Scenario 1 - New/EU wide GECAS - 10:00-11:00 CET

Welcome to this CASPER e-discussion on a New/EU wide Gender Equality Certification/Award Scenario. As an introduction, here is a short description of the main features and strategic choices behind this first GECAS scenario:


The first concept scenario foresees the introduction of a brand-new EU-wide GECAS, which represents the most ambitious choice of the three that have been proposed. It was developed trying to encompass most of the features emerged in interviews and co-creation activities with the view to maximise impact in terms of gender equality and inclusiveness.

The ambitious setup of this concept scenario, on the other hand, risks making it more difficult for less experienced institutions, or institutions who are less able to mobilise financial and human resources and adequate competences. Resistances and backlash from different internal stakeholders may also be stronger, because the wide set of requirements makes it difficult to just “tick a few boxes” (that is, settle for mostly formal, on-paper achievements).

This concept scenario fully covers, by design, all four mandatory GEP (Gender Equality Plan) building blocks requested to access funding under Horizon Europe, as well as all five recommended GEP content areas (find them here: Gender Equality Plans as an Eligibility Criterion in Horizon Europe). Covering at least three areas – as the minimum requirement to apply for funds– will lead to a basic-level certification.


Among the most significant features of this concept scenario (for the full list, please check the reading materials sent along with the questionnaire), its focus on both process and outcome in the implementation of Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) can be highlighted, as well as its strong emphasis on participatory processes around GEP design and implementation, the adoption of a gender+, intersectional perspective, broadening the set of potential inequality grounds that are actively addressed, the possibility to apply at the level of the whole organisation and/or at Department/Faculty level. Support to applicants would be indirectly provided by the European Commission, as the authority promoting the scheme (through mutual learning, capacity building activities, etc.) and more directly – in the application process – by national authorities.

A set of features are unique to this concept scenario (as compared to the other two):

  • A scoring system is used to assess the level of achievement, allowing to differentiate the level of the certificate
  • The assessment process combines self-assessment and external review from a committee of trained evaluators, expert in the field
  • Besides certificates, a limited number of awards related to specific achievements are issued each year
  • RFOs are included as potential users of the scheme
  • Areas and criteria for intermediate and advanced levels are to be regularly reviewed every 4 years
  • Mechanisms are foreseen for recognising certifications issued by other schemes

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Marion Lesur's picture

Hello and welcome to this e-discussion on the feasibility of a New/EU-wide GECAS, as one of the scenarios developed in frame of the CASPER project. We look forward to a fruitful discussion, to bring our reflection forward.

My name is Marion Lesur, I am Junior Science Officer at the European Science Foundation (ESF), coordinator of CASPER. My background is in Gender in Development and VAW/GBV, and CASPER is one of very exciting projects with a focus on promoting Women in Science in which the ESF has been involved.

We are happy and lucky to have two gender experts with us this morning – Angela Wroblewski from the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) in Austria, and Maxime Forest from Sciences Po (OFCE) in France – who will be sharing their insights as opening remarks.

10 minutes before start, I will leave the e-floor to them for a short introduction followed by remarks.

Angela Wroblewski's picture

Good Morning! My name is Angela Wroblewski and I’m happy to comment on scenario 1 – a new EU wide-GECAS. I will do that from the perspective of an evaluator of gender equality policies and as the coordinator of the H2020 structural change project TARGET – Taking a reflexive approach to gender equality for institutional transformation.

Scenario 1 suggests developing a new EU wide GECAS. The main advantage and at the same time the main challenge of this approach is that it requires a EU wide discourse about gender equality objectives and standards for gender equality plans (GEPs). An effective GECAS has to be based on a shared understanding of gender equality, gender equality objectives and minimum standards for GEPs. Experiences with the implementation of the ERA roadmap at national level through the development of national action plans depicted a lack of a common understanding of gender equality (see GENDERACTION WP3 report). The 3-dimensional gender equality objective in ERA (fixing the numbers, fixing the institutions and fixing the knowledge) has not been adopted by all member states in their national action plans.

