Producing data to take successful action

2022-03-23

Gender is performed at all levels and in all parts of an organisation. To capture how inequalities are formed and reproduced, we need many different kinds of data. MINDtheGEPs is about to conclude its data collection process. We have looked at the national, organisational and individual levels, using qualitative and quantitative methods, at seven partner organisations. We talked to MINDtheGEPs coordinator Cristina Solera about the findings so far. 

We have mapped the status and causes of gender (in)equality at partner organisations by collecting four different kinds of data, qualitative as well as quantitative, focusing both on objective evidence and subjective experiences and accounts of gender imbalances across different areas and dimensions. 

Quantitative data to map imbalances

Cristina Solera
Cristina Solera, MINDtheGEPs coordinator

“We know that where there is no data, there can be no policy. To have an immediate, quantitative portrayal of the gender status of each implementing organisation and of the steps to be taken, both in terms of further data collection and in taking action, is crucial. That’s how we can identify what data are already collected by the organisation, what are still missing, and in which areas there are significant imbalances,” says Cristina Solera, MINDtheGEPs coordinator and professor of Sociology at the Department of Cultures, Politics and Society at the University of Turin.

The initial mapping of data and policies at organisational level identified the direction for gender budgeting and identified indicators for gender equality in leadership, recruitment and career progression, work-life balance and research and training. According to Cristina Solera, these are the same indicators that can be used to monitor the progress of gender equality, during the MINDtheGEPs project and systematically, each year, after its end. A way of institutionalising the indicators as tools for partner organisations to follow up on their work.

MINDtheGEPs partners have also examined subjective perceptions and views on how the research career works, how it should work, how gender is considered and weighed at the departmental and overall organisational level, how these perceptions and views vary not only by gender but also by position, scientific areas, family responsibilities, and career paths (slow or fast). In this process, MINDtheGEPs has benefited greatly from the Gender Equality Audit and Monitoring (GEAM) Tool developed by our sister project ACT.

“We have been able to offer innovative, quantitative instruments that complete information that is normally missing in national surveys and statistics. The latter is normally focused on objective information on work careers and its correlates, such as publications and networks, and not on their interplay with family careers, positive and normative beliefs, organisational cultures and practices,” says Cristina Solera. 

Qualitative work to examine conscious & unconscious biases

For the qualitative data collection, interviews with key informants at partner organisations were conducted. With a focus on the cultural assumptions and everyday practices of recruitment and promotion processes, decision-making boards, and allocations of research funds. Cristina Solera continues to explain how these interviews aimed to determine how, consciously or unconsciously, notions of ‘good’ leadership and scientific ‘excellence’ are gendered and how they influence organisational practices, with particular attention given to capturing key informants’ positive beliefs about the current state of the organisation and normative beliefs about how things should be with regard to family-friendly policies, organisational culture, and ‘gender undoing’ practices.

MINDtheGEPs partners have also conducted interviews with male and female researchers both at the beginning and advanced stages of a career asking about their work paths, their position and time organisation of their different activities, the motivation and the (un)satisfaction behind such paths and settings, the difficulties perceived, their views on how recruitment and promotion processes, decision-making boards, research and teaching work in the research organisation in which they are active. This allows for a comparison between the opinions of key informants and researchers in different positions. To see whether there is convergence or divergence in the narrative about the causes and solutions of the experienced or perceived gender imbalances reported by men or women, or at the top or bottom of the organisational hierarchy.

Knowledge transfer between projects

All of this work we conduct in close collaboration with GEA – Gendering Academia, an Italian research project coordinated by Manuela Naldini. With them, we have shared theoretical debates and insights on how to translate them into proper empirical research instruments, to produce high skilled cross-country and cross-organisation qualitative and quantitative tools both for collecting and for analysing data.

“This mixed-method approach and constant intersubjective work, rooted in existing theoretical and empirical literature, is crucial to be able to capture the complex multiple and interconnected factors and processes behind the persisting ‘glass door’ and ‘glass ceiling’ for women in research and science. The challenge then in the next years of the project is to translate these multiple factors into multiple structural and cultural actions to break these glass structures,” Cristina Solera concludes. 

By Anna Holm

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Targeting key areas

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Last modified: 2022-03-24