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).

O’Connor, P. (2020), Why is it so difficult to reduce gender inequality in male-dominated higher educational organizations? A feminist institutional perspective, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews

In this article, O’Connor applies the theoretical perspective of Feminist Institutionalism to identify specific aspects of the structure and culture of the Higher Education (HE) institutions that perpetuate gender inequality. She critically evaluates the foregoing projects aimed to foster a positive transformation in this realm. In particular, drawing on evidences from wide-range institutions in different countries, she indicates gendered practices at a structural level through horizontal and vertical organisation, through the ratio of senior to junior posts, the structuring of career paths, the criteria and procedures for recruitment/promotion and practices such as workload allocation; and at a cultural level through informal practices and stereotypes. As the structure and culture of the institutions were projected by and for men, advancing gender inequality results to be a very tricky task. O’Connor claims that even one of the most internationally well-known potential institutional transformation projects such as Athena SWAN have had little success in reducing gender inequality. Her conclusions are that if gender inequality is to be reduced, structural and cultural aspects must be surpassed. Although the focus of this article is how HE organisations in general, and STEM faculties in particular, reproduce gender inequality through their ‘normal’ structure and culture, this framework is applicable to other male-dominated organisations.


Laursen, S., & Austin, A. E. (2020). Building gender equity in the academy: Institutional strategies for change. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Building Gender Equity in the Academy: Institutional Strategies for Change is an evidence-based and action-oriented handbook, addressed to faculty and administration staff in a position to foster gender equity in their workplaces. It draws on over a decade of research on the experiences of the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE projects in the US that have sought to heighten gender equity on the faculties of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. Authors’ analysis of both successful and failed strategies of awarded projects at major research universities outlines the need for a systemic approach to gender equity. The authors identify 12 strategies as a response to different aspects of gender equity: biased evaluation processes, unwelcoming work climates, employment structures that do not accommodate personal lives and inequitable opportunities for advancement. Three case studies— at Case Western Reserve University, the University of Texas at El Paso, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison—allow to explain how real institutions can strategically combine several equity-driven approaches. Strategically combining different measures leverage their individual strengths to craft stronger synergies and to make the change efforts comprehensive rather than piecemeal. The book ends by providing some research-based advice to help readers to think how to design their own comprehensive, strategic and contextually responsive change plan. While the book focuses on gender equity in STEM fields, lessons drawn are portable to improving equity for other groups of factulty.


Report on the Implementation of Targets: Follow-Up on the 2018 Guidance Recommendations, by Averil Huck, Marcela Linková and Ross Woods

This report informs on the advance of the Implementation of targets of the 2018 Guidance Recommendations of the ERAC Standing Working Group on Gender in Research and Innovation in the UE Member States and Associated Countries. The report provides for each recommendation a detailed description, presenting whether it is or not implemented in each country, showcasing how it is implemented and selecting good practices. Recommendation 1 – Collect and publish sex-disaggregated data on the composition of professorship and management/leadership positions resulted to be the most implemented recommendation (92% of the countries), while Recommendation 4 – Institutionalise the proportion of women in grade A professor positions as an assessment criterion in institutional evaluations was the least implemented recommendation (only 16% countries). The case of Ireland is described as an example of a comprehensive National Gender Equality Policy in Higher Education when it comes to improve gender balance in decision. The report highlights that many countries have made progress and are developing their national as well as institutional policy frameworks to advance gender balance in decision-making.  However, there are persistent differences in the degree of implementation. In addition, in many countries women continue to be excluded from decision-making processes, in spite of the policies and actions taken. Therefore, the report claims that the future European Research Area must continue action in this area, particularly in the countries where the progress has been slow and where the recommendations show poor rates of uptake. 


Zabaniotou, A. (2020) Towards Gender Equality in Higher Education Institutions: Equal Female Academics in the Mediterranean during and after the COVID-19 pandemic

In this research paper for the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI), Anastasia Zabaniotou, coordinator of the Gender Equality Working Group (GEWG) of RMEI, partner of TARGET, reflects on the COVID-19 impact on women scholars. Some studies suggest that in times of pandemic, female academics are struggling with work and family balance even more than before, and therefore, their research productivity is decreasing. However, data from the period before the pandemic shows that women may benefit from remote working opportunities which allow for more flexible work schedules and shorter commuting time. The pandemic crisis has also entailed that some fathers are the primary or equal childcare providers. Taking this into account, Zabaniotou suggests that both governments and higher education institutions must take into consideration the gender dimension of the COVID-19 outbreak and adopt general and institutional policies to open the possibility for a cultural shift when it comes to gender justice in caring and household duties and improving female academics working conditions. The main conclusion is that “we can emerge from this pandemic more equal, compassionate, and stronger and caring also for the most vulnerable members of our communities”.


