The MINDtheGEPs vision for gender equality in research

2022-03-08

MINDtheGEPs partners share the common challenge of modifying their institutions. With our detailed and diverse approach to data collection, with a mix of qualitative and quantitative instruments at national, organisational and individual level (what the researchers call macro, meso, and micro level), partners have put in a lot of work. Both the core teams at each partner organisation and the administrative officers involved to support their work. But neither data collection nor data analyses and policy development are neutral: to design successful Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) for real change, you need a certain vision for gender equality in research. 

Cristina Solera, MINDtheGEPs coordinator
Cristina Solera, MINDtheGEPs coordinator

“For a few decades now, several different approaches have been used to tackle gender imbalances. The main one being ‘equal opportunities’, an approach specifically focused on empowering women. We believe in the empowerment of women and the guarantees of equal opportunities, but it is also time to move towards real cultural and structural change. We need to move away from fixing the women and towards fixing the system,” says Cristina Solera, MINDtheGEPs coordinator and professor of Sociology at the Department of Cultures, Politics and Society at the University of Turin

MINDtheGEPs will work to improve organisational culture and spread different ideas of what leadership looks like and who is or can be a researcher. Through our work, we will address the unconditional worker model, that relies on constant availability to work, and promote a more sustainable mode of working for both women and men. Ensuring a right to be disconnected, and have a satisfying personal and private life as well as a satisfying work life. And encouraging the development of soft skills and the dismantligt of unconscious gender biases. 

According to Cristina Solera, it can be as simple as questioning your own bias for who should do the minutes in a meeting. What is expected of a man, and what is expected of a woman? What defines excellence? What qualities a leader should have? And how do my assumptions about what women and men bring to the table effect the composition of networks and different selection processes?

“These biases exist not only in the minds and practices of individual, but also in institutions. In the rules they write and use. There is often a greater need to de-bias the institution than to de-bias the individual,” says Cristina Solera. She continues to explain that in MINDtheGEPs “gender equality is not just a matter of numbers, it is not only a question of an equal representations in the right body or committee. It is a matter of changing the whole society. For example, fighting the unconditional worker models requires, first, a change in the distribution of care and domestic responsibilities within families. And this implies the promotion of a new notion of citizenship rights, not only the right to work but also the right to have time for other spheres. For women and for men.” 

To MINDtheGEPs, achieving more gender equality is crucial not only to combat discrimination and to increase the well-being of women, but also to increase the well-being of men, and of entire organisations. These reasons alone would be enough to make taking action necessary. But there is also an economic case for gender equality, to avoid the dispersion of talent and diversity that are so negative in economic terms. "We are working to weaken the unconditional worker model, and neoliberal ways of defining leadership and excellence, by de-biasing individuals and institutions and designing gender equality plans that tackle both cultural and structural facets of research organisations," says Cristina Solera. 

MINDtheGEPs is taking cultural action to train both men and women in early and late stages of their careers to raise awareness of the existence and importance of gender imbalances, deconstructing assumptions about what causes them, and discussing possible solutions. Combining these efforts with structural actions to introduce work-life balances measures, gender quotas and appointing bodies to monitor and uphold gender equality initiatives at partner organisations.

“We like a challenge, and we think that with our detailed data collections, our multiskilled, cross-disciplinary and multi-national teams, and the train the trainers workshop coming up in June – engaging two different feminist approaches and talking with some sister projects – we have what we need to start untying some knots,” Cristina Solera concludes.

By Anna Holm

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Targeting key areas

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Last modified: 2022-03-24