for establishing a Gender Equality Plan
Step 1: Getting started
At this point, you realised that promoting gender equality in your organisation is crucial to have better working conditions and to perform research that is more responsive to societal needs. And now… what can you do?
Rather than simply copying successful actions or approaches that others did, it is better to ask which actions would work best in your own institution, considering its context. Which actions, pending some adaptations to fit local conditions, can be aligned with the institution’s objectives and context? To this end, various elements of this ‘context’ may matter.
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In the United States, research has been undertaken into the experiences and insights gained by the institutions that received ADVANCE Institutional Transformation awards from the National Science Foundation. One of the insights draws attention to the important role of context.
The text below, presenting ‘key contextual factors’, is drawn from the following document:
Austin, A. E. and Laursen S. L. (2015), Organizational Change Strategies in ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Projects: Synthesis of a Working Meeting, pp. 3-5.
Location: The location of a higher education institution is relevant to the interventions that will be most effective and relevant. For example, policies to address dual career needs of faculty members are likely to be much more important at institutions in rural settings, where the broader community may offer fewer employment options for partners than it would in an urban area.
Economics: The local or regional economic situation often affects institutional hiring opportunities and can affect the efforts of ADVANCE projects. For example, when an institution that has faced constraints on new hiring shifts into a phase of extensive hiring, the moment is particularly opportune to offer deans and department chairs support and guidance in equitable search and recruitment practices. At such times, the institutional interest in integrating new and effective strategies may be especially strong, and ADVANCE can make inroads by presenting the project as a source of support and help for institutional hiring goals.
Institutional Characteristics: The list and examples below highlight an array of institutional features that create the stage on which organizational change endeavors play out.
History: The history of an institution affects what faculty and administrators think is important and what they perceive to be possible. Major events or problems can sometimes set the stage for administrators and faculty to see ADVANCE goals as important.
Size: The size of departments and the institution overall can shape issues, needs, and options. For example, in small departments, the array of senior faculty who can serve as mentors is also small, requiring innovative approaches to mentoring plans. Privacy needs may also be greater, and early-career women may also prefer to participate in mentoring relationships with colleagues from other departments in order to protect their privacy.
Leadership: The goals, priorities, interests, and styles of senior leaders are key factors in the success of ADVANCE projects. Changes in senior leadership, as occur frequently, can pose challenges and opportunities for organizational change projects, requiring ADVANCE leaders to determine whether to adjust strategies to fit the new leadership context. Sometimes new leaders identify new issues to address; ADVANCE can sometimes be offered as a “solution” that addresses issues identified by a senior leader.
Structure and Governance: Whether an institution tends to be decentralized or centralized, and whether administrative structures are more flat or more hierarchical, are important contextual factors. ADVANCE leaders need to consider where to locate their offices, with whom to connect in the central administration, and how to relate to governance bodies. Whether an institution is unionized or not is another important structural feature for planning.
Policies: Some institutions have a history of offering family-friendly and other policies that contribute to inclusive environments. Others do not. What is already in place thus affects the priorities for addressing policies as a lever for change.
Culture: Higher education institutions are each distinctive in the features that define what life is like at that institution, how work is done, and how change occurs. Some key cultural variables include whether the campus has a “family” feel or a more “business-like” ambiance, the ways in which administrators and faculty interact, and the values that inform daily interactions.
All these characteristics are relevant to making decisions about which interventions to include or omit in an ADVANCE change portfolio, and about how to design those interventions for the best reception on campus.
Watch this video from the StratEGIC toolkit with testimonials about how different aspects of context matter to shaping institutional change.
Having an understanding about your context and the dynamics of your institution allows you to think where best to go to find support within and outside the organisation:
- Map actors that have expertise in gender equality. Besides providing relevant gender-related input, they may well act as activists to put actions in motion and help identify other actors.
- Identify (potential) allies: consider top and middle management level, human resources staff, peer co-workers, among others. Try to spot those interested in and willing to promote gender equality change for a better, balanced and inclusive working environment. This will help you get things done and promote support for the future Plan.
- Find funding opportunities to set up and implement the Gender Equality Plan or to carry out specific actions. At EU level, the European Commission is funding institutional change projects through Horizon 2020. At national or regional level, there may also exist similar initiatives that provide financial means to promote institutional change. At institutional level, there may already be measures in place to fund conferences that promote a gender-balanced composition of the speaking panels, or to finance research that integrates a gender dimension, etc.
- Link up and seek which alliances can be made with regional and national networks on gender in research. Such networks exist and are important for your work.
