Which stakeholders to involve and how?

As a matter of principle, you should mobilise all stakeholders of your organisation in developing and implementing a gender equality plan (GEP). Their involvement, which can be direct or indirect (depending on the stakeholder profile), will create a sense of belonging that will help overcome challenges and resistance throughout the process. In this way, your GEP will represent the diverse needs of and situations in the different areas of your organisation (e.g. faculties, departments, disciplines, funding programmes) and promote bottom-up processes (i.e. activities are proposed and implemented not only at the top of the organisation, but also by employees or departments).

Although the organisational structures of European universities, research-performing organisations, research funding bodies and other public bodies differ, there are some similarities and the various types of stakeholders listed below can or should be involved in a GEP (if they are present in the institution). Their responsibilities need to be negotiated, mutually agreed on and made clear from the very beginning. Their cooperation and engagement are crucial for the successful development and implementation of a GEP (for more information and resources on impact, see ‘Success factors for gender equality plan development and implementation’).

How to involve the stakeholders? During the GEP development phase, stakeholders can be involved through, for example, focus groups, workshops, group discussions, seminars, interviews, written feedback circles or one-on-one meetings with the team/person responsible for development of the GEP. To ensure further stakeholder involvement, you could think about establishing structures or processes that promote participatory, bottom-up or co-creation/co-design approaches or consider the local context. Examples are having GEPs or action plans in place at faculty level; providing faculties or departments with the option of choosing their own gender equality activities that fit their local context; or installing gender equality committees in which faculties, departments or other stakeholder groups (e.g. students, young researchers and unions) are represented. In addition, you could establish a gender equality network throughout the entire organisation.

How to address the stakeholders? Below you will find examples of speaking notes to support advocacy for gender equality. These short notes (usually no longer than two paragraphs) aim to provide convincing arguments to advance gender equality in organisations. They can be helpful for convincing a key staff member or colleague in just a couple of minutes of the benefits of working towards gender equality.

These notes are provided here for inspiration. They are tailored to address different staff profiles, including senior executives, managers and human resources (HR) teams. It is advisable to customise your own speaking notes and to make them fit your institution and the person(s) you will be addressing.

For more inspiration, watch the videos in tab 2 of this page and have a look at the further resources in tab 3. See also step 4 of the step-by-step guide to read about involving stakeholders in the implementation of the GEP. You can also find more information on building arguments to convince stakeholders in the 'Why' chapter of this gender equality in academia and research(GEAR) tool.

Internal Stakeholders

The process of developing a GEP should be led by the body or person explicitly dedicated to gender equality work, such as the gender equality team, officer/office or committee. If you do not have such structures in place, the process of establishing them can be part of the GEP. For more information on gender equality structures and bodies, their role and what should be considered when establishing them, consult the action toolbox.

Other internal stakeholders that should be included by the gender equality body are senior management, middle management and leadership, research and/or teaching staff, administrative/non-academic units and staff (especially the HR department), and students.

Senior management

People in senior management are responsible for governing your organisation. While in higher education institutions they can be rectors or chancellors, in research organisations and funding bodies they can be board members (or chairs of the board) or directors. They have the power to make decisions that target the whole organisation and are therefore very important change agents when setting up and implementing a GEP. Thus, their support and commitment are invaluable assets that lead to success for example when engaging other stakeholders and overcoming resistance.

Middle management and leadership

These stakeholders are in charge of the day-to-day management of your organisation’s units, for example departments or research groups. In the context of research organisations, these stakeholders include faculty deans, heads of departments/institutes and directors of services. In the context of funding bodies, heads of departments and programme managers are relevant. They may have a closer relationship with teaching and/or research staff, students, or funding applicants and reviewers (depending on the organisation), and can thus be valuable allies in taking the messages of gender equality work to the local units and in the practical aspects of implementation.

Research and/or teaching staff

Staff with research and/or teaching responsibilities can have a groundbreaking role in changing the way disciplines are taught and research is carried out. Integrating a sex/gender dimension into research and innovation (R & I) content and teaching opens up new vistas and creates new knowledge. Considering a sex/gender dimension in research can have a positive and powerful impact on society and can improve people’s lives. Involving research and/or teaching staff in the GEP development process can also lead to a tailor-made GEP that represents the diverse needs of the different areas of the organisation and creates a sense of ownership. Perhaps there are also staff in your organisation who focus on gender research and can support the GEP team and implementation process with their knowledge and experience. Gender study researchers and scholars, and researchers who are part of structural change projects or networks, often play a vital role in developing GEPs. In addition, groups or representatives of certain categories of personnel (e.g. young researchers) should be involved.