Zabaniotou (2020). Towards gender equality in Mediterranean Engineering Schools through networking, collaborative learning, synergies and commitment to SDGs-The RMEI approach. Global Transitions, 2, 4-15, ISSN 2589-7918 

Gender equality is a critical goal because its implementation can foster positive cascading effects on the achievement of all SDGs, and it is directly connected to the nexus of education-sustainability. This study discusses how the Mediterranean Engineering Schools Network achieved a learning potential and inspired informal and structural changes for gender equality in its members through a tailored strategy by: a) unravelling the link between gender equality and sustainability, b) harvesting synergies of SDG5 from other SDGs and integrating gender equality in interventions for sustainable development of the region, c) mobilizing network’s human resources from professors and students to academic leaders, d) with the support of an EU project (TARGET). The study reflects on the network’s co-creation processes and interventions, challenges, barriers, and lessons learned, and suggests networking, collaborative learning, ethical commitment to SDGs and the synergetic effects arising from appropriately designed tailored policy mixes, as drivers for advancing gender equality in typical male-dominated engineering institutions, where females in leadership and senior positions are in low percentages. Cognitive, affective trust and joy shared among the members of the working group, and the feeling of belonging to the same family were the emotional drivers of paving the way for gender equality. The insights of the study may be useful to leaders, academic and administrative staff of other institutions in advancing gender equality and improving sustainability in their institution.

Linkova, M., & Mergaert, L. (2021). Negotiating change for gender equality: identifying leverages, overcoming barriers, Investigaciones feministas12(2), 297-308.

In this paper Marcela Linková and Lut Mergaert use their experience as technical support partners in several EU-funded projects to reflect on how institutional change through Gender Equality Plans is negotiated in a variety of contexts. Through the Feminist Institutionalist approach and the Science and Technology Studies’ concept of trading zone, they analyse institutional negotiations among various and differently positioned actors with diverse backgrounds, value systems and negotiating power. The trading zone, by which communities with a deep problem of communication manage to communicate, helps to understand how contestations, coordination and subversion are done by multiple actors in the change process. For the authors, the quintessential resistance is the lack of profound will to pursue change and to engage productively in the trading zone. From a practice-oriented perspective, the author’s aim is to demonstrate typical challenges, suggest pathways towards solutions, and identify specific negotiation skills which underscore the capacity-building needs of change agents. They select eight case studies that illustrate the different transactions in the trading zones and analyse them through participant observation and analysis of project documents. In their results they underscore the use of participatory and co-creation techniques, strategic framing, spotting and using windows of opportunity, and wide mobilization of stakeholders. They highlight key features of the change process, including its processual and incremental nature, the need for constant negotiation and the capacity-building needs of change agents. For instance, an interesting idea they bring is moral imagination: actors in the trading zone need to see one’s cultural truths as values and considering other’s views as worthy of attention. The unwillingness of people in position of power to develop their moral imagination can be seen as form of resistance. We strongly encourage the reading of the cases presented in the paper, which are highly informative on the different challenges and possibilities that change agents face when implementing Gender Equality Plans.


Humbert, A.L., Guenther, E.A. & Müller, J. (2021) Not Simply ‘Counting Heads’: A Gender Diversity Index for the Team Level. Social Indicators Research 157, 689–707. 

This article proposes a new composite measure of gender diversity for research teams that goes beyond simply ‘counting heads’. This measure adopts a more elaborated understanding of gender diversity than merely relying on the proportion of women and men, by considering the outcomes of gendered processes along seven grounds of diversity (age, care responsibilities, marital status, education, tenure, seniority, contractual position). Rather than focusing on the individuals or the organizations, this measure is computed at the level of teams. This is because teams constitute a unit of analysis highly relevant to the context of higher education research but is often neglected in research. In the Gender Diversity Index, any gender gap is considered as detrimental, with two main metrics included: representation (equality at the horizontal level) and attrition (at the vertical level). The authors apply their Gender Diversity Index in STEM research teams in order to show its value as a diagnostic tool and/or to measure and report on the progress of gender change within higher education institutions. With the analysis of their cases, they show how the index is not only capable of measuring gender equality at one point in time in a multi-dimensional way, but also can assess the sustainability of high scores. For instance, a team may score high, but the lack or unstable positions of women at the junior levels is a threat for sustaining gender diversity over time. In sum, despite the difficulties that the Gender Diversity Index can present in data gathering, it can surely become a significant and insightful diagnostic tool for institutions.