Understand the Gender Mainstreaming cycle
Having a clear overview of the gender mainstreaming cycle will help you understand, in general terms, the steps to develop a Gender Equality Plan, how to put it in motion and how to live up to it. EIGE’s Gender Mainstreaming Cycle can be adapted to the specific context of research organisations and higher education institutions. Each phase corresponds to a step to develop a Gender Equality Plan:
Define = How to analyse and assess the state-of-play in the institution
Plan = How to set up a Gender Equality Plan
Act = How to implement a Gender Equality Plan
Check = How to monitor progress and evaluate a Gender Equality Plan
Click below to continue to the next step and learn how to analyse and assess the gender equality state-of-play in your institution.
Step 2: Analysing and assessing the state-of-play in the institution
The best starting-point for developing an effective set of actions is to have a thorough understanding about how your organisation is doing regarding the promotion of gender equality. After assessing the state-of-play of your institution, you will know which measures need to be implemented.
The comprehensiveness of this initial analysis will depend on the resources available. Make sure to assess the human and financial resources that you have access to in order to undertake this task. Identify internal assets (e.g. gender experts), but consider other possible external resources as well (e.g. funding, local partnerships).
You can find here the main aspects that you need to look into to analyse and assess the gender equality state-of-play in your institution. Indications on how to undertake the analysis are also provided. The methodological approach to be followed will need to fit the available human and financial resources.
The standard approach that can be followed includes:
Reviewing relevant legislation and policies in your country
It is useful to know the general legislation and policies pertaining to gender equality and non-discrimination, as well as those that are specific for the fields of research and/or higher education.
Reviewing the legal and policy frameworks will allow understanding where your organisation stands. It will back up your rationale to support your actions. This knowledge can also support some of the measures of the Gender Equality Plan you will set up.
- When your country sets targets at policy level, this may provide you with arguments to convince your colleagues and senior management that measures are needed in your organisation.
- It may be that your institution can join an existing initiative, like a Girls in Science Day.
Analysing sex-disaggregated data about staff and students
Data broken down by sex is needed to detect any gender differences.
This analysis will provide crucial information to identify the most pressing areas requiring intervention.
For example, when your analysis reveals that the gender balance is particularly distorted in certain disciplines, efforts may be directed to attract the underrepresented sex to these areas.
The first step is to check which data are readily available. If such data do not yet exist in your organisation, efforts to collect them need to be made. As soon as you have access to the data, you need to carry out a statistical analysis.
Data to be analysed include (not limited to):
- staff numbers by gender at all levels, by disciplines, function (including administrative / support staff) and by contractual relation to the organisation;
- average numbers of years needed for women and men to make career advancements (per grade);
- wage gaps by gender and job;
- numbers of women and men in academic and administrative decision-making positions (e.g. boards, committees, juries);
- number of female and male candidates applying for distinct job positions;
- numbers of women and men having left the organisation in past years, specifying the numbers of years spent in the organisation;
- numbers of staff by gender applying for/taking parental leave, for how long and how many returned after taking the leave;
- number of absence days taken by women and men according to absence motive;
- number of training hours/credits attended by women and men;
- number of female and male students at all levels and for all disciplines.
- ‘She Figures’ is the main source of pan‑European, comparable statistics on the state of gender equality in research and innovation. You can look at the same dimensions covered in order to compare how your organisation is doing in relation to your country and to the EU. ‘She Figures’ is published every three years. Check here the most recent publication. The accompanying Handbook of She Figures provides methodological guidance on the calculation of indicators included in the She Figures 2015 publication.
- The EU-funded structural change project EGERA compiled the ‘First Gender Equality Report’. This report aimed at understanding the state of affairs related to gender equality and equality matters in the participating institutions by examining available data, information and policies in partner institutions. The following areas were covered: (i) human resources and career management, including employment and promotion, (ii) work-life balance and work conditions, (iii) gender-based offenses and violence, including gender-based mobbing and harassment, and (iv) gender in research and curricula.
- The EU-funded structural change project INTEGER provides some practical tips to get to know your institution through the collection of data and by carrying out surveys. For instance, how to organise methods, surveys, site visits and/or focus group discussions; how to collect that (e.g. several units can be contacted to enquire about available sex-disaggregated data); and who can be involved in this assignment (e.g. think about the human resources unit, the quality assurance unit, and also the research evaluation unit).
- The University of Beira Interior has been consistently assessing the same indicators since the initial assessment of the state-of-play of the institution (from 2011 until the present). Consult the approach followed and the indicators used here.
- More examples.
Identifying the existing measures promoting gender equality
The existing measures to promote women, to sensitise about gender equality, to enhance work-life balance, etc. will need to be inventoried and mapped.
The implementation and results of the existing measures will need to be critically assessed, together with those involved, seeking how their effectiveness can be enhanced.
- A mapping of relevant measures in a range of institutions was undertaken by the GenderNet consortium. Have a look at it here.
