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Applying “gender lens” can help us achieve better health and disaster responses: Gender Summit founder

August 4, 2020

By Domiziana Francescon, Yuhri Ishizaki

The 19th Gender Summit – with free virtual participation – will bring together experts from around the world to accelerate implementation of the UN SDGs

Pictured above: The Gender Summit has a history of making policy recommendations, many of which lead to change in academia and government. Here, leaders at the the Seoul Gender Summit in 2015 adopt a Declaration and Call for Actions to Advance Gendered Research, Innovation and Socio-economic Development.

The upcoming global Gender Summit will bring together 60 experts and policymakers to help accelerate progress in implementing the United Nations SDGs.

Last year, the UN launched the Decade of Actionopens in new tab/window initiative to dramatically increase the pace and scale of SDG implementation efforts. The 2020 Sustainable Development Goals Reportopens in new tab/window has pointed to a various problems in achieving all the SDGs. For SDG 5 (Gender Equality), it states:

… the promise of a world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed, remains unfulfilled.

The 19th Gender Summit will bring together experts in gender and SDG areas to identify gender knowledge that can be readily applied, as well as knowledge that is still missing but necessary to accelerate progress across all SDGs, ensuring that improvements will benefit women and men equally. In addition, this gender knowledge, for both biological and socio-cultural aspects, can help verify claims of equality in SDG policies and interventions while pinpointing the sources and consequences of disparities in outcomes for women and men.

GS19 will take place as a hybrid conference on August 19-20 – with a small gathering in Seoul, South Korea, and virtually online, hosted on Elsevier’s Researcher Academyopens in new tab/window platform. Registration is free.

We caught up with Dr. Elizabeth Pollitzer, architect of the Gender Summits and member of Elsevier’s Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board.

Can you explain why it is important to focus on the SDGs for this Gender Summit? Beyond SDG 5 on Gender Equality, what is the connection between gender across all of the SDGs?

One way to accelerate progress in the SDGs is to identify synergies within and among different SDGs, and prioritize those interventions that promise to achieve multiple SDG targets simultaneously. In most analyses, however, gender and other inequalities (SDGs 5,10) have been omitted or assumed to be of little importance.

Image of Elizabeth Pollitzer, Ph.D

Gender Summit "architect" Elizabeth Pollitzer, PhD

The 19th Gender Summit brings together major global actors as well as 60 international experts. The aim is to produce a roadmap for advancing gender knowledge into SDGs implementation efforts and to identify interactions between SDGs based on gender dimension connections.

Can you give an example?

Yes. Research shows that in some fish species, the male grows faster than the female, while in others it’s the other way around (SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources). Those employed in aquaculture industry (SDGs 8, 10) can benefit from understanding how to control the ratio of males to females without using dangerous chemicals (SDGs 12, 3), which will have positive effects on their income (SDGs 5, 8, 10) and protect the wellbeing of the environment and the ecosystem services they depend on (SDGs 14, 15).

In this interaction, scenario gender analysis produces connections across several SDGs and can be further enriched by drawing on gender research relevant to the following SDGs:

  • SDGs 1 (Greater employment of women means no poverty.)

  • SDG 2 (Sustainable farming means no hunger.)

  • SDG 3 (Safe food and nutrition for pregnant women means better health.)

  • SDG 4 (Understanding fish reproduction means educated market decisions.)

  • SDG 6 (Less pollution from aquacultures means cleaner waters.)

  • SDG 16 (Including women in setting quality standards strengthens governance of production systems.)

  • SDG 17 (Impact across multiple goals means better opportunities for partnerships to achieve all SDG with women’s empowerment targets).

What issues in gender has the pandemic helped to highlight in the research ecosystem?

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated many gaps in scientific evidence and models about how gender differences and their intersecting inequalities (age, ethnicity, social status, etc) are represented in epidemiological and disaster response knowledge; how limited, because of inherent biases, is the capacity of science knowledge to inform policy decisions to effectively respond to disaster situations; and how important it is to produce really good and unbiased behavioral science to understand cultural effects driving societal and individual responses to a crisis.

There is a need for a strong interdisciplinary approach combined with citizen science to ensure trust between science and society and ensure that society values scientific knowledge.

Applying the gender lens can help illuminate gaps in the assumptions that drive political, health and societal responses. These topics have been and will continue to be a firm part of the Gender Summit dialogue between scientists, gender scholars, policy makers and stakeholders in science endeavors.

You have recently joined Elsevier’s new Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board. What do you hope to achieve in this role?

I was delighted to be invited to join the board because I knew that this will be an active mechanism for change. Elsevier has already introduced a number of innovative measures to advance gender equality as an employer and also through the influence it has as a curator and publisher of scientific research.

Historically, discussions of gender inequality issues in science were restricted to examining the role of universities. Elsevier’s commitment makes it possible to set common quality standards shared by research performing and research funding organizations, accelerating progress toward equality and fairness. I would also like the board to use Elsevier’s powerful and innovative bibliometric analytics to identify underlying biases and gaps in evidence and promote research needed to close them. There is also an opportunity to produce multidisciplinary collections, identifying studies that are interconnected along SDGs dimensions.

What actions are needed to achieve this and embed gender across all of the SDGs?

The approach must be strategic. It must be based on evidence and should be combined with awareness raising and education. For this, we need to adopt an ecosystem perspective and assemble gender evidence that connects different SDGs into clusters where interventions that can achieve several improvements are possible.

How to participate in the virtual Gender Summit

The 19th Gender Summit – Global for SDGs will take place on August 19-20. Registration is free. The event will take a near-carbon neutral approach; many of the presentations will be pre-recorded for viewing at any time.

Explore the program

The program includes nine themed sessions, a plenary address by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moonopens in new tab/window, and renowned speakers from across the globe. Elsevier’s presenters include:

Theme 1: Uniting Funders, Doers, and Custodians of Research to Strategically and Comprehensively Advance Quality Gender Research for SDGs

  • Youngsuk “YS” Chi, Chairman, Elsevier: “Enabling inclusive sharing of knowledge for SDGs. Innovations introduced at Elsevier at the nexus of gender, sustainability, and development research communication”

Theme 3: Strengthening Science and Technology for Better Response to Societal Inequalities, Disruptions, and Emergencies (session organized by Elsevier)

  • Dr. Anders Karlsson, VP of Global Strategic Networks, Elsevier

  • Dr. Jocalyn Clark, Executive editor at The Lancet: “Supporting the Global SDGs: Gender Equity Initiatives at The Lancet”

Theme 6: Developing and Applying Methods of Sex/Gender Analysis in Research for SDGs

  • Dr. Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski, VP Research Intelligence, Global Strategic Networks, Elsevier: “New analysis of the literature on SDGs to identify across which SDGs (beyond SDG5) gender research is being incorporated and where gaps may still exist”

Theme 8: Advancing Science and Inclusive Career Pathways in Sustainability-related Emerging Research and innovation Fields

  • Sarah Huggett, Head of Analytical Services APAC, Elsevier: “The researcher journey through a gender lens: An examination of research participation, career progression, and perceptions across the globe”

Theme 9: Shaping the Next 10 Years of Research and Interventions for SDGs

  • Ylann Schemm, Director, Elsevier Foundation: “Initiatives and programmes for engaging women scientists in the developing world in research for SDGs”


Portrait photo of Domiziana Francescon


Domiziana Francescon

Partnerships Manager