Having that in mind I would like to discuss some aspects of the new EU-wide GECAS:

The proposed scheme requires a GEP which considers 3 out of 5 recommended areas. This would allow institutions to focus on fixing the women and gender studies but leaving structural change out. Is that intended?

The aim is to certify GEPs which are based on a public commitment of the institution, dedicated resources, data collection and monitoring and capacity building. It is not explicitly mentioned that data collection includes an audit (a comprehensive analysis of gender imbalances in the institution) as a starting point for the development of the GEP.

It is planned that departments or faculties apply for the EU-wide GECAS with an endorsement of the institution. This somehow contradicts the requirement of a public commitment of the institution to the process. I think it would be important that an institution applies for the certification even if the institution chooses a stepwise approach and starts with one department or faculty. However, it should be avoided that within an institution departments or faculties develop individual gender equality polices which probably contradict each other.

Marion Lesur's picture

Thank you Angela for your very valuable remarks and important points to consider for this scenario

Maxime Forest's picture

Angela is right to point out that there is currently no common discourse on advancing GE in higher education and research, which is reflected in different legal and policy settings for implementing GEPs at national (and regional) level. However, the European Commission has elaborated an increasingly consistent framework for such implementation, not only through Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe provisions or through supporting over 30 GEP projects involving more than 200 organisations accross the continent, but also by contributing to setting up a large community of practitioners or defining minimum criteria for GEP design, implementation and evaluation. And although representing MS with different views and policies in the field, the Council has also been relatively consistent in pointing out the persisting gender gaps and bias in the research and innovation sector (latest in its Dec. 2020 conclusions), thus setting the ground for an EU-wide progress assessment system to emerge.

Maxime Forest's picture

It is a pleasure to join this important discussion on the scenario consisting in establishing a brand new, EU-Wide GECAS. A scholar specialized in gender equality policies at Sciences Po Paris, I have been involved for over ten years in designing, implementing and assessing gender equality policies. Since 2013, I have been more specifically dealing with advancing gender equality and integrating the gender dimension in research and higher education institution, being involved in several EU-funded initiatives devoted to implementing GEPs as a scientific coordinator, expert or trainer. A gender expert and trainer at Yellow Window, I am contributing to developing and delivering contents for the EU-wide Gender Equality Academy. I am especially interested in this discussion over GECAS for RPOs and RFOs committed to gender equality: a few years ago, I helped setting up a working group on certification awards at the French Ministry of Gender Equality, and supported my own university in being the first in France to secure the national award for gender equality in the workplace. Yet, I believe that a EU-wide scheme would now better serve the purpose!



Marion Lesur's picture

Thank you Maxime for joining in today

joerg's picture

Hi Maxime,

I would really be interested to hear more about your experience in the working group on certification. What would you say was the most important insight from this work and what CASPER should take on board and learn?

MarieSchwan's picture



my name is Marie Schwan and I am a trainee at the gender equality office in the german federal enviroment agency. I am thrilled to participate in this discussion, although I'm not reaally sure on how to access it, since I am not really familiar with this website and how everything works. Hopefully, I will be able to join as soon as possible!

Marion Lesur's picture

Hello Marie, nice to have you here with us today. This is already the e-discussion, and we will be exchanging via posts in this format. You can reply to other participants comments directly by chosing the 'reply' option at the bottom of a post.

MarieSchwan's picture

Ah, thanks for the clarification! I somehow misunderstood it and thought the online discussion would take place in a videoconference! That's why I was so confused and thought I didn't get in!



Maxime Forest's picture

I believe that although the most challenging to set up, scenario 1 best responds to current needs in terms of establishing a common, EU-wide ground for assessing RFOs' and RPOs' efforts towards achieving gender equality. This is especially needed as member states and individual organisations are moving at very different paces towards this goal, posing different challenges in terms of building a common understanding of issues at stake and the way to structurally tackle them. Gender Equality Plans have been made legally mandatory in several EU MS, thus creating new scenarios for their implementation but also new challenges for coordinating domestic settings with objectives adopted and practices promoted at the EU/ERA levels.

Angela Wroblewski's picture

I absolutel agree, a EU wide GECAS has the potential to avoid developments in different directions

Rachel Palmén's picture

Yes - I agree that it needs to be an EU level scheme. 