Complementary to the standard approach, you can consider carrying out:
- A data analysis that integrates other dimensions, such as age, race and ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and religion. It is important to understand the intersections between sex and other dimensions as multiple discrimination can occur and needs to be tackled. However, be mindful of data protection issues when staff numbers with particular intersectionalities are very small, leading to data linking and disclosure issues (i.e. if there is only one black, lesbian, disabled, Muslim woman on staff for example).
- A literature review about gender equality in research, teaching and higher education. The purpose of reviewing existing literature at European and international levels is to, amongst others, learn about gender stereotypes in research and teaching, current inequalities in research and higher education settings, and measures or actions to tackle such problems. Have a look at some key resources.
- A survey among staff members to assess their knowledge about and experiences of gender (in)equality in the institution, organisational practices promoting gender equality, sexist attitudes and behaviours, etc.
- Interviews or group discussions with representatives of all levels of staff and/or covering different disciplines. The interviews can cover some of the aspects mentioned above, but can also probe the staff’s perception about the need and level of acceptance of gender equality measures.
- See how the University of Beira Interior carried out their initial analysis.
- Check also the Guidelines for Structural Transformation to Achieve Gender Equality in Science (pp. 29-34). The EU-funded project STAGES shared their experiences regarding data collection in universities and research institutions.
- More examples.
Who can do this analysis?
In case your organisation has a structure whose mandate includes responsibilities in support of gender equality (e.g. gender equality office/unit), the staff members of this structure could take on the task of performing the initial assessment of the gender equality state-of-play of your organisation. You can also involve (elected) representatives of staff. Do not forget to involve gender experts working in the institution. They can provide valuable insights and/or be involved in this exercise.
When such structure does not exist, or when it cannot take on this task, you can consider putting together a small team to undertake this baseline assessment. The team can be composed of members from the gender equality structure, teaching and/or research staff, as well as members from the human resources department.
In both above mentioned cases, having an explicit mandate from top management to undertake a baseline assessment is essential to dedicate time, open doors and obtain cooperation.
The tasks of each team member need to be agreed on and made clear from the very beginning. Sufficient (human and financial) resources are key to successfully analyse and assess the state-of-play regarding gender equality in your organisation. Furthermore, having an explicit mandate from top management to undertake a baseline assessment will help open doors and obtain cooperation. At this stage, it is already worth having an idea about the staff members that may be involved in a Gender Equality Plan.
Click below to continue to the next step and learn how to set up your Gender Equality Plan. You can also go back to the previous step.
Step 3: Setting up a Gender Equality Plan
After carrying out an initial assessment of the gender equality state-of-play in your organisation, you can start setting up the Gender Equality Plan. The findings of the initial analysis allow identifying the areas of intervention to be addressed in your Gender Equality Plan.
Not all areas can however be tackled at the same time, and some may be more pressing than others. Set out the priorities for your organisation considering this initial assessment as well as the available resources. Consider bringing together members of the team who carried out the initial assessment in the development of the Gender Equality Plan.
At this stage, it is crucial to involve senior management and leadership posts in the definition of the measures of the Plan. Their involvement will ensure a smoother and more effective implementation of the proposed measures.
When developing the Gender Equality Plan, keep in mind that it needs to be holistic and integrated. This means that the identified areas of intervention are interdependent. The Plan will address a variety of issues relevant for the whole community and organisational system. There are a few basic elements to be considered when setting up the Gender Equality Plan:
- Division of responsibilities
Below we explain how these elements are taken into consideration in the process of setting up a Gender Equality Plan:
Promote the participation of actors of all levels when defining measures and actions of the Gender Equality Plan.
You can envisage joint or separate dynamic workshops with senior management and leadership posts, human resources and communication staff, teaching and/or research staff, students, among others. You can use participatory or serious gaming techniques. See examples of exercises here.
Try to understand the meaning of gender equality for these groups. Some formulations may cause discomfort or resistance. For instance, ‘attracting more female researchers’ for a certain discipline may be identified as a priority. However, this kind of sentences can pose challenges or instigate resistances. The text of a measure can, in many occasions, be adapted in order to address the institution’s priorities while considering certain susceptibilities. For example, using the expression ‘attracting talents’ may be more widely accepted by the organisation’s community. The meaning of certain concepts in the national language may play a role as well. Some terms may be less well received. For instance, the term ‘gender balance’ is used in some countries in order to increase cooperation and interest.
Be aware that the meaning of gender equality needs to be constantly negotiated throughout the implementation of the Plan.
A participatory approach will help defining meaningful measures to the actors involved, while respecting the organisational culture. It will boost the actors’ willingness to implement the measures set out in the Gender Equality Plan.
Get inspiration from measures implemented by other organisations, but always consider your own institutional context.
