Step 3: Setting up a Gender Equality Plan

After carrying out an assessment of the gender equality status quo (see step 2) in your organisation, you can start setting up a gender equality plan (GEP).

When developing the GEP, keep in mind that this kind of plan has two functions. Firstly, a GEP is a formal document and you are free to structure and design the GEP according to your own needs and standards; there is no overall template to fill in. Consider that your GEP needs to fulfil the Horizon Europe eligibility criterion (find more information here). Secondly, the GEP reflects a process: developing a GEP means involving people, identifying and discussing challenges and potential measures with them, and thereby raising awareness of gender equality and gaining support for the implementation of the plan. These discussions and negotiations are an important step for awareness-raising, which is the starting point for structural and cultural change in research funding bodies.

The scope of a GEP for research funding bodies stretches from defining research priorities and funding programmes to defining eligibility criteria, application procedures, and evaluation and grant-awarding procedures. It can also include objectives and measures that aim to promote gender equality for employees, ranging from work–life balance to working culture or career progression and leadership.

The findings of the status quo analysis allow you and your team to identify the areas of intervention to be addressed in your GEP. To get from the data analysis to your objectives and the concrete measures you aim to implement, make use of the tools that have been developed so far (you can find them below). Be aware that the targets you are aiming for need to be linked to the overall strategic objectives of your funding body, as well as to national policies that might be relevant for your organisation.

At this stage, it is crucial to actively involve senior management and people in leadership positions to decide on the areas of intervention to be addressed and the measures to be identified in your GEP. Their involvement will ensure a smoother and more effective implementation of the proposed measures (to prepare a line of reasoning, find some arguments here). Consider also including the members of the team who carried out the status quo assessment (see step 2) in the development of the GEP.

However, not all relevant areas of intervention can be tackled at the same time, and some may be more pressing than others. Set the priorities for your organisation considering the status quo assessment of step 2; the available resources; and, of course, the Horizon Europe eligibility criterion. Link these priorities to other strategic targets of your organisation; this will increase their sustainability.

When developing the GEP, keep in mind that it must be holistic and integrated. This means that the identified areas of intervention are interdependent. The GEP will address a variety of issues relevant to the whole community and organisational system. There are a few basic elements to be considered when setting up the GEP: (1) objectives, (2) measures with indicators and targets, (3) timeline and (4) responsibilities.

Below we explain how these elements are realised in the process of setting up a GEP.

If you are interested in general tools and resources that can support you in developing your GEP, click on the tab ‘Tools and resources’. Moreover, the SPEAR video on step 3 tells you all you need to know about developing a GEP.

SPEAR Gender equality in academia. EIGE’s GEAR tool step 3

You can find webinars about developing a GEP in the tab ‘Videos and webinars’. Otherwise, click below to continue to the next step and learn how to implement your GEP. You can also go back to the previous step.

  • Science Europe’s Practical guide to improving gender equality in research organisations provides guidance on how to avoid unconscious bias in the peer-review process, how to monitor gender equality and how to improve grant management practices.
  • The Royal Society has produced a video that introduces the key concepts of unconscious bias (gender and other intersecting dimensions) for panel members. This video on unconscious bias for panel members is used by the European Research Council; it is shown before remote assessments and before panel meetings.
  • An Irish research body has produced two videos on assessment practices: ‘What happens before a panel meeting?’ and ‘What happens in a panel meeting?’
  • The Dutch Research Council (NWO) set up an e-learning module for reviewers including a video on Interaction and group dynamics in evaluation committees , that creates awareness of implicit gender biases and allows reviewers to correct these biases.
  • The webinar 'Introduction to gender equality plans'  (2020), developed by the Gender Equality Academy, aims to explore the concept of institutional change for gender equality in research-performing and research funding organisations, and how GEPs can be used for implementing it in view of achieving the three main European research area objectives.

  • In the ‘Gender equality in the European research area community to innovate policy implementation’ (GENDERACTION) project webinar 'Gender equality plans in Horizon Europe' you can learn about the Horizon Europe eligibility criterion, how to design a GEP, how to set up an implementation process, and about areas of change and requirements.
  • In the ‘Systemic action for gender equality’ (SAGE) project online course 'Change management in gender equality' you can examine the experiences of institutions in putting the SAGE model for institutional change into action and explore the process of developing and implementing GEPs. The webinar also looks at how other research institutions can adapt the model to identify the measures required to create their GEP.

Helpful tools and resources in general

  • Take a look at the infographic developed in the EU-funded 'Gender equality in engineering through communication and commitment' (GEECCO) project before starting the process of GEP design to get an idea of different gender equality approaches.
  • To get inspiration, have a look at the SAGE wheel, but keep in mind that it was developed before the Horizon Europe eligibility criterion was established.
  • The SPEAR creative, open, mitigating, processual, accountable, SMART, sustainable (COMPASS) methodology, developed in 2021 by the EU-funded project SPEAR, is a holistic and practical approach that can help you draft an effective and sustainable GEP and implement gender equality change measures in your organisation. The COMPASS methodology draws on seven carefully selected principles (creative, open, mitigating, processual, accountable, SMART, sustainable) and provides hands-on planning tools.
  • The CO-design guidelines for the development and reporting of scenarios, developed in the CALIPER project, aim to help research-performing organisations and research funding organisations develop a tailored co-design strategy and build tailored strategic change scenarios for developing customised GEPs. The purpose of the methodology guidelines is twofold: (1) design a co-design process and (2) design strategic change scenarios that will be the basis of the GEP design. The document presents theoretical insights on co-design and practical steps to follow. It also provides a toolkit with practical activities. These guidelines will allow the formation of tailored strategies to develop strategic change scenarios and organise multistakeholder dialogues.
  • Users can choose their own measures from a complete list of measures that partners in the PLOTINA project prepared to support research-performing organisations in their choice, divided into five key areas (1) governance bodies, key actors and decision-makers; (2) recruitment, career progression and retention; (3) work and personal life integration; (4) researchers and research: gender equality, and the sex and gender perspective; and (5) integration of the sex/gender dimension into teaching curricula. These are subdivided according to specific objectives to be achieved within each key area. The list presents the many strategies/measures that can be adopted in order to reach gender equality.
  • The Guidelines to Design a Customised Gender Equality Plan (GEP), developed in the ‘Taking a reflexive approach to gender equality for institutional transformation’ (TARGET) project, provide concrete guidance for research-performing and research funding organisations on developing a GEP based on a gender equality audit. This general guidance document tries to help implementing institutions identify initial priorities of the GEP on the basis of the audits performed. Specifically, it walks them through how to use the results (of the audit) to design the GEP in a reflexive and participative way, thereby further embedding the GEP process within the institution.
  • The ‘Equality network in the European research area’ (GENERA) project planning–action–monitoring (PAM) tool can help you plan measures and monitor their implementation. The PAM tool illustrates how you can identify targets and appropriate indicators to measure them, and how targets and concrete measures are linked. This is demonstrated by using the example of the field of physics.

Resources to establish specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-related objectives

Resources for identifying and utilising existing resources