Agostina_Allori's picture

Good morning. My name is Agostina Allori. I am a gender equality consultant at Yellow Window and a core team member for the CASPER Project.

Thank you Angela and Maxime.

Comments for Angela: I find really interesting what you mentioned about building a common EU discourse towards GE. The new EU GECAS as it is envisioned seeks to cover at least 3 out of the 5 recommended areas. Covering 3 areas is the minimum requirement.

Thanks again! 

Maxime Forest's picture

Although ambitious, I consider that Scenario one appropriately identifies the main constraints for its successful roll-out, such as the synergies and coordination to be found with national authorities overseing research and higher education policies. It also reflects the state of the art among the broadening European community of practitioners in implementing Gender Equality Plans at Research Performing and Research Funding Organisations, as it focuses on stakeholders' commitment, processes and sustainability, and rightfully establishes a direct link to the GEP building blocks promoted by DG Research. It is also sound in providing prospects for connecting existing GECAS with the new one, such as fast tracks for validation.

Karin Höhne's picture

Hi, my name is Karin Höhne and I work as equal opportunity officer at the Berlin Institute of Health. I was wondering, if  such a certificate would have any consequences for the institutions. Would it be linked to the ability to apply for funding to have this certificate or are there any other consquences, that would put some pressure on the institutions to make some effort to get it and to improve after 4 years? 

Marion Lesur's picture

Hello Karin, thanks for joining in. The certificate would not per se be connected to the ability to get access to funding, however as having a direct link to the GEP eligibility criteria to access EC funding it would certainly facilitate it.

Angela Wroblewski's picture

I support the proposal that the certificate has to be renewed after a certain period. Four years sound reasonable. I would like to discuss the aspect that for a renewal actions implemented are evaluated. I wonder why not the GEP is evaluated including the actions taken in the context of the GEP. If the GEP is evaluated based on an analysis of the gender problem and given the context of the institution. To focus only on the actions implemented does not necessarily allow for a critical assessment of the actions and their potential to contribute to sustainable change. It would be difficult to detect GEPs which contain a set of activities which are implemented successfully but do not address a specific gender equality problem of the institution.

Maxime Forest's picture

GECAS renewal and regular assessment are indeed the aspects I find most challenging in the proposed scenario: 

1) As it stands, the scenario is primarily process/content/commitments-bound, which is important, but not really results-bound. Although structural change takes time (and definitely more than four years), some evidences of change are to be brought that go beyond the mere institutionalisation of participatory processes or gender equality mechanisms and policies at the certified organisation

2) Where adopting a GEP is now legally mandatory (as in France or Spain), there might be a conflict between the expected content and timelines of "domestic" and EU wide GEPs. This is already clear from currently implemented EU-funded GEP projects involving institutions based in countries that have made substantial progresses towards institutionalising GEPs at RPOs and RFOs, meaning that EU-inspired and nationally promoted GEPs might only partially overlap in terms of structure, coverage, process and timelines. The same can happen with the proposed GECAS

Agostina_Allori's picture

Angela, what aspects/indicators do you consider that should be key to take into account in the assessment criteria for intermediate and advanced levels?

Angela Wroblewski's picture

That's a difficult question and not so easy to answer. I think evaluation should play a key role when deciding if an instituion moved to the next level. In my understanding the intermediate level requires a comprehensive GEP and implementation of measures which are at least monitored. An institution at the advanced level should prove that change had already occured (by an evaluation). Regarding the development of concrete criteria I recommend to have a look at the criteria of good practice which have been developed in the context of GENDERACTION (

Rachel Palmén's picture

Hi, my name is Rachel Palmén and I work as a researcher at the GENDER and ICT Research Programme at the Open University Catalonia in Spain. I have worked on various gender and science projects for the European Commission including GenPORT, EFFORTI, TARGET  and ACT.

After reading the three scenarios I like the ambition of the first scenario as comprehensive - with it's focus on process and outcome. I am just wondering how level of 'achievement' - so 'outcome' can be effectively assessed given what we know about the difficulties of measuring institutional change and also attributing this change to a GEP rather than external contextual factors?  