Clavero, Sara, and Yvonne Galligan. (2021). “Delivering gender justice in academia through gender equality plans? Normative and practical challenges.” Gender, Work & Organization 28.3: 1115-1132

This paper employs the concept of epistemic justice to examine the potential for gender equality plans (GEPs) to bring about sustainable transformative change towards gender equality in higher education. Mindful of both the limitations and opportunities of gender policy interventions, the paper highlights the importance of approaching gender inequality as a problem of justice and power rather than as an issue of “loss of talent.” Approaches building on the “loss of talent” have difficulties to deliver gender equality because they displace the moral imperative to achieve gender equality or may be blind to discriminatory practices by shifting the responsibility of failure to succeed onto individual women. In order to develop a normative approach, the paper draws on Miranda Fricker’s* account of epistemic justice: a kind of injustice in which the speaker’s assertions are given unduly low weight because of the listener’s prejudices about the social group to which the speaker belongs. After explaining in detail how epistemic injustice renders socioeconomic and cultural injustices, the authors use this approach to evaluate seven GEPs in European universities for their potential to transform gender–power relations in academia. The analysis reveals that insufficient attention is paid to the role of academic power in creating gender injustice at all institutional levels and to the role of organizational culture in the perpetuation of gender inequalities in those settings. The study suggests that the incorporation of an epistemic justice lens in the creation of GEPs would address gendered power relationships and lead to more sustainable equitable outcomes.

* Fricker, Miranda (2007) Epistemic injustice: Power and the ethics of knowing. Oxford University Press


Diogo, Sara, Jordão, Carina, Carvalho, Teresa, Himi, Hana, Ashkenazi, Maya, Mešková & Breda, Zélia (2021). A Comparative Approach on the Relevance of National Gender Equality Legal Frameworks in Israel, Portugal, and Slovakia to Improve Equality at the Institutional Level. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 22(5), 84-102.

This paper compares the national gender equality legal frameworks of several countries and examines the macro factors that can contribute to improving gender equality at the institutional level in research performing organisations. The comparative analysis among the countries shows an increase in the proportion of women in higher education in recent decades, both as students and as researchers, although gender inequalities persist. In particular, gender distribution of positions of power in universities remains significantly unbalanced, clearly benefiting men. The data also confirms the presence of horizontal and vertical segregation on the decision-making level in these institutions; women tend to be more concentrated on areas or issues more associated with the feminine dimension—such as pedagogical issues—and in less powerful, prestigious, and influential bodies.  The authors show relevant actions already in place in national legal frameworks in the economic, political and social fields that can be seen as positive to design and implement Gender Equality Plans in universities. For instance, in the political field, in Israel there has been an attempt to adopt a women’s quota to political parties and parties would be financed during election in accordance with their compliance with the women’s quota. However, the amendment has not yet been accepted in Parliament. Slovakia, which has the highest asymmetries between women and men in the power domain, it is also the country with the least number of legislative measures promoting affirmative actions. In general, the analysis shows that the legislative measures taken are not sufficient to advance gender equality, especially in relation to the power dimension. The authors are clear in their conclusions: more ambitious and concrete targets are necessary and urgent to promote change at the institutional level. In addition to change at the institutional level, action should also be taken to empowering women and encouraging them to run for higher positions or research grants.

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.


Ferguson, L. (2021). Analytical Review: Structural Change for Gender Equality in Research and Innovation. Publications of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland 2021: 4.


This report studies the evolution of the structural change approach to gender equality in research and innovation at the EU-level using documentary material and primary research (interviews, focus groups and participant observation) of structural change H2020 projects. They selected seven projects for more detailed analysis – TARGET, INTEGER, GenderTIME, FESTA, GENOVATE, SAGE, EQUAL-IST – including reviewing all evaluation reports and key deliverables.

