In this section we highlight recent and relevant literature in the field of gender equality and institutional change, as compiled in our newsletter.

Evanthia Kalpazidou Schmidt, Marina Cacace; (2018) Setting up a dynamic framework to activate gender equality structural transformation in research organizations, Science and Public Policy, scy059,

The need to redress persistent gender inequality in senior and decision-making positions in science through structural measures is increasingly recognized both in academic literature and policy-making. Based on the experience of a Danish university implementing a structural gender equality action plan, we present a dynamic framework to activate structural change and argue that for such interventions to be effective, it is necessary that they acknowledge and operationalize the notion of complexity as their frame of reference. The notion of complexity proposes a nonlinear relationship between inputs and outputs of policy measures, where impact depends on the interaction of a multitude of variables strongly related to context. Following this approach, the framework tested and discussed herein is characterized by a holistic view of structural change, encompassing multiple targets and areas of intervention, a multidimensional notion of power and a strong focus on local change dynamics, that is, activation processes, agency mobilization, structural resistances, and impact-producing factors.

GENDERACTION Policy Brief No.9 (2018), Implementation of ERA Priority 4. Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming in Research and Innovation. 

The Briefing Paper No. 9 of the project GENDERACTION aims to highlight key results and a set of criteria which allow identifying good practice NAPs and good practice measures. The aim is to support further development of existing NAPs and thereby to strengthen gender equality in the ERA community and structures. The definition of good practice measures is of high relevance for sharing experiences and discussion on institutional change and GEP implementation. According to GENDERACTION, good practice measures:

  • are based on an empirical baseline assessment
  • explicitly aim to contribute to at least one of the three main gender equality objectives
  • formulate concrete targets and target groups
  • are based on the theory of change/ programme theory (a formulated set of assumptions why and how the policy should reach its targets and target groups)
  • involve relevant stakeholders in the development of the policy/ measure
  • are provided with sufficient and sustainable funding
  • produce results which are sustainable and significant (in terms of coverage, resources, timeframes, etc.)
  • develop a dissemination/communication strategy (what has been done, what has been achieved, what worked, what didn’t work), and are monitored or evaluated on a regular basis with regard to their implementation status and impact.  

Murgia, A. (Ed.), Poggio, B. (Ed.). (2018). Gender and Precarious Research Careers. London: Routledge,

This book sheds further light on gender inequality in research careers. The literature on gender and science shows that scientific careers continue to be characterised – albeit with important differences among countries – by strong gender discriminations, especially in more prestigious positions. Much less investigated is the issue of which stage in the career such differences begin to show up. Gender and Precarious Research Careers aims to advance the debate on the process of precarisation in higher education and its gendered effects, and springs from a three-year research project across institutions in seven European countries: Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Iceland, Switzerland, Slovenia and Austria. The study addresses gender asymmetries in academic and research organisations, particularly on the early stage of scientific careers. It centres both on STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and SSH (Social Science and Humanities) fields. Based on the analysis, the study provides recommendations to design innovative organisational policies and self-tailored ‘Gender Equality Plans’ to be implemented in universities and research centres.

 Tzanakou Charikleia (2019) “Unintended consequences of gender-equality plans” Nature 570, 277 doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01904-1

Gender-equality initiatives are laudable, but their drawbacks and insufficiencies should not be ignored. The only way not to suffer from unintended consequences is to be mindful of them. Issues such as race, class and overlapping patterns of discrimination must be considered. So, too, must the way that the measurements used for assessment tend to distort what is being measured. Perhaps the most unfortunate unintended consequence is that achieving gender equality becomes a box-ticking exercise, divorced from the broader goals for a fairer society. A department looks at gender-equality data not as an opportunity to gain insight and improve the working environment for all, but to present itself in a certain light in order to secure the award; it must assert that inequality is not really that bad within their unit, but that it can make clear improvements. There is a temptation to think more about what can be demonstrated than about what needs to be done.