Maxime Forest's picture

As the evaluator of several GEP projects, I do fully support your statement. Assessing change towards gender equality, especially changes intended to be structural, is not an easy task. The scenario is sound in emphasizing the need to impulse bottom up, participatory processes while evidencing top-management, institutional support. But we know that participation and leadership support, while being certainly important drivers for sustainable change, are not a guarantee for it to deliver promised impact. 

I would consider that a EU-wide GECAS should include an impact assessment review, but using a flexible set of indicators with regard to:

a) the degree of institutionalisation, visibility and ownership of the GEP

b) the resources (technical, financial, but also in terms of available data or skills) made available to the GEP

c) its overall impact on other key components of the organisation's strategy and functioning (mission statements, statuses, etc.)

d) evidences of impact on organisational culture (visual and written communication, WLB provisions, career support mechanisms)

e) evidences of quantitative changes in crucial areas covered by the GEP - to evidence trends, not necessarily paramount achievements that may come later

Rachel Palmén's picture

Thanks for the response. Yes- a well thought out Evaluation that takes into consideration processes like the degree of institutionalisation, impact on other areas of the institution's strategy would be key. The problem/ dangers  is that very often - the complexity of institutional change processes (and subsequent outcomes) become reduced to  % change in number of women... There would need to be extensive support/ guidance for evaluation (development of appropriate indicatorse etc)..... Would the onus be on the institution to demonstrate (pre-defined?) outcomes? 

Maxime Forest's picture

There is indeed a need for a CoP among GE policies evaluators, as GEP evaluation practices (especially at the level of EU-funded projects) diverge considerably (not being necessarily mutually exclusive). It is very much a profession or specialization in the making, where evaluators (I include myself) are learning by doing: while insights from evaluation and policy evaluation fields are required, assessing structural change towards integrating gender+ is quite specific, and much context- and process based.

Perhaps such a CoP should be associated with establishing and rolling out this EU-wide GECAS ?

arroyo_lidia's picture

Hi all, I am Lidia Arroyo, researcher in the Gender and ICT group (IN3-UOC) and a member of the CASPER team. I find very interesting the issue on how to measure achievements and outcomes in challeging dimensions such as institutional change and organisational culture.  Rachel, I think that the synergies with the results of other EU project could be really helpful to define how to do so. For example, the outcomes of EFFORTI  (Evaluation Framework for Promoting Gender Equality in Research and Innovation) project in terms of indicators for evaluation could be very useful.

joerg's picture

Hi, my name is Jörg Müller. I work at the Open University of Barcelona, where I’m currently coordinating the ACT project and participating as a partner in the CASPER project.

I want to comment upon Angelas suggestion that this scenario should allow for a step-wise application process, even when there is no clear institutional commitment from the start. I think it will be important to offer a step-wise process or different stages like beginner-intermediate-advanced certificates to incentivise progress but also allow for a convergence across EU countries by recognizing the different starting points and legal conditions for gender equality.

I think the second point on the renewal also puts on the table the importance of considering the practical feasibility of evaluating the GEP with or without such a certificate. Well done, it is quite a costly process that would have to carried out and covered by … whom?!

Karin Höhne's picture

To follow up on this idea, would there be national evaluators, who know the legal conditions of the given country? 

joerg's picture

Hi Karin, I don't think the GECAS goes into this level of detail specifying the characteristics of the evaluators, even though it is in the details that the difficulties are hidden: who will pay for the evaluation is key since this is expensive - if done thoroughly.

I think we problably need in either way some type of equivalence scheme between the GECAS in whatever form it will take and certain national schemes (but we will discuss this in more detail in our thread on extending a national scheme). It does not make sense to have institutions go through the application process when they have been working on GEPs for many years and have other, high quality certificates in place.

Angela Wroblewski's picture

I agree that a sound evaluation needs budgets. However, the implemenation of an ineffective GEP also costs (and these costs are sunken). Most RPOs are obliged to have a quality assurance system/quality management in place. In the long run, monitoring and evaluation of gender equality should be integral part in QM systems.

Rachel Palmén's picture

Yes- the first scenario could be developed with a 'staged' focus to ensure that whilst being ambitious it was also inclusive.

