European Universities working for gender equality
The UAB is hosting a meeting of the project EGERA, including seminars on gender in research and gender in university governance, and meetings of the advisory council, the governing body and the researchers committee.
Since 2014, universities of France, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, the Czech Republic and Turkey have been working on the EGERA project (Effective Gender Equality in Research and Academia), funded by the European Commission, and with the aim of achieving gender equality in university research, teaching and management. The UAB has been chosen by the European Commission as a senior member of the project, coordinated by the French university Sciences Po because it is considered to be a point of reference in this field in Europe.
The EGERA project, launched in 2014, has reached the halfway point, as it is due to be completed in 2017. In the conference held at the Bellaterra Campus of the UAB, from 18 to 20 January, researchers and other experts from the eight universities are working together to create a set of tools.
They are discussing the future document "Gender bias in governance and assessment", which will be signed by all the participating universities.
There will be a proposal for criteria to select examples of good practice in gender perspective in research, which will then be discussed and agreed on by the other universities. A database will be created. During 2016 a selection will be made of research projects that make a major contribution to introducing a gender perspective into research.
During the conference a document will be finalised, entitled Communication that takes gender into account in academic institutions, drawn up jointly by all European universities for application in their own universities and eventually in universities across the globe.
Work is also being done on periodic reports describing the situation in each university. At the same time, surveys are being held in each university to build up a picture of the situation. The project includes two of these surveys, one held in early 2015 and another to be conducted in 2016.
Some of the leading participants in the conference are Agnès Hubert, gender equality advisor to various presidents of the European Commission, Gary Loke, the head of equality with the UK government, Maria Bustelo, an expert in this field from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and Helene Perivier and Maxime Forest, coordinators of Université SciencePo. The project head at the UAB is Maria Teresa Freixes, lecturer in Law and director of the UAB Observatory on Equality.
The UAB is a point of reference in Spain and the rest of Europe in matters of gender equality. It was the first universtity in Spain to include the promotion of equality between men and women in its statutes (article 8) in May 2003. Two years it set up the Observatory on Equality.
The latest diagnosis on the situation of women at the UAB (Pla d’acció per a la igualtat entre dones i homes a la UAB, 2013) reveals that the group showing the most obvious inequality between women and men is that of teaching staff. The higher the academic rank, the lower the presence of women. Although in the last seven years there are nine per cent more women PhDs, their access to tenured positions and chairs has increased by only one per cent. Among the administrative staff the presence of women is relatively high, especially in the career civil servants group, in which they make up over 50%. Among students, women make up the majority in all areas of knowledge except technology. They have been shown to have a better academic performance than men. With regard to PhD programmes, there has been a growth in the percentage of women enrolled, and in recent years they have become the majority.
The importance of this issue was highlighted with the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, in which the European Commission and European Parliament determined that gender was to be taken into account in all European policies. “This is by no means a trivial question: it has been proved that if equality is not projected in all spheres the European Union will lose global competitiveness", points out lecturer Maria Teresa Freixes. “It is a key driving force” she adds. Another decisive factor has been the personal imvolvement of Agnés Hubert, a French political scientist who has actes as advisor to different European presidents.
The EGERA project (Effective Gender Equality in Research and the Academia) aims to achieve gender equality in the academic world, strengthen the gender dimension in research, analyse indicators of structural inequality, promote gender-friendly schools and workplaces and educate the community on gender.
The UNESCO promotes the idea of an inclusive education, as a specification of the Declaration of Human Rights, and considers equality between men and women has been negatively affected by the current socio-economic crisis, a time in which the principle of equality continues to be fundamental.
Although EU policies on gender in research go back a long way, the truth is that little has been achieved. Experts emphasise the urgent need to implement organisation-wide measures and that there is the need for a scientific culture in which gender and diversity is respected.
-Observatory for Equality