LERU’s Position Paper (2019) Equality, diversity and inclusion at universities: the power of a systemic approach

This position paper examines the issue of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at universities. It is firstly a manifesto which makes the case for why universities should and how they can engage with EDI. It also analyses the opportunities and benefits for universities to engage with EDI and it contains several research-based contributions on specific EDI challenges. Finally, the paper has a section with many examples of what LERU universities are actually doing to build equal, diverse and inclusive organisations. From becoming familiar with the key lessons emerging from the large body of research related to privilege and the effects of bias, to monitoring and measuring the present situation and the impact of programmes introduced to bring about change, to developing a formal strategy which is holistic in approach and can also deliver bespoke solutions for the different EDI issues and groups, and to communicating from the highest levels of university leadership, the paper offers a wealth of inspiration for what universities can do. The paper’s key message is that EDI can be more effectively promoted at universities by making use of a comprehensive approach. Such an approach needs to be holistic and systemic in 1/ addressing inclusion and enhanced representation of all under-represented groups; 2/ aiming at the entire academic community of staff and students together; and 3/ making the content of both the research and the research-led curriculum more inclusive. 

Interdisciplinary Science Reviews  Volume 44, 2019 – Issue 2: Perspectives on gender in scientific practice guest edited by Elizabeth Pollitzer

This issue of ISR brings together eight perspectives on how gender problems in science impact on the quality of scientific research. The aim is to exemplify current directions in the discourse of gender equality in science that go beyond the traditional preoccupations with the numbers of women to encompass questions about when, why, and how biological differences (sex) and/or socio-cultural factors (gender) influence research results and outcomes. These papers, supported by the concluding interview, are but a small part of the new understanding of gender and science today. The assumption that good science is ‘gender neutral’ has been shown to be an illusion that hides widespread male bias in the accumulated body of scientific evidence and in science cultures, often leading to outcomes that are worse for women than for men. As a result, the discourse about gender equality in science has been shifting from the preoccupations about the number of women in STEM to concerns about scientific excellence. This shift has helped mobilize science policy makers and leaders, particularly in Europe but also in other parts of the world, to effect improvements in organizational practices, in human capital development, in compliance with regulations and, most importantly of all, in science knowledge production, application, and communication.

The Project Repository Journal, Volume 2, July 2019 – Special Feature GENDER EQUALITY, pages 74-110

Our colleague Angela Wroblewski, Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS), coordinator of TARGET, introduces the second edition of The Project Repository Journal with a focus on projects supporting gender equality in research and innovation. This issue gives an insight in different approaches funded by the European Commission to support gender equality in R&I. The H2020 projects GEARING ROLES, SAGE – Systemic Action for Gender Equality and TARGET – Taking a Reflexive approach to Gender Equality for institutional Transformation represent structural change projects which aim at supporting Research Performing Organisations (RPOs) as well as Research Funding Organisation (RFOs) in developing and implementing gender equality plans. Furthermore the issue presents two research projects which focus on gender in research content: AgedLGBT is a research project with a focus on housing concerns of the aging LGBT+ community and the GRACE project which systematically investigates the cultural production of gender equalities within Europe. Additionally the issue emphasizes the relevance of structures for gender equality and presents the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) which celebrates its 100 year anniversary as well as the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).

Sandra L. Laursen, Kristine De Welde, (2019) “The changer and the changed: Evolving theories and practices of change in ADVANCE calls for institutional transformation”, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, Vol. 38 Issue: 2, pp.140-159,

The purpose of this paper is to examine the evolving theories of change of the US National Science Foundation’s (NSF) ADVANCE program to increase the representation of women on academic faculties in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). ADVANCE was announced in 2001 and is still active. It supports efforts to transform the cultures and structures of US institutions of higher education by removing gendered barriers to STEM faculty women’s employment, advancement and success, and by developing change strategies that others may adopt. The study is based on qualitative, longitudinal analysis of nine requests for proposals (RfPs) for the ADVANCE program (2001–2016), complemented by historical analysis of funded ADVANCE projects using public records. The analysis identifies changes over time that suggest shifts in NSF’s rationale and theory of change for ADVANCE. Increased guidance directs how institutions should best undertake change, document outcomes and share best practices. The RfPs reveal growing attention to equity, rather than simply to representation, and to intersectionality – how gender, race, social class and other identities intersect to produce disparate experiences and outcomes for individuals differently positioned in social systems. Gendered organizations theory helps to place these experiences and outcomes in a structural context. Iterative processes of organizational learning are postulated to account for these changes over time. While many studies have examined ADVANCE projects’ activities and outcomes, none have examined the premises and design of the ADVANCE program itself. This analysis offers insight into how the ADVANCE RfP has driven innovation and learning about transformative institutional change to advance gender equity in STEM.