No need to reinvent the wheel. There are very good and successful examples of measures and actions implemented by other organisations. However, a direct replication of such measures can be ineffective in your institution. It is important to assess the context in which these were carried out. Make sure to adapt these measures considering the specificities of your own context. Check the GEAR action toolbox to get some inspiration on the areas that can be covered in a Gender Equality Plan. Additional examples are also provided in this tool.
Define SMART objectives, targets and measures for your Plan.
The objectives, targets and measures of your Gender Equality Plan are more likely to be successfully implemented if they are SMART:
- Specific – the objectives and measures should answer to basic questions: what, why, how, who, when and where.
- Measurable – establish quantitative and/or qualitative indicators and respective targets.
- Attainable – make sure the objectives and measures are not out of reach and that it can be achieved (even if requiring more efforts).
- Realistic – ensure that the objectives and measures are relevant for the organisation and that they are feasible within a certain timeframe and within the available resources.
- Time-related – indicate when the objectives and measures can be achieved.
Remember that the EU emphasises the importance of targets for gender balance in decision-making in research. The Council of the European Union invited the Member States and institutions to strive for guiding targets for a more even gender balance for professors. The Council encouraged authorities to set up guiding targets, for example quantitative objectives, for a better gender balance in decision-making bodies including leading scientific and administrative boards, recruitment and promotion committees as well as evaluation panels. Have a look at the Council Conclusions on Advancing gender equality in the European Research Area (adopted in 2015) to know more about these targets.
Identify and utilise existing resources when planning the measures.
The financial and human resources made available for gender equality work are usually scarce. Working in such conditions can be very challenging. Identify existing resources that can serve the measures you are setting up. Sometimes, small changes in existing procedures or services will help attaining the objectives set out without additional costs or much effort. Building on existing resources also has the advantage of promoting the institutionalisation of gender-sensitive and/or gender-specific procedures or activities
- ‘On-the-job training’ programmes are usually offered by organisations. An initial mandatory gender training could be offered within this programme at the beginning of each (academic) year in order to build capacities of newly appointed staff or to recycle knowledge and/or competencies of other staff members.
- The drafting of new (or renewing) organisational strategic documents is an excellent opportunity for integrating gender-sensitive or gender-specific measures in those documents.
- When planning the conferences to be held by the organisation, make sure to include a provision requiring a balanced representation of women and men in the panels.
- The EU-funded project STAGES shared its experiences regarding the integration and institutionalisation of gender equality in the organisations’ strategic documents, provisions, and procedures. The Guidelines for Structural Transformation to Achieve Gender Equality in Science (pp. 42-45) provide some relevant insights.
- More examples of awareness-raising and capacity-building activities can be found in the action toolbox.
Define the timeframe of the Gender Equality Plan, as well as a realistic timeline for its implementation.
The overall duration of the Gender Equality Plan needs to be defined (e.g. three years). Considering the proposed measures and the resources available, define the timeline to execute each of them. Do not forget to establish specific monitoring periods to report on the progress achieved.
Agree on clear staff responsibilities for each measure.
An agreement needs to be made on the team that is going to be involved in the implementation of the Gender Equality Plan. After having decided on the staff members that will collaborate in this assignment, clear responsibilities need to be defined. The Gender Equality Plan should clearly indicate ‘who is responsible for what and when’. Here are recommendations on who to involve in the Gender Equality Plan and what the role of these actors can be.
The Gender Equality Plan may include innovative and effective measures, but these will not work out if the Plan is not supported by stakeholders at all levels. Engaging stakeholders is primordial during the set up phase. The Plan needs to be understood as something more than a piece of paper. Invest time in explaining the benefits of gender equality in research organisations. Adapt your speech according to the profile you are addressing. Take the time to explain what is in the Gender Equality Plan for targeted stakeholders, from top to down, down to top and from the outside. Please note that these efforts need to be continued throughout the implementation of the Plan.
- Check out examples of ‘speaking notes’ to support advocacy for gender equality.
- The EU-funded project STAGES shared its experiences regarding the engagement of leadership. The Guidelines for Structural Transformation to Achieve Gender Equality in Science (pp. 35-39) provide some relevant insights:
- Align the Gender Equality Plan to the emerging strategies and key policies of the institution
- Involve individual leaders directly in the Plan as active players and not just as institutional counterparts
- Involve external organisations and experts in order to increase the visibility of the Plan within and outside the institution so that the engagement of leaders is enhanced.
- Here is a visual representation of the Transformational Gender Action Plan Wheel adopted by the French research organisation CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique). Check page 62 of GENDER-NET's Report about plans and initiatives in selected research institutions to stimulate gender equality and enact structural change for better readibility and for a deeper understanding of their work.
Start thinking about sustainability.
