Gender balance, gender dimension and gender analysis are terms that are often used in Horizon 2020. The first is about ensuring a gender balance in research organisations and equal opportunities for men and women, a requirement introduced in 1997 by the Treaty of Amsterdam. Gender dimension and gender analysis in research and innovation is to do with scientific quality.

Picture taken at the award ceremony of the first Swedish ”For Women in Science” prize, organised by the Young Academy of Sweden in 2016. Photo: VA (Public & Science)

Gender balance in research organisations

In its simplest form, gender balance means an equal representation of women and men in research teams and research applications. But gender equality is also about people’s working conditions and opportunities, regardless of gender, and a focus just on equal gender representation may hide underlying inequalities. It is therefore important to look beyond the numbers and make a qualitative analysis of how decisions are made and the conditions in which research is conducted.

In academia there are many examples of issues that could be affected by gender inequality: research funding, wage differences, employment terms, career paths, reward systems, amount of sick leave and study options. Gender segregation in the labour market, where there are disparities between the number of women and men in different fields and disciplines and in different positions, can also be found in academia.  Traditional norms of what makes a good researcher, which are often difficult to reconcile with commitments and responsibilities outside of work, mean that research positions are increasingly more accessible to men than to women.

The gender dimension in research – a quality issue

Gender equality is sometimes confused with gender dimension in research. Having both female and male participants in a research project does not guarantee a gender dimension in research, which is about improving the relevance of the research and taking a critical perspective to it. One way of explaining it is that gender dimension involves a shift in perspective, away from normative and non reflective beliefs about gender. It may be about critical reflecting about masculinity as a norm, as what is perceived as ”normal” is often based on men’s experiences and terms.

Gender dimension is about social structures and cultural norms. If masculinity is a norm it may also have consequences on how physical differences are interpreted. Take, for example, the symptoms of a heart attack, which are generally different for women and men. If men’s symptoms are considered “the norm”, and become the recognisable symptoms, it will take longer to diagnose women with heart attacks. Women will go without medical care for much longer.

Another example is that research shows that women with a foreign background are treated differently to men with foreign backgrounds by the Employment Service in Sweden. Preconceived notions that immigrant women primarily see themselves as mothers mean that they get less help to establish themselves in the labour market.  In this case, preconceptions of what it is ”not to be Swedish” are mixed with notions of femininity, which result in discriminatory practices by the authorities. Integrating a gender dimension often results in the emergence of other norms and structures. These may be preconceptions about race, ethnicity, sexuality and class and differences in roles. Critical reflection on how different dimensions interact is called an intersectional analysis.

Calls for proposals

In the ”Science with and for society” work programme there are a number of calls relating to gender, see the list of calls for proposals in the SwafS programme.

Current and forthcoming calls are also outlined in the SwafS work programme for 2016–17.

Within Horizon 2020 there are a number of calls for proposals in programmes other than SwafS in which RRI perspectives are particularly prominent. Calls for the period 2016-2017 are collated in the report on RRI opportunities in Horizon 2020.

Practical checklist

Equal opportunities in research organisations

  • Is there a gender balance in the project consortium and research team, at all levels and in decision-making positions?
  • Do working conditions allow all members of the research team to combine work and family life in a satisfactory manner?
  • Are there mechanisms and tools in place to monitor gender equality aspects, as required by Horizon 2020?

Gender in research content

Research ideas phase

  • If the research involves humans as research objects, has the relevance of gender to the research topic been analysed?
  • If the research does not directly involve humans, are the possibly differentiated relations of men and women to the research subject sufficiently clear?
  • Have you reviewed literature and other sources relating to gender differences in the research field?

Proposal phase

  • Does the methodology ensure that gender differences will be investigated: that sex/gender differentiated data will be collected and analysed throughout the research project and will be part of the final publication?
  • Does the proposal explicitly and comprehensively explain how gender issues will be handled (e.g. in a specific work package)?
  • Have possibly differentiated outcomes and impacts of the research on women and men been considered?

Research project phase

    • Are questionnaires, surveys, focus groups, etc. designed to reveal the gender dimension in the collected data? 
    • Are the groups involved in the project (e.g. testing groups) gender-balanced? Is data analysed according to the sex variable? Are other relevant variables analysed with respect to sex and gender?

Dissemination phase

  • Do analyses present statistics, tables, figures and descriptions that focus on the relevant gender differences that came up in the course of the project?
  • Are institutions, departments and journals that focus on gender included among the target groups for dissemination?
  • Have you considered a specific publication or event on gender-related findings of the research?
Source: Toolkit – Gender in EU-funded research, Directorate-General for Research

Further sources of information and resources

The Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research has news, information material and guidance on gender and equality issues.

Gendered innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment has many examples of how gender dimension and gender analysis can be used to strengthen the quality of research. 

The European Institute for Gender Equality (Eige) is an autonomous body of the European Union that collates gender statistics at a European level.

AtGender – The European Association for Gender Research, Education and Documentation, an association for both academics and practitioners. 

Vademecum on Gender Equality in Horizon 2020
A practical guide on integrating Gender Equality issues at each stage of the research cycle: from programming through to implementation, monitoring and programme evaluation.

Gender equality in the RRI Tools toolkit – here you can search for resources and guidance on how gender equality can be practically integrated into your research.

Horizon 2020:s web pages about Gender equality.

Sources of help and advice

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