The role of Funding Agencies in the promotion of Gender Equality iR&I

This Briefing Paper of the project GENDERACTION highlights the potential of Research Funding Organisations (RFOs) in the promotion of gender equality in R&I, focusing on four lines of action.

1) The distribution of R&I resources. This includes both adequate funding of specific interdisciplinary research on gender in order to provide answers to current inequalities between women and men as well as ensuring adequate integration of the gender dimension in the research content as a cross-cutting issue in all the research fields. Funding priorities in R&I should take into account different interests and needs of women and men according to a Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) perspective. The balanced composition of committees and bodies also guarantees that women and men participate equally in the funding decision-making process.

2) The scientific evaluation of proposals. The most important challenges in this regard are the introduction of gender-sensitive criteria to tackle the causes of the persistent leaky pipeline and the promotion of the integration of the gender dimension into the funded research content to produce a high quality knowledge that takes into account sex and/or gender differences when appropriate.

3) Monitoring of funded projects. Gender indicators can be used as powerful monitoring tools both on the appropriate integration of gender analysis into research content where relevant, and on gender equality issues such as gender balance among main speakers in project dissemination and communication activities, proportion of women as first authors of research papers, work-life balance measures for team members, etc.

4) Foster gender equality in the business enterprise sector. Public research funding goes to corporations where the proportion of women is lower than in universities and the public research sector, as shown in She Figures 2015. Additionally, the role played by women as users and consumers, is too often neglected in the co-creation processes. This lack of gender diversity in the European Innovation sector requires a great deal of attention and action through public research funding. Furthermore, evidence shows that firms with more balanced gender composition are more likely to innovate compared to those with high concentration of one gender.

Special issue of Social Sciences “Women and leadership in Higher Education Management”

Edited by Dr. Kate White and Dr. Paula Burkinshaw, this Special Issue examines the continuing under-representation of women in higher education (HE) leadership globally., The main emphasis in the gender and HE literature has been on identifying the barriers—internal, interactional, structural and cultural—that impede women’s progress in academic organisations and their promotion to leadership positions. However, there is scant coverage of success stories of women accessing authority and facilitating feminist change.

Similarly, much emphasis has been placed on the deficit model which positions women as lacking for top jobs, and institutions therefore needing to ‘fix the women’. Rather, the editors are interested in ‘fixing the organisations’ so that women and other underrepresented people feel welcome, supported and comfortable in aspiring to leadership roles.  Otherwise institutions will perpetuate hegemonic masculine leadership models, with younger women resisting promotion and focusing their ambitions elsewhere.

How HE prepares and develops people for leadership also deserves scrutiny. Invariably leadership development programmes fail to affect significant change in inter-generational leadership teams despite much energy and resources being dedicated to addressing this lack of diversity.

EFFORTI Final Workshop

EFFORTI (Evaluation Framework for Promoting Gender Equality in R&I) was a Horizon 2020 project funded from May, 2016 until May 2019 which sought to analyse and model the influence of interventions to promote gender equality in research and innovation and on establishing more responsible and responsive R&I systems.

The EFFORTI concept and approach combines the evaluation of gender equality policies with the most recent approaches of R&I evaluation in order to make the best use of mutual exchange and learning. Specifically, EFFORTI mapped the links between initiatives aiming to promote gender equality – through three main gender objectives (more women in R&D, women in leadership positions and integration of a gender dimension in research content and curricula) – and a variety of impacts on research and innovation.

From 21 to 22 May 2019, the final international workshop of EFFORTI took place in Brussels. The event brought together over 50 participants from politics and administration, science and business to discuss the EFFORTI toolbox and future directions for gender equality and evaluation policies in Europe.

The EFFORTI toolbox was launched during the final conference and includes an impact story database and an evaluation log-frame tool to help policymakers and those that design gender equality interventions in R&I as well as evaluators think about the possible outcomes and impacts as well as relevant indicators of different types of interventions in this field.

Please log-in for further information: EFFORTI Toolbox:

Palmén, R., Arroyo, L., Müller, J., Reidl, S., Caprile, M., & Unger, M. (2019) Integrating the Gender Dimension in Teaching, Research Content & Knowledge and Technology Transfer: Validating the EFFORTI Evaluation Framework through three Case Studies in Europe, Special Issue Evaluation Program & Planning, Vol. 77. 

Gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research is one of the six European Research Area (ERA) priorities. Integrating the gender dimension in research content and teaching is one of its three objectives. It is arguably the objective where least progress has been made. This article contributes to the evidence base by applying the EFFORTI evaluation framework to three empirical case study interventions that aim to integrate the gender dimension in tertiary education and research content. Comparison is based on an evaluation of the design of the intervention, those factors that have enabled/ hindered its implementation as well as an assessment of outcomes and impacts. The findings of the case studies highlight the importance of design, specifically regarding resources, legal status and the definition and operationalisation of the gender concept. Implementation hinges on top-level institutional commitment and mainstreaming gender studies with support of a central unit and crucially gender competence. A lack of recognition and status of gender studies and subsequent innovations was seen to hamper implementation. Outcomes and impacts included an increased awareness and interest in gender, increased gender competence, a push towards gender equality regarding representation and organisational change as well as an improved accreditation process and more and better research.


O’Connor, P., Martin, P. Y., Carvalho, T., Hagan, C. O., Veronesi, L., Mich, O., Saglamer, G., Tan, Mine G. & Caglayan, H. (2019). Leadership practices by senior position holders in Higher Educational Research Institutes: Stealth power in action?. Leadership, 15(6), 722-743.

Using the concept of stealth power and a critical realist perspective, this article identifies leadership practices that obscure the centralisation of power, drawing on data from interviews with 25 academic decision-makers in formal leadership positions in Higher Educational Research Institutes in Ireland, Italy and Turkey. Its key contribution is the innovative operationalisation of stealth power and the inductive identification of four practices which obscure that centralised power, i.e. rhetorical collegiality, agenda control, in-group loyalty and (at a deeper level) the invisibility of gendered power. The purpose of the article is emancipatory: by creating an awareness of these leadership practices, it challenges their persistence.


Best practice examples of gender mainstreaming in Research Funding Organizations

This report by the EU-H2020 funded project GEECCO selects best practice examples with regard to gender mainstreaming in Research Funding Organisations (RFOs). The report is based on a questionnaire to RFOs followed by interviews and further desk research. A total of 19 RFOs, based in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada and Israel took part in the study. The selected best practices cover four areas of high interest and relevance in research funding: the internal organizational sphere, the design and implementation of funding programs, the selection process and the relation with Research Performing Organisations. The report aims to contribute to knowledge exchange among RFOs with a view to inspire the adoption of gender mainstreaming measures in research funding.


Monitoring of ERA Priority 4 implementation

This report by EU-H2020 funded project GENDERACTION analyses the implementation of the European Research Area (ERA) Priority 4, which focuses on gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research and innovation. Within their National Action Plans (NAPs), European Union Member States and Associated Countries are asked to develop policies which address gender imbalances particularly at senior levels and in decision making and which strengthen the gender dimension in research. The report builds on the analysis of NAPs and other sources (survey and interviews) and pursues a threefold aim: 1) to provide a set of indicators for monitoring NAP implementation, 2) to assess NAP implementation based on these indicators, and 3) to formulate recommendations for the next period of ERA implementation. The recommendations focus on three areas and aim at supporting a more coherent gender equality policy in R&I:

(1) Experiences with the NAPs 2015-2020 indicate a need for an adaptation of the NAP development and submission procedure, including the provision of more detailed guidance for NAP development, the involvement of relevant national stakeholders and the consideration of gender equality in other ERA priorities.

(2) The analysis of NAP implementation produces results which are not in line with the ERA progress report as the countries identified as top performers by these approaches differ. Hence, a meaningful set of indicators for monitoring NAP implementation needs to be developed. GENDERACTION suggests a combined approach using quantitative (available) indicators and qualitative/survey data provided by the countries.

(3) The varying goals and focus of gender equality policies presented in NAPs indicate a lack of a gender equality discourse. GENDERACTIO recommends using the NAP development, implementation and monitoring processes for consolidating a gender equality discourse for R&I in the EU. This discourse should aim at establishing a shared understanding of gender equality and common goals at the EC and MS level. This common understanding of gender equality and its goals is the basis for mutual learning. An important aspect to be stressed is the link between gender equality on the one hand and innovation and excellence on the other hand.