The resources to promote structural change towards gender equality are not unlimited and neither is the duration of your Plan. The changes to be implemented are expected to have a long-term impact. To ensure the sustainability of gender equality actions, it is important to embed practices in the normal routines and procedures of the organisation. This can be done by changing existing routines and procedures in the institution or by structurally complementing them with new ones.
To keep in mind
- The set-up phase can be the most challenging and time-consuming phase. Attempting to build a Gender Equality Plan that is meaningful for the whole organisation will require efforts and will take time. But… there is a moment that you need to move on!
- A Gender Equality Plan is not static: it evolves on a continuous basis. The organisation, the people and the priorities can change drastically from one moment to the other. Be flexible. The negotiation of the meaning of gender equality in relation to the different actions and stakeholders involved is a constant process.
- Work towards an organisational culture that is sensitive to a variety of gender identities. Avoid the trap of adopting a heteronormative approach or an understanding of gender as a dichotomy women-men.
- Engaging stakeholders is an unceasing activity: it starts with convincing senior management and leadership posts to have a Gender Equality Plan for the organisation, but it hardly ends. Keep on engaging actors in order to build stronger alliances.
Devoting too much of the available time to planning is probably counterproductive. Even after a careful planning, so many things change rapidly (and go on changing continuously), that it is better to start after a basic appraisal, not to waste precious time. ” (Marina Cacace, L'Assemblea delle Donne per lo Sviluppo e la Lotta all'Esclusione Sociale (ASDO), evaluator of the EU-funded STAGES project)
Click below to continue to the next step and read some advices on how to implement your Gender Equality Plan. You can also go back to the previous step.
Step 4: Implementing a Gender Equality Plan
Ready, set, go!
Having set up the Gender Equality Plan, you are ready to start implementing it. Put the measures of the Gender Equality Plan in motion according to the defined timeline. Try to embed and institutionalise as many measures/actions as possible in order to ensure their sustainability.
Organise regular meetings with the team responsible for the implementation of the Gender Equality Plan. These meetings are not only important to design and plan activities in a participatory way, but also to discuss the progress, main achievements and aspects that can be improved. This will allow identifying possible problems and acting proactively upon them.
Plan meetings with senior management and leardership, human resources staff, or other co-workers you consider relevant. This will help:
- Creating ownership of the Gender Equality Plan.
- Motivating the staff involved.
- Strengthening the potential of the Plan.
- Maximising the impact of the Plan’s actions.
You may consider organising an initial training session for the team responsible for implementing the Plan, and for other targeted audiences directly involved (e.g. managers, human resources staff). Continuous awareness-raising and competence-building efforts will maximise chances for success and institutionalisation.
For example, during the implementation of the Gender Equality Plan, you can provide personalised coaching, organise additional awareness-raising sessions, run campaigns on selected topics or plan workshops to build specific competences.
Continue engaging stakeholders on an on-going basis. Explain the benefits of gender equality in research organisations. Always adapt your discourse according to the profile you are addressing. Do not forget to keep in touch with stakeholders you engaged in a previous phase. This will also provide you insights about the measures implemented or on how to improve the actions to be carried out.
To keep in mind:
- While the start can be modest, the scope and spectrum of activities may gradually expand over time. At the same time, the circle of allies and engaged stakeholders may also grow.
Give visibility to the Gender Equality Plan
Inform the organisation about the existence of the Gender Equality Plan. Use different channels to communicate about the Plan, its main areas of interventions and timeframe. It is paramount that the Gender Equality Plan is made available and easily accessible to the whole community on the institutional website. It can furthermore be useful to organise a public session to present the Gender Equality Plan to the organisation’s community.
The participation of senior management and leadership posts in this initial presentation can support the implementation of the Plan’s measures. Communication actions are crucial to give constant visibility to the Gender Equality Plan:
- Develop key messages tailored to different target groups.
- Advertise activities in advance using adequate channels in order to ensure good participation rates.
- Instigate the whole community to take action by suggesting how others can contribute.
- Promote external events (e.g. conferences) or interesting information from beyond the organisation about integrating gender equality in research institutions and universities.
- Report about the progress towards gender equality in the institution on a regular basis (according to the monitoring moments established in the Plan). The monitoring exercises will provide insightful information about the progress achieved by the organisation. Share key messages about these findings to the organisation’s community and provide online access to the full reporting publications and/or data.
Need inspiration to develop and share key messages about the Plan and its achievements?
- The EU-funded structural change project INTEGER shared some insights and examples about developing and disseminating key messages during the structural change process. Check them out!
- The University Alexander Ioan Cuza (UAIC, Iasi, Romania) was a partner of the EU-funded structural change project STAGES. A team of communication specialists was put together to increase the public visibility of the scientific performances of women researchers and to publicise and disseminate gender equality actions promoted at UAIC. Check also the main external communication activities and the top 10 communications products at UAIC.
