10 Recommended Resources for Gender Equality in Academic and Science Careers

The equal participation of women and men in contemporary science and research is not just an issue in terms of social justice but also in terms of taking advantage of the available talent and improving the relevance and quality of science, technology and innovation. Despite the advances made, gender equality in terms of career choices, paths and outcomes continues to be a challenge for the science community. Highest grade professorships continue to be predominately (up to 80%) held by men (see latest She Figures).

GenPORT has recently published it's 2nd Research Synthesis on "Academic and Science Careers" in an effort to summarize the latest findings on the persistent horizontal and vertical segregation in science.

In the following post we want to highlight some of the most useful resources for monitoring gender inequality in science careers and designing and implementing measures to construct a more egalitarian science and research system. 

1. Women in Academic Science: A Changing Landscape 

This monograph undertakes extensive life-course analyses comparing the trajectories of women and men in math-intensive fields with those of their counterparts in non-math-intensive fields in which women are close to parity with or even exceed the number of men. The article summarizes evidence on the various available explanations for the continued under-representation of women in STEM fields, among them being: chilly climate, biased interviewing and hiring, lack of female role models, lack of mentors, biased tenure and promotion, unfair salary, sex differences in quantitative and spatial abilities, lower productivity and impact, stereotype threat, and sex differences in career preferences.


2. She Figures 2012 / 2015

An indispensable resource for understanding current trends of women and men in academic careers. Are women employed as researchers still remain a minority, but are they catching up? Is their distribution throughout different fields of science changing over time? Are women effectively progressing in their careers to achieve top-level positions? Are more women sitting on executive or advisory boards of research organizations? Available since 2003, She Figures provides periodic updates on the involvement of women covering the period from tertiary education to employment and work-life outlook in the 27 EU Member States and associated countries.


3. Attrition of Women in the Biological Sciences: Workload, Motherhood, and Other Explanations Revisited 

This article analyses why women and men enter graduate programs in biology in about equal numbers, but women are less likely to become academic scientists. Various hypotheses have been suggested to explain this higher rate of attrition, most of which cite family issues as the reason. However, medicine successfully recruits and retains women physicians, despite being less family friendly than biology in terms of workload, stress, and inflexible work hours. The main reasons is, that although both professions are equally competitive, the “competition peak” is located at different times in a person's career. Whereas the competition for entry into medical school is very intense, entry into Biology Higher Education is relatively “easy”. That is to say that whereas in medical science competition occurs for women prior to family formation providing a relatively stable career pattern later on, women developing their career in Biology as scientists face  the most unstable and difficult period precisely at the time of  family formation leading to higher dropout rates.


4. Housework Is an Academic Issue. How to keep talented women scientists in the lab, where they belong 

This study analyzes the division of household labor in scientists’ homes and their strategies to lighten the household load in order to maintain highly productive careers. It argues that work done in the home is very much an academic issue—not peripheral in any way to scientists’ professional lives. Understanding how housework relates to women’s careers is one new piece in the puzzle of how to attract more women to science.

Moreover, this study also includes policy recommendation that provide a new solution to one key aspect of balancing life and work. The authors propose that employers provide benefits to support housework. Many universities already offer retirement, health-care, and child-care supplements; some even support housing and tuition benefits. It is recommended that institutions provide a package of flexible benefits that employees can customize to support aspects of their private lives in ways that saves time and enhances professional productivity. Institutions need to think of housework benefits as part of the structural cost of doing business.


5. WHIST Guidelines on Gender Diversity in Sscience & Technological Organisations 

This report is an outcome of the project WHIST  that has been carried out in direct continuity with the Coordination Action “Practising Gender Equality in Science” - PRAGES1, which involved the analysis of 125 good practices in Europe, North America and Australia.

This document provides an experienced-based analysis of the gender equality measures in different research institutions. Based on this, the report also includes useful recommendations for overcoming obstacles to gender equality and suggestions to trigger social innovation.


6. Plans and initiatives in selected research institutions aiming to stimulate gender equality and enact structural change 

This report (GENDER-NET Deliverable Report D2.6) summarises research undertaken to understand the impact of existing national/regional initiatives and award schemes in selected research institutions that aim to stimulate gender equality and enact structural change. The report provides an overview and analysis of existing institutional gender equality plans, also called gender action plans, (GEPs), central institutional initiatives, decentralised/area-specific institutional initiatives, and summarises the most common and innovative practices (MCIPs), implemented within the framework of existing national/regional initiatives and award schemes.

Recruiting, retaining, and advancement of women researchers is one of the areas that the report covers. Funding schemes and awards receive special mention; they support the work on gender equality in institutions and set gender-related requirements for funding. The report includes concrete examples of funding schemes, among them policy actions that enhance individual women researchers’ professional development.


7. Report of the online discussion on integration of Gender Equality into RPOs and Universities 

This report compiles resources for the implementation of gender equality measures in the scientific and academic institutions. It is the outcome of an online e-discussion (LINK) at the European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE) held in 2015.


 8. Gendering the Academy and Research: combating Career Instability and Asymmetries (GARCIA Project)

The GARCIA is a FP7- EU project is concerned with the implementation of actions in European Universities and research centers to promote a gender culture and combat gender stereotypes and discrimination.

By taking into account the involved organizations, but also their broader national context, this project aims to develop and maintain research potential and skills of both, women and men researchers, in order to sustain the quality of their working conditions.

Particular attention is given to the early stages of academic and scientific career. The project focuses on both, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and SSH (Social Sciences and Humanities) disciplines to assure that the aim of transforming academia and research towards a more gender equal environment can be extended to all levels of the institution by putting into practice the best systemic organizational approaches.

9. Female Empowerment in Science and Technology Academia (FESTA) 

This FP7- EU project pursues a change for gender equality in the working environment of academic researchers. FESTA works with gender and excellence in researchers’ daily environments started with a mapping of ideas among researchers in Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Turkey and Bulgaria. They produce different materials that can help the implementation of gender equality in academia such as:

- Methodologies and measures for analyzing informal decision-making and communication processes

- Gendering Decision Making and Communications Processes: Recommendations

- Improving meeting culture

- Excellence and gender in the working environment

- Handbook: Gender issues in recruitment, Appointment and Promotion Processes

- Perceptions of excellence in hiring processes

- Toolkit: Towards raising organizational awareness


10. Online discussion on Family Friendly Policies hosted on GenPORT

This is the report of the online discussion on family-friendliness and the reconciliation of family and work in science organized on genderportal.eu. The German-speaking community discussed gender equality issues and work-life balance measures at German higher education and research institutions. Networking strategies, professional needs and priorities among gender equality officers, as well as success indicators and best practices for measures regarding family-friendliness were discussed in an online format. Issues of recruitment, staff development and training were also on the agenda. The discussion was facilitated by Gesis – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, which is also part of the GenPORT consortium.

The online discussion revealed that existing regional networks and the exchange of experiences among gender equality staff at German higher education and research institutions are crucial, and that a virtual exchange platform, such as www.genderportal.eu, serves as a valuable supplement to these existing networking channels. Participants agreed that measures for a better reconciliation of family and work at German universities require long-term preparation, sustainable planning and managerial support in order to be successful on the long run and raise awareness for the issue among students and staff.

Tailor-made programmes to implement institutional change towards family-friendliness were discussed as beneficial measures for the reconciliation of family and work at German higher education and research institutions. Participants agreed that such measures have generally proven to be successful and helpful to bring about change in organizational culture.

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