The aim was to recompile lessons on gender equality in research and innovation to systematically integrate them and secure a lasting structural change in the EU. Among some of the report’s essential insights, the focus groups warn of the need for continued support to stabilize what has already been achieved in gender equality and take further, more ambitious steps. There is a need to embed an intersectional approach to address structural change, integrate new stakeholders, and engage more institutions and countries. Also, in-depth discussions point to the importance of measuring process aspects rather than just outcomes and results. The structural change would last over time if it is built on participation, ownership, and reflexivity principles. In addition to senior management top-down support, which has long been acknowledged as an essential component for sustainable structural change, the report stresses the importance of a bottom-up approach. 

In this vein, the EQUALIST project adopted an innovative formalized participatory and co-design process through the CrowdEquality platform. Likewise, TARGET developed an iterative and reflexive process towards equality at the institutional level and establishment of a community of practice (CoP) for gender equality within the institution. A similar approach was adopted by the GenderTIME project, which aimed to “instil a culture of reflection at the institutional level”. Nevertheless, while participation is essential, one key expert warned against “participation fatigue” and advised to keep a balance in terms of participatory methods. Academic care work, mostly done by women, results to be highly demanding and, at times, demotivating.

We encourage readers to study in detail the recommendations at the end of the report, organized by the target audience, including the European Commission, Member States, Research Funding Organizations, Research Performing Organisations, Research Associations, the private sector and the civil society. Here we will mention just some of them. According to the author, the European Commission (EC) should strengthen and further develop the structural change approach to gender equality in research and innovation, and integrate an intersectional perspective; both the EC and Member States should integrate structural change more systematically into policy-making and allow for engaging research funding organizations more substantively into the structural change framework. Both EU and Research Performing Organizations must change traditional notions of academic culture such as excellence and promotion, make visible and valuable “academic care work”, and develop support mechanisms and platforms for mutual learning on structural change. All before-mentioned should address the uneven implementation of structural change by integrating more substantively institutions and countries that are less advanced in gender equality in research and innovation. Research Funding Organizations, in turn, should challenge their current notions of excellence and metrics. All target audiences, including Research Associations, should focus on processes, not just outcomes, as well as increasing accountability and ownership for gender equality in research and innovation by engaging a more comprehensive range of stakeholders from different sectors.

The report concludes that the structural change approach is firmly embedded in the European Commission’s legislative and policy framework. In some countries, gender equality is embedded in research and innovation policy. However, research funding organizations are, on the whole, not as involved in structural change for gender equality as research performing organizations. As mentioned, the projects analysed in the report show the importance of process, participation and reflexivity for their sustainability. Also, the author points to the need to deconstruct concepts such as excellence and meritocracy, as they are highly gendered. Finally, we require adapted approaches for inactive institutions and countries in structural change and enlarge the stakeholders’ range, including the public sector, private sector, and civil society.

Zabaniotou, A., Boukamel, O., & Tsirogianni, A. (2021). Network assessment: Design of a framework and indicators for monitoring and self-assessment of a customized gender equality plan in the Mediterranean Engineering Education context. Evaluation and Program Planning (87), doi:


Anastasia Zabaniotou, coordinator of the Gender Equality Working Group (GEWG) of RMEI, together with Oumaïa Boukamel and Aigli Tsirogianni, has published a new article on the design of indicators for the advancement of gender equality in the Mediterranean-Engineering context. Thanks to the TARGET project’s support, 95 indicators were designed, taking into account the systemic view of SDGs, national context complexity, and transdisciplinary requirements.

The Mediterranean Network of Engineering and Management Schools (RMEI) is based on shared sustainable development values. From here, the network creates different exchanges and links between various entities. According to the authors, creating monitoring and self-assessment tools on gender equality advancement is highly relevant for engineering school’s networks. They require initiatives aiming at institutional/structural and informal/cultural change that enable better action planning and hold institutions accountable to their commitments to gender equality. As the authors state for their network: “the lack of diversity and gender equality signals a large absence of the potential for growth and innovation, leading to a countless number of missed opportunities”.

Building on the TARGET project reflexive approach and its framework for monitoring and self-assessment, the authors develop tailored indicators for the RMEI. The creation of these indicators comes from a self-assessment of the RMEI journey – from May 2017 to April 2019 – on gender equality change under the TARGET project’s support. In explaining their assessment of gender equality strategies in the RMEI, the reader will get critical insights into implementing Gender Equality Plans. In their case, they applied methodologies that follow a dynamic and circular approach, take into account national complexities, and aim at developing sustainable change based on monitoring and self-assessment.

