsequent processes and measures of adoption and implementation do not entail the same binding nature. This poses challenges to the effective implementation of Gender Equality Plans and hence to the promotion of gender equality in research and higher education institutions.
Internal organisational features have a great impact on the implementation of Gender Equality Plans, such as the resources available, top-management support, capacity to mobilise stakeholders and the different components of the university, as well as decision-making and potential resistances to change. The very objectives of gender equality measures implemented in research and higher education institutions vary depending not only on the status of gender equality within the organisation, but also on its funding, national and international profile, needs in terms of recruitment, audiences and specialisation.
Despite different institutional settings and features, the Gender Equality Plans implemented in research and higher education institutions share some common aspects. The Gender Equality Plans that were more thoroughly analysed for the purpose of this project generally address equality in recruitment, appraisal, career management and access to management positions. On the other hand, a greater or lesser focus is put on work-life balance and other related issues such as building a gender equality culture, preventing sexist language, etc.
Awareness-raising actions are usually planned as part of Gender Equality Plans, although only rarely as part of a broader capacity-building and knowledge transfer strategy. Fighting sexual harassment and gender-based violence, integrating a gender perspective in research and curricula, as well as tackling intersecting inequalities, seem to receive little attention or do not appear to be present at all in many Gender Equality Plans. The lack of monitoring and evaluation instruments, the absence of timelines for implementation and the lack of institutional, human and financial resources to make Plans sustainable are other common features identified.
The Gender Equality Plans developed or enhanced as part of EU-funded institutional change projects are of a distinctive nature. Due to the highly competitive nature and pre-requisites of EU calls, research and higher education institutions applying for EU funding are compelled to build far-reaching, holistic strategies, and to contribute cumulatively to enhance knowledge on gender in research in order to achieve the three objectives set by the European Commission. Evidences of such a qualitative difference were reported for instance in Italy, France or the Netherlands. Additionally, the human and financial resources these EU-funded Gender Equality Plans rely upon enhance their capacity to carry out sophisticated diagnoses and design complex measures, and allow the dissemination of their outputs. The EU-funded institutional change projects and respective Gender Equality Plans also contribute to shaping a community of practitioners driven by common interests, who reveal to be able to act beyond their community.

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