Society today faces many challenges that require imaginative and sustainable solutions, so it is timely to bring women to the heart of research and innovation. An EU initiative and Gender Summit take a new approach to accomplishing this longtime goal.
For the first time in the history of European research programs, gender has been identified as a criterion of success in the new European Union Framework Programme for Research & Innovation, Horizon 2020. Not only are applicants for funding encouraged to promote equal opportunities and ensure a balanced participation of women and men at all levels in research teams and management structures, but projects are expected to integrate gender dimension across a wide range of topics.
In the Horizon 2020 work program, the gender dimension is explicitly integrated in more than 100 topics of the 610 making up the current Work Programme, spread across 13 program, including health, environment, transport, food, water and energy. This "crosscutting" approach is a major departure from the EU's previous approach of improving women's participation by promoting structural changes in science institutions.
To attend the conference
The event: Gender Summit 4 - Europe 2014, From Ideas to Markets: Excellence in mainstreaming gender into research, innovation and policy
Dates: 30 June – 1 July, 2014
Location: Room Gasperi, Charlemagne Building, Brussels
Registration: Register here
To follow on social media
The goal of the 4th Gender Summit – Europe, from June 30 to July 1 in Brussels, is to expand the gender in science discourse to include this "crosscutting" perspective: what it means and how it can be effectively implemented in Horizon 2020 project proposals.
"We've reached an important turning point that gender issues are considered central to the Horizon 2020 plans," said Dr. Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski, VP of Global Academic & Relations for Elsevier. "The Gender Summit serves a catalytic role by bringing together an interdisciplinary and cross-sector set of experts and thought leaders to bridge issues of research, policy and implementation."
Dr. Falk-Krzeskinski will give a presentation on the first day of the conference on "Interdisciplinary and Team Science:Improving Collaborative Effectiveness of Research Teams."
How Horizon 2020 will work
In her welcome message to the Gender Summit, EU Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn explains how Horizon 2020 will work:
There's a lot of money at stake in Horizon 2020 and the new rules ensure that women are at the centre of the decisions on how it should be spent and at the heart of the research and innovation that is funded.
Horizon 2020 provides a clear incentive to applicants to ensure a better gender balance in their research teams. If two proposals receive exactly the same scores on all other evaluation criteria, the gender balance will be one of the factors in deciding which proposal is ranked higher.
Horizon 2020 also promotes the gender dimension in research and innovation content to ensure that it takes into account the needs, behaviours and attitudes of both women and men. This is the way to excellence, jobs and growth. In Horizon 2020, the gender dimension is explicitly integrated from the outset in many of the specific programmes. … This gives us a promising idea of the number of projects that will develop a gender dimension and of the new knowledge that they will produce.
I hope that those attending the Gender Summit and the science community will respond to these opportunities to create better research and more sustainable technological innovations.
The journey to gender equity: a capsule history
The journey to this point has been long. Gender equality has been recognized as a core value of the European Union since the Treaty of Rome signed by member countries in 1957, and its scope was expanded in the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam with a call for mainstreaming gender in all EU policies. Whilst this led most countries to introduce gender equality legislation, it has had very little effect on the position of women in science.
To puzzle out why gender equality issues, whilst acknowledged, were not addressed in science, Portia Ltd. set up a panel of science leaders in 2010 to examine available research evidence and establish whether these issues mattered to science, and if so what changes were needed. The panel was part of the EU genSET project.
The panel decided that indeed science should be concerned about what the research was saying and recommended to the European Commission that the evidence was not only considerable and compelling but that others too should have the opportunity to understand better what the common problems are and what actions are needed to address them. This action proved to be the tipping point in the discourse on gender issues in science in Europe. It brought to the attention of the wider science community and to science policy makers the fact that the women's historical underrepresentation in STEM meant that women were missing not only as researchers but also as subjects and targets of research, and consequently, science had less evidence for women than men. Therefore, the outcomes for women were poorer than for men.
The creation of the Gender Summits
The idea that gender inequality could impact on research quality was used by Portia to set up the Gender Summit as a platform for advancing evidence-led and consensus-based actions on gender issues in science. The goal of the first two Gender Summits, in 2011 and 2012, was to demonstrate the range and consequences of gender inequalities. The timing coincided with the European Commission's preparations of the Horizon 2020 program.
The genSET panel's recommendation to the Commission proved to be prescient. From the beginning, the summits attracted strong interest. The two European events had 450 participants from 35 countries each, and in 2013, under the leadership of the National Science Foundation, the Gender Summit was introduced to North America, where it attracted over 100 speakers and 650 participants.
Future Summits in Africa, Asia and possibly Latin America
In 2015, Gender Summit will be introduced to Africa and to Asia, and there are prospects that it will be introduced to Latin America in 2016. The diversity of the science landscapes in each region require different emphasis in each case, new leaders and stakeholder groups to engage, and new communities to set up. But the underlying vision remains the same: to bring together scientists, gender scholars, policy makers and other groups to improve the science endeavor and its outcomes for women and men, equally.
Hopefully, Horizon 2020 will achieve what legal frameworks have failed to do, and working on gender issues will be part of mainstream activities.
Support from Elsevier Foundation's New Scholars Program
For a small organization like Portia, contributing to this progress would not have been possible without the support of certain influential players in the science world who share our goal to improve the situation of women in research and innovation. The Elsevier Foundation's New Scholars program has supported the Gender Summit from the beginning.
Ylann Schemm (@ylannschemm), Program Director of the Elsevier Foundation, said: "The Gender Summit is really unique, filling a critical space bringing together scientists and policymakers across geographies to consistently inform new policies and funding frameworks. We've been very proud to be a part of this new dialogue from the beginning." She will share best practices from the New Scholar's program on July 1st of the program.
Elsevier Connect Contributor
Dr. Elizabeth Pollitzer is director of Portia Ltd., a London-based nonprofit organization focused on improving gender equality in science and inclusion of gender dimension in research and innovation content.
She has served as "architect" of the Gender Summit since its inception in 2011, guiding its focus on gender issues in research and innovation and helping to bring together the scientists, policy makers, gender scholars and others groups in the science system).