The authors divided the 95 indicators into two types: context and performance indicators. The first raises awareness of the extent of gender inequalities, whereas the second measures success and the impact. Also, following the Logic Model Development Guide (LMDG), indicators are further divided into five more categories: factors, which measure resources and barriers to gender equality strategies; activities, which capture processes, techniques, tools, events and actions of a gender equality strategy; outputs, which evaluate the results of program activities; outcomes, which take into account specific changes expected at the longer-term; and impacts, which measure organisational, community, and system-level expected changes. The authors also present the indicators and their implementation in the RMEI during the TARGET project. This last part of the article shows how to use these tools and reflect on their success and limitations as monitoring tools on gender equality advancement.

Indeed, this study’s findings are beneficial to anyone interested in developing monitoring tools for advancing gender equality in research institutions. Furthermore, it is of particular interest for academic leaders and administrators of other higher education institutions to promote gender equality according to specific institutional characteristics and regional cultures.


Demaidi, M. N., & Al-Sahili, K. (2021). Integrating SDGs in Higher Education—Case of Climate Change Awareness and Gender Equality in a Developing Country According to RMEI-TARGET Strategy. Sustainability13(6), 3101, doi:


Professors Mona Nabil Demaidi and Khaled Al-Sahili from the An-Najah National University (NNU) in Palestine have just published a new study under the framework of the Mediterranean Gender Equality Community of Practice co-created with the Mediterranean Network of Engineering and Management Schools (RMEI), which is one of the implementing partners of TARGET. With the TARGET’s support, the authors conducted an experimental study regarding the university role in spreading awareness on climate change.They carried out an online survey divided into two different steps and group sessions, reaching 448 students. At NNU, female students represent a majority of students, including several technical and engineering programs, where they reach figures above 75%. However, female enrolment rates continue to be very low in other programs, and women continue to be underrepresented among NNU’s staff. NNU was the first university among the RMEI network to endorse the Gender Equality Statement prepared by TARGET. It is adopting several policies to address gender equality, directly and indirectly.
Their qualitative and quantitative data indicate that students’ awareness level regarding climate change is not satisfactory, with females having lower awareness levels compared to males. Also, they find that in NNU, “gender equality did not seem to be an issue”. On the other hand, being an engineering student or a member of student’s societies positively impacted students’ level of awareness [on climate change] and practices, especially females. The authors consider that cultural issues explain this. Whereas female students have less access to knowledge resources outside the university than male students, females in engineering faculty or members of students’ societies have better opportunities to “explore and interact with others on various topics”. Hence, increasing the multidisciplinarity of curricula and being part of students’ societies are key factors for raising awareness among students. However, the existing curriculum and the university do not contribute to spreading satisfactory levels of awareness among students. The authors consider that the recently formed university-level committees to improve its programs is a golden opportunity to offer students, especially women, opportunities to learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including climate change.

O’Connor, P., & White, K. (2021). Gender, Power and Higher Education in a Globalised World. Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

This book examines persistent gender inequality in higher education, and asks what is preventing change from occurring. The editors and contributors argue that organizational resistance to gender equality is the key explanation; reflected in the endorsement of discourses such as excellence, choice, distorted intersectionality, revitalized biological essentialism and gender neutrality. These discourses implicitly and explicitly depict the status quo as appropriate, reasonable and fair, ultimately impeding attempts to promote gender equality. Drawing on research from around the world, this book explores the limits and possibilities of challenging these misleading discourses, focusing on the state and universities themselves as levers for change. It stresses the importance of institutional transformation, the vital contribution of feminist activists and the importance of women’s deceptively ‘small victories’ in the academy. According to the editors, treating people the same in an unequal world perpetuates inequalities. To achieve gender equality, they propose transforming the structures and cultures, and re-imagining gender relations and the allocation of tasks, power and resources. The book is enriched by a very diverse authorship, with authors from different 14 countries. They are part of the Women in Higher Education Management (WHEM) Network, a feminist consortium that aims at analyzing the challenges for women in university management and to develop strategies.


Lipinsky A., Wroblewski A. (2021) Re-visiting Gender Equality Policy and the Role of University Top Management. In: O’Connor P., White K. (eds) Gender, Power and Higher Education in a Globalised World. Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

After 20 years of establishing gender equality structures and monitoring the proportion of women in decision-making, persistent gender inequality in universities confirms a paradoxical situation: while the number of women in decision-making has increased, institutional policies in universities have had minimal effects in eliminating gender inequality. In order to explain this paradox, the authors explore the contributions of sex quotas and gender mainstreaming in Austrian and German universities. Their analysis indicates that successful implementation of gender quality policies is not equivalent to the increased share of women in decision-making. They point to two missing and interlinked factors that are missing. Ensuring the empowerment of gender structures and building gender competence are prerequisites for overcoming the status quo. Also, according to the authors, it is vital that gender equality structures address the causes and consequences of inequality, not just deal with the symptoms.


