Why gender diversity in research matters

Nov 21, 2013
Why gender diversity in research matters

Despite making huge strides, women scientists seeking to climb the career ladder still face many barriers. Raising awareness of these issues within the scientific community is part of the steps needed to remove them - so that European research can attract the best minds to do science.

A team of EU-funded researchers got the ball rolling by launching a high-level dialogue on how impacts scientific excellence. They worked through the project GENSET ('Increasing capacity for implementing gender action plans in science'), which established a forum bringing together scientific leaders, gender specialists, decision-makers, and scientific institutions.

The forum allowed them to debate five priority areas they believe are keeping women from becoming full members of the - science knowledge-making, research processes, recruitment and retention, assessment and recognition of abilities, and the scientific excellence value system.

The GENSET team developed a range of capacity-building activities encouraging scientific leaders and gender specialists to discuss and determine the strategies required to implement gender action plans within the current institutional framework.

The activities included interactive workshops on topics such as 'advancing excellence in science through gender equality' as well as consensus seminars, in which 14 European science leaders - including university chancellors, institute directors and esteemed professors - shared their knowledge and experiences.

This led to identifying four areas in need of attention:

  • science knowledge-making (addressing sex and gender analysis in );
  • management, organisation and promotion of human capital;
  • institutional practices and processes, including assessment and recruitment;
  • regulation and compliance with gender-related processes and practices.

The project team produced a list of 13 recommendations from the consultations. These address specific changes in research processes and methods and call on leaders to first accept the need to incorporate methods of sex and into basic and applied research.

Those in positions of responsibility must then ensure research teams are gender diverse. For this to happen, transparent hiring practices are essential.

Assessment procedures must also be reviewed, so that the focus is on the quality rather than the quantity of individuals' publications and research results. And to get more women applying for scientific positions in the first place, specific strategies are needed.

As part of the project, the first European summit on gender was organised to discuss gender in science. The summit discussed how to support and advance excellence and the effectiveness of research and innovation across the board through gender inclusion.

The event was an opportunity for research, industry and policy stakeholders to explore how initiatives on gender can stimulate innovation and advance scientific excellence.

Coordinated by the UK-based not-for-profit group Portia, which was established in 1997 by a group of women scientists at Imperial College in the UK, GENSET received more than EUR 1 million in EU funding.

Following the end of the project in 2012, Portia has continued to run GENSET as an independent programme.

Explore further: Study on gender: Who counts as a man and who counts as a woman

More information: www.genderinscience.org/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Positive action to improve gender balance in science

Sep 12, 2013

Despite their increasing participation in higher education and research, women are still significantly underrepresented in certain scientific and technical disciplines and remarkably few women remain in top ...

Challenging the public's view of gender and science

May 24, 2013

According to She Figures 2012, which analyses gender equality in research, in 2010 women accounted for only 10 % of university rectors in Europe and 15.5 % were heads of institutions of the higher education ...

Gender bias in leading scientific journals

Aug 30, 2012

Fewer women than men are asked to write in the leading scientific journals. That is established by two researchers from Lund University in Sweden, who criticise the gender bias.

Recommended for you

Scholar tracks the changing world of gay sexuality

Sep 19, 2014

With same-sex marriage now legalized in 19 states and laws making it impossible to ban homosexuals from serving in the military, gay, lesbian and bisexual people are now enjoying more freedoms and rights than ever before.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Kron
1 / 5 (6) Nov 21, 2013
As most men know, women are better at data retention (they'll remember detailed information relating to conflict for years) [memorization of data] The areas in which women are lacking are logic and rationalization [processing of data]. These 2 areas are complentary, the most successful of organizations employ both genders to capitalize on the diversity of strengths.

An issue which is undecided is that of imagination. Which gender takes the lead in that department. Imagination allows for new developments, deviation from standard models and engineering of new tech. Most believe men have the edge here, but since women don't live in reality their creativity is probably greater. Men (greater at logic) can take the models and test them in the real world. So even with imagination, both genders are better than one.