The Research Promotion Foundation (RPF) is the national research and innovation funding agency of Cyprus, established with a view to promote scientific and technological research across the island. As a Gender Equality Innovating Institution (GEII) in the TARGET Project, RPF organized the 1st Institutional Workshop which was held at the Foundation’s premises in Nicosia on the 23rd of February, 2018. The goals of the meeting were (1) to present the aims and scope of the TARGET Project to RPF’s Community of Practice, (2) to reflect on the main findings / gaps of the Gender Equality Audit, (3) to discuss how RPF can address gender bias and (4) to identify the priorities for RPF and to initiate the discussion on the main components of the Foundation’s Gender Equality Plan (GEP).
The Workshop was attended by RPF’s Community of Practice (CoP), namely:
- Mr Vasilis Tsakalos, Director General;
- Dr Kalypso Sepou, Head of Strategic Planning Unit;
- Mr Leonidas Antoniou, Head of Promotion and Advisory Services Unit,
- Ms Marilena Paraskeva, Head of Research and Innovation Projects Unit;
- Mr Christos Charalambous, Head of Administrative and Financial Services Unit, and
- Ms Eleonora Kyriakou, Trainee at the Strategic Planning Unit.
Present at the Workshop was Ms Barbara De Micheli, Manager at Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini, a Supporting Partner in the TARGET Project. The Agenda of the Workshop included a welcome and introductory remarks by the RPF’s Director General and an overview presentation of the TARGET project as well as the gender – related HORIZON 2020 Policies by Ms De Micheli. Following Ms De Micheli’s presentation, Dr Kalypso Sepou presented the current situation of gender equality in the Foundation by pointing out the main findings and gaps identified during the development of the Gender Equality Audit.
To collect the necessary data a desk review was conducted to gather information on existing policies, documents, reports, guidelines etc., as well as a quantitative analysis on the existing data regarding the three dimensions of the Project (human resource management, decision-making and research content).
During the meeting the attendees discussed both the results and the challenges of the Audit. Moreover, it was made clear that there is a common understanding of the importance of gender equality in R&I, in terms of:
- overcoming gender bias in HRM;
- supporting equal opportunities and participation in decision-making bodies and project research teams, and
- research content of the funded projects.
Mr Christos Charalambous reflected on the pressing issues concerning all spheres of Human Resource Management. He mentioned that due to the small size of the Foundation no HR Department exists. However, as transformation in this sector is already taking place with the outsourcing of HR activities, all four Heads of Units and the Director General agreed during the Institutional Workshop that this is an opportunity to invest and formulate ‘inclusive’ policies that reflect equally on recruitment, retention, career progression and work-life balance. Apart from formalizing a gender-sensitive policy framework, the importance of establishing an electronic database system with sex and age disaggregated information for all HR activities, including research / project applicants was further discussed. Dr Sepou highlighted that collecting sex disaggregated data will facilitate the monitoring process and will foster future planning, both for the benefit of the organization and of the research community.
Dr Sepou also described that all procedures dealing with recruitment, retention and career progression are somewhat interrelated to the decision-making body, making it harder to address gender imbalances in decision-making processes and/or bodies. It was mentioned that RPF has no influence over the composition of the Board of Directors, as members are appointed by the Council of Ministers. Yet, it was agreed that the senior level personnel could influence the Board by raising awareness on the importance of ensuring gender equality in decision-making. The participants discussed the importance of having the Board’s written commitment concerning the introduction of “gender” as an aspect in all RPF’s operations.
One of the key findings of the Audit presented at the meeting is the fact that there is no evidence of gender mainstreaming in the Programmes of the Foundation. Particularly pertinent to the TARGET project was the commitment of the CoP to work towards scientific excellence by, firstly, incorporating the gender dimension to all future Calls for Proposals, and additionally, by enhancing the idea that research proposals lacking gender-related references will be considered as poorly designed.
It was additionally noted by Mr Leonidas Antoniou, that RPF can act as a catalyst as far as the research content is concerned, due to the fact that it is the only funding agency in Cyprus. In this respect, it was mentioned that during the evaluation process more concrete references regarding the Integration of Gender Analysis into Research should be made. One suggestion was to ask evaluators, where relevant, to respond to the following questions:
“How sex and/or gender analysis is taken into account in the project’s content?”, or
“How the research proposal impacts on gender equality?”.
Finally, it was suggested by Dr Sepou to consider the usage of a more gender-sensitive language in all RPF official documents, including future Programmes, as an attempt to redress existing gender inequalities in the area of R&I.
It was agreed that the following priorities should be further looked into when preparing the Foundation’s GEP:
- Formulation of ‘inclusive’ policies reflecting on HR management; work-life balance, recruitment, retention, career progression;
- Establishment of an electronic database with ‘sex’ and ‘age’ disaggregated information for all HR management aspects and research / project applicants;
- Establishment of a monitoring system for HR management activities with specific indicators measuring gender-balance/discrimination in recruitment, retention and progression;
- Establishment of a monitoring system for research projects, with specific indicator measuring the number of funded projects with a gender focus;
- Request the Board’s written commitment in relation to the introduction of the gender aspect in all the operations of RPF;
- Organize a Network of Scientists, including gender experts, to influence decision-making and promote gender-related issues;
- Integration of the gender dimension in the content of future Calls and Programmes;
- Add gender-related criteria carrying score weight in the evaluation procedures, by asking evaluators to respond “How the research proposal impacts on gender equality?”;
- Use of gender-sensitive language in all official documents of RPF;
- Dissemination of knowledge gained through TARGET project and awareness-raising actions regarding the importance of gender equality in R&I at events / info days organized by RPF.
Overall, the Workshop produced a very fruitful discussion on the three dimensions mentioned above and set the ground for the identification of the main problems that need to be addressed in the upcoming GEP along with the priorities of the RPF’s Community of Practice in the implementation.