- In the context of various EU-funded structural change projects, websites and Facebook accounts have been set up. Active use of other social media channels is also made (like Twitter and LinkedIn, where groups can be created). Have a look, for example, at the social media channels mobilised by the EU-funded Garcia project.
Consider involving the communications department of your organisation in this task. They can actually have an important role in gender equality structural change. They can:
- Ensure the use of gender neutral language in internal and external communication.
- Ensure the use of non-stereotypical and non-sexist images in internal and external communication.
- Mobilise the available communication channels to promote the actions undertaken within the framework of the Gender Equality Plan.
- Communicate about the progress of the organisation towards gender equality on a regular basis.
- Check UNESCO’s Guidelines on Gender-Neutral Language
- The EU-funded project STAGES shared its experiences regarding communication and visibility. The Guidelines for Structural Transformation to Achieve Gender Equality in Science (pp. 51-54) provide some relevant insights:
- Carry out a preliminary mapping of communication resources (e.g. website, social media, newsletter, networks and associations, national and local media, partners’ communication channels, or internal and public events).
- Define a communication plan (extensively adopting internet-based communication tools, as well as face-to-face interactions to reach certain target audiences).
- Develop attractive messages.
- Consider setting up a specific communication group (e.g. Communication Group on Women and Science).
- Devise a promotion campaign at internal, local and/or national level about the organisation’s Gender Equality Plan in order to instigate the public and political debate about gender equality.
- Make women’s contributions (more) visible.
- Have a look at the European Commission’s (archived) campaign website ‘Science it’s a girl thing’, as well as at the EU-funded project Hypatia and at its very active Facebook® page.
Be aware that adaptations to the Plan may be needed
The Gender Equality Plan is not static or immutable. Several circumstances may require modifications to the Plan, such as changes in the structure of the organisation (e.g. due the appointment of new senior managers), or the introduction of new legislation or policies that apply to research organisations and/or universities.
In addition, the priorities of the organisation may also change during the Plan’s timeframe. Follow closely such events and discuss with your team whether and how the Gender Equality Plan can be adapted.
Despite the efforts undertaken to develop a robust Plan, other pressing issues may arise in the organisation during its implementation. Try to understand the reasons why certain measures are not being implemented and make adjustments if needed. Keep up-to-date with innovative actions that were used in other organisations.
- Check the most common and innovative practices in selected institutions mapped by Gender-Net (p. 59).
- More examples.
Be prepared to face obstacles or resistances when implementing certain measures and act upon them.
Do not forget to follow up the implementation of the measures of the Gender Equality Plan. There may be important lessons to be learnt from the regular monitoring exercises. Listen to the feedback of those organising or participating in particular activities (e.g. through exit questionnaires). This will give pertinent hints on how to improve operational and/or content-related issues of the activities or the Plan.
Click below to continue to the next step and learn about monitoring and evaluating your Gender Equality Plan. You can also go back to the previous step.
Step 5: Monitoring progress and evaluating a Gender Equality Plan
Monitoring and evaluation as part of the process of change
A Gender Equality Plan is meant to address several issues at once, and to rely upon a complex set of measures. Hence, from its earliest stage, monitoring and evaluation instruments are to be foreseen. Such instruments allow among others to assess the progress that is made towards targets, based on indicators.
Monitoring and evaluation instruments are however often lacking, which undermines the transformative potential of planned actions. If objectives are not indexed on relevant progress, success or outreach indicators, it is difficult to assess whether the organisation is being actually transformed. This might also reduce the commitment of stakeholders towards those objectives.
For these reasons, monitoring and evaluation instruments are firstly to be seen as tools supporting effective actions and creating accountability. Secondly, by providing indicators against which actions can be assessed and resources allocated, they also enhance the knowledge about on-going changes.
Baseline assessment (or ‘ex-ante evaluation’)
Evaluation is often conceived only as ex-post. Yet, Gender Equality Plans are better designed if relying upon a comprehensive assessment of the status of gender equality.
This assessment can take different forms. An audit can be carried out with the support of external and impartial expertise. Internal knowledge about gender and the institution itself can also be mobilised. Different tools can be used for investigating gender inequalities, bias and imbalances at all levels, including pilot studies, surveys, focus groups, interviews or ethnographic observation.
Have a look at the section on ‘analysing and assessing the state-of-play in the institution’. Gender Equality Plans carried out with appropriate resources and expertise, such as those supported by the European Commission, often draw on comprehensive diagnoses.
As a result, actions are planned starting from the knowledge of actual situations and processes. They are also more tailored to the needs of the institution.
