Gitte Beaupain | Shifting priorities for mainstreaming gender in the EU research policy –

 the gender toolkit and training activities in FP7.


Corresponding author: Lut Mergaert, Yellow Window Management Consultants.

The gender impact assessment studies from FP5 and gender monitoring studies of FP6 show that the results from the gender mainstreaming efforts in the EU research policy area remain below expectations. Women remain under-represented in EU-funded research and the issue of gender is far from being systematically addressed in the projects.
The present paper retraces how the EU equality policy agenda in the research domain evolved and presents the experiences from the implementation of gender trainings as the latest policy tool, introduced in FP7.
In 1996, following the Beijing Conference, the European Commission issued a Communication on ‘Incorporating equal opportunities for women and men into all Community policies and activities’ in which it set out its approach towards gender mainstreaming. Gender mainstreaming as a policy approach was adopted in the research domain under the Fifth Framework Programme for research and development (which ran from 1998 till 2002). The Communication on “Women and Science: mobilising women to enrich European research” (1999) set out the planned measures to take the gender dimension into account in the EU research policy, and recognised a threefold relationship between women and research: the first aspect concerns women’s underrepresentation in research and the need to encourage women’s participation in research (research ‘by’ women); the second aspect concerns the gender dimension of the research agenda and the need for research to address women’s needs as well as men’s (research ‘for’ women). The third aspect finally calls for gender-specific research, so that research contributes to an enhanced understanding of gender issues and the functioning of gender in society (research ‘on’ women).
The efforts to realise gender equality in research came to a height in FP6, which still emphasised the threefold goal of promoting research with, for and about women. Formal provisions were put in place, two gender-specific research calls for proposals were launched and the European Platform of Women Scientists was set up to network the existing ‘women in science’ networks and to channel their opinions and concerns to the EU-policy making level. Six gender monitoring studies were commissioned, each covering several activity areas, designed to monitor progress towards gender equality and gender relevance awareness in FP6. Last but not least, a specific instrument, the Gender Action Plan, was introduced.
With the adoption of FP7, the Gender Action Plans were abandoned. Instead, the Commission decided to raise awareness for gender issues in the research community by developing a gender toolkit and by offering training activities for research professionals. These are intended to provide the research community with practical guidance on how to make research gender sensitive, both in terms of women’s participation and in terms of the research work itself. The toolkit and training activities focus on nine different research fields. While the Commission had originally foreseen a maximum of thirty one day training sessions, over thirty have taken place across Europe by the summer of 2010 with more requests for trainings outstanding.
The authors in this paper outline the changing gender policy agenda within the EU research policy, describe the case of the gender toolkit and trainings initiative and reflect on the lessons learnt from this experience.