Maxime Forest's picture

A downside of this scenario, is that whereas it acknowledges the synergies with national authorities should play in its successful roll-out, it does not provide much details about the "how". For instance, due to the diversity of research and higher education systems in Europe, to the different levels of governance involved (such as regions with legislative capacities in several MS), actors to be involved at national/regional level would differ substantially. 

There is also no mention of national certification bodies or authorities (such as the AFNOR or AENOR in FR/ES), some of which have already developped expertise in assessing GE performance in private and/or public organisations. It will be important to liaise with such bodies if national stakeholders are to be involved in the implementation of the scheme.

This may be facilitated by the fact that in several EU MS, the leading role of the European Commission in developping standards for GE in research and the academia is increasingly acknowledged, some recent GEP standards developped at national level (such as those promoted by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research) largely (and deliberately) matching most recent EU requirements.

Angela Wroblewski's picture

An important aspect of the acceptance of the certification scheme at national as well as institutional level is its adoption in national policies. The adoption in national polices also requires a discourse about gender equality and the GECAS between the EC and MS/AS (see above). Neverthless, an automatic transfer should only be possible in case the existing national instrument is comparable regarding process, criteria and gender equality concept.

Maxime Forest's picture

I do not believe an automatic transfer would be possible, but promoting convergence would be. There are only a few MS (not even a handful of them) with more or less established GEP standards, and also a few with certification systems that can be applied to GE policies in HE and research. Hence, the proposed scheme would fill in a gap in most EU and associate countries, and provide a potentially crucial benchmark instruments for ERA members. In those where standards are already being implemented, a system of equivalence should be found, so that GEP adopted following national standards can qualify for the EU wide GECAS.

This situation preexists to the GECAS, as the Horizon Europe eligibility criterion and the standards for GEP design and implementation promoted at EU level (including through EU-funded GEP projects) aready occasionally conflagrate with domestic standards. I would add that this is not specific to GE schemes, as the HSR4R also poses this issue.

Angela Wroblewski's picture

I agree. However, the idea of an automatic transfer is mentioned in the description of scenario 1

Maxime Forest's picture

Absolutely, and that's certainly over-ambitious

Marion Lesur's picture

Thank you all for your engaging comments and insights. We will need to bring this e-discussion to a close but the thread will remain active for a week, during which we encourage you to share further. Concluding remarks will then be posted.

The next thread to discuss Scenario 2 – building on the already existing HRS4R and envisioning the setting of a separate but connected scheme devoted to gender equality – will be open shortly, and we hope to find you there for more discussion on a potential EU-wide GECAS.

Scenario 2 - A Gender Equality Strategy for Researchers (GES4R) - 11:00 - 12:00 CET | GenPORT (

Maxime Forest's picture

Thanks for the contributors' insights and for hosting further this very important discussion!

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Active Threads:


1 year 5 months ago
Posted by: joerg
Let's start with our third and last scenario, the europeanisation of a national GECAS - Athena SWAN. Again, here is a short introduction to this third scenario:STRATEGIC CHOICE BEHIND SCENARIO SETUPThis concept scenario explores how the well-known Athena SWAN scheme could be adapted to become a Europe-wide scheme. The reason behind this proposal is that Athena SWAN represents one of the most...
Comments: 34
1 year 5 months ago
Posted by: joerg
Let's start with our second thread and scenario,  a Gender Equality Strategy for Researchers (GES4R). As a reminder of the main features, here is the short summary:STRATEGIC CHOICE BEHIND SCENARIO SETUPThis concept scenario builds on an already well-known European scheme (the HRS4R) and integrates it with a separate but connected GECAS devoted to gender equality. It would still be...
Comments: 26
1 year 5 months ago
Posted by: joerg
Welcome to this CASPER e-discussion on a New/EU wide Gender Equality Certification/Award Scenario. As an introduction, here is a short description of the main features and strategic choices behind this first GECAS scenario:STRATEGIC CHOICE BEHIND SCENARIO SETUPThe first concept scenario foresees the introduction of a brand-new EU-wide GECAS, which represents the most ambitious choice of the three...
Comments: 38

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