Additionally, ex-ante evaluation, by drawing attention to gender-related issues, helps securing support, raising awareness, and mobilising stakeholders. It has the potential to give voice to stakeholders who are not in a position of advantage, and to create support for changes. Open, collaborative processes, involving different categories of stakeholders, can help building consent around the diagnosis of the situation, and foreseen solutions.
Legal requirements often exist to gather basic data on gender equality in research and higher education institutions (e.g. on the number of women and men in professorship positions). These efforts are usually formal. However, they may already provide a baseline for the analysis. Therefore, ex-ante evaluation should integrate existing instruments so as to increase its legitimacy, and make the most of available data.
Monitoring actions once they are being implemented is key to inform about how they address actual needs, and effectively support change. Gender Equality Plans should mobilise a large number of different actors within the organisation. It is deemed important for those who pilot actions to have a good command of what is going on.
Monitoring does not only enable to see where and how actions are being implemented. It can also indicate whether or not a transformative dynamic is going on. Well-thought monitoring mechanisms can help identifying and addressing potential sources of resistance to change. Last but not least, a virtuous cycle can make monitoring tools part of a continuous enhancement process.
As such, these instruments can be both part of the piloting of the actions, and external to it, in order to grant implementation both with a sight on overarching goals, and a more distant stance on the actions. In all cases, gender expertise will be required, potentially along with other expertise on change dynamics or other specific issues tackled by the Gender Equality Plan.
Actions can thus be regularly monitored by setting up appropriate indicators and follow-up instruments. Indicators should be implementation-oriented, and adapted to the purposes of the action. Actions aimed at increasing the participation of women in senior positions should not only be monitored by looking at figures.
Assessing the enrolment in supporting schemes (such as training, mentoring or reserved fellowships) and their impact on the actual gender balance is relevant. But indicators on the transparency of recruitment, promotion and evaluation procedures are also needed.
Similarly, when tackling gender-based violence and sexual harassment, assessing reported cases and the functioning of alert and resolution mechanisms should not be the only concern. Checking how actual cases are qualitatively dealt with can effectively support action, and measuring how a gender sensitive culture is developing in the organisation, for instance by means of a periodic survey, can also effectively support action.
Monitoring sessions with core and/or extended teams, in our experience, are crucial moments of self-reflexivity about the processes which have been set in motion, and how to strategically steer the project to achieve more. (Marina Cacace, L'Assemblea delle Donne per lo Sviluppo e la Lotta all'Esclusione Sociale (ASDO), evaluator of the EU-funded STAGES project)
Evaluation to be context-sensitive
Evaluation is taking an ever greater place in research organisations and higher education institutions. These institutions’ overall performance with regard to management, financial health, innovation and outputs are increasingly evaluated. Evaluation has often become key to access public funding, and international rankings play a major role in the strategies of research organisations.
Researchers themselves are not immune to evaluation and beyond peer-reviewing, their achievements are being scrutinised along different scales. But evaluation is not only meant to support scientific excellence. Actions aimed at transforming research institutions to prevent gender bias, including in the way researchers are being evaluated, also need to be assessed.
Such assessment should take into account context-specific features, such as, but not exclusively:
- The type of organisation
- The research areas covered by the planned actions
- Who is involved and targeted by the process of change
- The existence of prior gender or other equality policies
- The current status of the organisation: is it going through a broader process of change?
Quantitative indicators are relevant whenever they are adapted to the objectives of the planned actions. It is widely acknowledged in research on evaluation that there is no evaluation, and hence, indicators, that can fit for all. Quantitative indicators most often include:
- the number of female candidates for positions in which they are under-represented
- the number of women and men in selection panels (for recruitment and promotion)
- horizontal sex segregation in respective categories of occupation
- the number of women and men targeted and reached by gender awareness-raising or training actions planned
- gender ratios in accessing research grants (and other resources, e.g. laboratories or personnel)
- the gender pay gap among different categories of staff, including researchers
This list is by no means exhaustive, and indicators can also be set to measure respective positions of men and women with in relation to work-life balance, leaves, evaluation scores (…). Such indicators help building accountability for the successes or failures of implemented measures. They also create perspectives.
Yet, alone, they are either little predictive for long-term transformations or changes that can be steady and collateral to the main objectives.
Transforming complex organisations, challenging processes, routines and power relations that contribute to shape the distribution of positions among researchers, takes time. This scale of time is not necessarily the one ascribed by the evaluation. Hence, attention must also be paid to short-term and mid-term milestones and potential achievements.
Changes in prospect for greater equality are only possible with the support and engagement of key stakeholders and of a large part of the community. Evaluation should thus support existing dynamics and help measuring and addressing successes and challenges that are likely to emerge along the way.