Linková, M. and Mergaert L. (2021). Research Policy. In Abels, G., Krizsán, A., MacRae, H., & van der Vleuten, A (eds.): The Routledge Handbook of Gender and EU Politics, Routledge.

ISBN: 9781138485259

The new Routledge handbook dedicated to gender in EU politics gives an overview of the fundamentals and new directions of the sub-discipline of gender in European Union’s policy and serves as a reference book for (gender) scholars and students. In the section “Research Policy” Marcela Linková and Lut Mergaert provide a critical overview of the EU’s gender policies and reflect on the advancements and challenges for gender equality in the European Research Area. Many things have changed since gender issues gained political attention worldwide in the 1990s. However, the authors point out that the policy for gender equality in European research moves unevenly. The advancement of gender equality in research and innovation comes with considerable struggles and seems under constant threat of backsliding. The chapter outlines the history of gender equality in research and technological development (RTD), situating gender equality in it. It charts the fluctuation in support for gender equality and the most recent developments in an evolving gender equality discourse. This is followed by a review of existing research on EU RTD policy in general and gender equality in EU RTD policy specifically. The last section outlines the topics that emerge as relevant for ensuring a sustainable and effective integration of gender equality in EU RTD and identifies research gaps and suggestions for future research. To create the conditions for sustainability of gender equality policy and areas for future research, the authors identify the following goals to be maintained/established and areas of work: stability of gender equality as a strategic priority, policy monitoring and evaluation, institutional capacity, stakeholder mobilisation and cooperation between femocrats (female government officials who advocate for feminist policies) at the EU and member state level and external supporters.


Matulevicius, Susan A.; Kho, Kimberly A.; Reisch, Joan; Yin, Helen (2021). Academic Medicine Faculty Perceptions of Work-Life Balance Before and Since the COVID-19 Pandemic. In: JAMA Network Open, 4(6), e2113539.

Women with children working in academia were already the group reporting stress in terms of work-life balance before the pandemic, which only exacerbated the problem. In September 2020, researchers sent a quantitative questionnaire to all faculty members (n = 3088, response rate: 38%) at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, Texas. Their research interest was the effects of the pandemic on faculty and especially the effects on work-life balance. All categories of surveyed faculty (all faculty, faculty with children, faculty without children) have increasingly considered leaving science during the pandemic due to poor work-life balance and/or incompatibilities with childcare. The same applies to the consideration of reducing working hours. Women were twice as likely as men to consider leaving the university and three times as likely as men to consider reducing their working hours. Faculty with children were also more likely to say they were considering changing jobs or reducing hours.


Frize, Monique; Lhotska, L; Marcu, L; Stoeva, M; Barabino, G; Ibrahim, F; Lim, S; Kaldoudi, E., Marques de Silva, A. M.; Tan, P. H.; Tsapaki, V.; Bezak, E (2021). The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on gender-related work from home in STEM-fields – Report of the WiMPBME Task Group. In: Gender, Work & Organization, 28(S2), 378-396.

Monique Frize and her colleagues from the WiMPBME Task Group (Women in Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering Task Group) did a survey in the spring and summer of 2020 that was completed by 921 people in biomedical professions from 76 countries around the world. The initial hypothesis for the study was that the COVID-19 pandemic has a differential impact on how much women and men can work at home when the main burden of care still falls on the shoulders of women. The results of the study showed that some STEM professionals reported being more productive in the home office, while others reported being less productive in the home office, depending on different factors described in the article. In a gender comparison, it is noticeable that there are no major differences between women and men. The authors write that they have found that men are generally more involved in family responsibilities than was the case 20 to 30 years ago. Nevertheless, men reported the greatest difficulties during the lockdown as issues with buying daily necessities, disruption of routines and social isolation. Women, on the other hand, reported challenges with childcare, home schooling and managing work and children and household. This shows that managing work and family responsibilities affected women more than men. This responsibility for caring has a negative impact on career and since this responsibility is still mostly borne by women, the authors see a mandate for organisations to develop policies (accommodation, compensation) that minimise this negative impact.