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Europe expected to tie research funding to gender equality action

The European Commission looks set to usher in a system of linking research grant awards to efforts to promote gender equality.  In a 30 September communiqué titled “A new ERA for research and innovation ,” the Commission highlights that “women remain significantly under-represented” in the research sector.  The document posits that “coordinated action with education policies and research funders will promote a gender-inclusive culture” going on to say that in 2021 the Commission will propose the development of an EU-wide system which accredits progress in gender equality efforts. 

The Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) initiative, which has been operational in the UK since 2005, offers  a clear model for a similar European-level initiative. The Athena SWAN Awards recognise good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women involved in higher education teaching, research and administration. The Charter aims to address gender imbalances in STEM disciplines, based on the belief that endeavours in these fields will be enriched when they can benefit from the talent of the whole population, and when barriers to progress in academic careers are removed.

The Athena SWAN awards programme has been widely implemented in the UK and many other countries within the higher education sector.  You can read more about Athena SWAN here. 

 The idea of implementing an EU-driven   programme to promote gender equality is being broadly welcomed, both by European universities and by gender equality advocates.  However, researchers also point out that while efforts to encourage gender inclusion are to be welcomed, the European institutions must act to secure increased sustainable funding for the entire research sector during the 2021-2027 funding cycle in order for such efforts to bear meaningful fruits.

More information here.