Quantitative indicators are not enough; qualitative indicators are also needed. Those may look at dimensions such as:
- Mainstreaming of gender knowledge and awareness among the different categories of staff, including researchers. This can be measured for instance by the relevance given to knowledge creation on gender equality within the institution, its institutionalisation (in the form of dedicated programmes or departments), the dissemination of such knowledge across disciplines and research areas, to be evidenced by seminars, research projects with a gender component, etc. As regards gender awareness, the attention given to gender by different categories of stakeholders, through communication initiatives, codes of conduct, activities centred on gender-related aspects can also help evidencing changes.
- The uptake of the gender equality objectives set by the Gender Equality Plan by different categories of stakeholders, to be for instance reflected in the different framings of gender inequalities within the organisation and their evolution towards a greater gender awareness.
- The actual transformation towards greater gender-sensitivity of both formal and informal practices as the effect of implemented actions, notably in the areas of human resource management, decision-making, evaluation and governance.
- The diffusion of a gender equality culture in terms of work conditions, verbal and non-verbal interactions, so as to reflect changes regarding the management of work-life balance, awareness on sexual harassment and other aspects of gender-based violence, non-sexist communication.
Qualitative indicators can contribute to a better knowledge of the process of change itself. They may bring evidence that change happens and that gender equality and awareness are not out of sight.
Qualitative indicators have also a stronger learning potential. They support self-reflexivity and may provide indications for a continuous enhancement of the implemented measures and actions.
Resources for sound monitoring & evaluation
Have a look at the section on ‘analytical measures, monitoring and evaluation’, where resources for sound monitoring and evaluation are indicated. These resources draw upon the experience of EU-funded projects and complex gender mainstreaming strategies. They have also the potential to be replicated in a variety of contexts.
Yet, each organisation operates in a different institutional and disciplinary context, and is confronted with different challenges as concerns gender equality. Hence, it is wise to reflect upon the actual conditions for available indicators, to be used meaningfully in your own institution.
Similarly, in those contexts where expertise is available either from public or private structures, it is useful to mobilise the expertise of external evaluators for gender audits and/or ex-post evaluation of implemented measures.
When drawing upon external expertise on evaluation, it is yet recommended to bring together external evaluators with people in charge of implementing change within the institution, so as to co-design monitoring and evaluation instruments adapted to your goals and constraints.
- In order to support higher education and research Institutions in assessing their Gender Equality Plans, the EU-funded structural change project INTEGER prepared a number of ready-to-use templates, such as:
- A checklist for the preparation of Self-Assessments that gives an overview of relevant steps to take in the preparatory phase of the assessment of the Gender Equality Plans.
- A Data Monitoring Template which aims at facilitating the regular collection of sex-disaggregated data on the representation of women and men in different staff categories and decision-making bodies in the organisation.
- A Context Report Template, a Process Report Template and an Impact Report Template for analysing qualitative and quantitative data.
- A Self-Assessment (Final) Report Template which is aimed at supporting the writing of the final report, providing a structure and a list of suggested issues to address.
- More examples.
Evaluation as key to sustainability and further enhancement
Ex-post evaluation of gender equality initiatives is often lacking. This considerably undermines the potential of gender mainstreaming. Evaluation does not only provide evidences of actual changes or failing attempts. It also enlightens the positive dynamics brought by gender mainstreaming strategies, and the opportunities they bring. Beyond the objectives ascribed, implemented measures are likely to produce positive side-effects:
- Strengthened sense of community, more transparent recruitment, appraisal and evaluation procedures;
- Stronger pluri-disciplinarity in research;
- Improved working conditions.
Assessing the impact of these short-, mid- and long-term transformations is an opportunity to enhance the support to gender equality policies. It also paves the way for future, even more resolute actions, and offers a valuable knowledge for their design.
A thorough, context-sensitive and mixed evaluation approach should not be an overburden, but helps your strategy to make a difference.
Click below to continue to the next step and read how to ensure the sustainability of your actions. You can also go back to the previous step.
Step 6: What comes after the Gender Equality Plan?
A Gender Equality Plan will be concluded at some point in time. However, this is not ‘the end’ towards promoting gender equality in your organisation.
You are entering now a new cycle. Based on the findings from the evaluation of the Plan it is possible to draw conclusions regarding the progress made towards achieving gender equality in the institution. It is likely that the sustainability of some measures and procedures is already ensured, whereas others may still require further action.
In addition, the final evaluation may have identified new areas that require attention. This is the point where you decide how to continue the efforts undertaken so far and what a new Gender Equality Plan should address:
- Take into consideration the lessons learnt from the previous experience(s).
- Benchmark what other organisations have done or are currently doing (and adapt their measures and actions to your own context).
- Continue to engage (new) stakeholders.
- Think about how to make your measures and actions sustainable.
Click below to go back to the previous step. You can also download a short guide summarising all steps to set up a Gender Equality Plan.