  • What is the role of research and/or teaching staff in a gender equality plan?
  • Integrate a sex/gender dimension in research and teaching.
  • Participate in the GEP development process as stakeholders when invited by the unit responsible for the GEP to contribute their local perspective.
  • Actively participate in the initiatives organised within the framework of the GEP (e.g. training on gender-based violence, including sexual harassment).
  • Instigate change through debating the status quo of the organisation and proposing measures to promote structural change.
  • Organise activities that focus on integrating a sex/gender dimension into R & I content and/or contribute to promoting structural change to advance gender equality in the organisation.

Administrative/non-academic units and staff (especially human resources departments)

While administrative units and staff are the focus of GEP efforts in some organisations (e.g. funding bodies, public bodies), they may be overlooked in universities or research-performing organisations. However, including their perspective and expertise leads to a GEP that covers the needs of the whole organisation, and is crucial for the implementation and dissemination of the GEP. Therefore, administrative staff should be included in participatory GEP development processes.

Besides the HR department, other important departments are communications or public relations departments for awareness-raising and dissemination purposes, legal and financial departments for feasibility questions, and research support departments or quality/development departments responsible for teaching and curricula in order to integrate the sex/gender dimension into research and teaching. However, this very much depends on the structure of your organisation. In addition, union representatives or work environment units can support the cause. Funders should pay special attention to their R & I analysis department for materials and statistics or the innovation department to rework funding schemes (depending on their structure, of course).

The HR department, responsible for managing the human resources of the organisation, is key to promoting structural and cultural change towards gender equality. This department can promote unbiased and fairer procedures and measures that contribute to achieving a gender-balanced composition of the organisation’s staff. In addition, it can implement measures that ensure equal career progression and a balanced reconciliation of work and family life.


Higher education institutions have a major responsibility in instructing their students at all levels (from bachelor to PhD levels). Firstly, students can be integrated as beneficiaries of gender equality work, which includes, for example, raising their awareness regarding gender-relevant issues in all disciplines and subject areas, not just gender-based violence and sexual harassment, and career progression for students interested in following the academic career path. In addition, students also need to be encouraged and taught to integrate and apply a gender perspective in and to their research, as they may become teachers or researchers themselves.

Raising students’ awareness and sensitivity about gender equality contributes to changing attitudes, behaviours and culture at the higher education institution and in other spheres of their lives. They might also have gender biases and/or be a source of resistance, which needs to be taken into account and specifically addressed, if necessary. Secondly, some students or a group of students can also be drivers in the change process. Their perspectives and involvement can be informal, but can also be formally considered in the GEP, and their responsibilities can be strengthened by involving them as stakeholders in the GEP development and implementation process (e.g. student representatives, student mentors for future or first-year students).

External stakeholders

Even though a GEP focuses on one organisation, the stakeholder group may not be limited to the boundaries of your organisation. Depending on the organisation, the group of external stakeholders can be quite broad and can include the following: audit organisations (e.g. the human resources strategy for researchers (HRS4R) or Stifterverband in Germany); gender experts, consultants or advisory boards; gender research project partners; individual personal contacts in the academic community; non-governmental organisations (e.g. on violence against women); or (inter)national networks (e.g. university or funding bodies networks). Depending on the national context, political stakeholders, such as ombudspersons or ministries, can be valuable stakeholders as well.

External contacts and networks for exchange

Learning from and being inspired by others can be highly valuable for development and implementation of a GEP, although you should not forget that everything has to be adapted to your own context. Exchange can happen between individuals (e.g. with a gender equality officer of another organisation) or in a group setting such as (gender equality) networks, for example communities of practice. The exchange with external stakeholders and networks can also represent an opportunity to spread ideas, impulses and information on gender equality more broadly in order to have increased impact on the academic and/or political system.

Arguments tailored to funding bodies’ stakeholders

While funding bodies have some overlaps with the stakeholders of universities or other research organisations (i.e. senior management, middle management, HR departments and non-academic staff) and can use some of the abovementioned arguments, there are aspects of the set-up of funding bodies and the arguments used that are different. For example, while the main source of data (i.e. on staff) at a university or other research institution is the HR department, in funding bodies it is the unit holding all data on the funding process (i.e. on applicants and reviewers), such as the R & I analysis department. This also means that these departments, as well as the reviewers, applicants and their research institutions, are of great importance as external stakeholders. For more information on how to integrate gender equality in your funding body, please consult the step by step guide for funding bodies and the action toolbox section  action  ‘Gender-sensitive funding procedures’.

In order to view videos and webinars or further tools and resources on the topics in this section, switch between the respective tabs. Otherwise, click below to continue to the next section about the GEAR tool or jump directly to the ‘Why’ chapter of the GEAR tool.


  • Video about the SPEAR communities of learning and communities of practice, in which Eva Sophia Myers from the University of Southern Denmark explains the role of communities of learning and communities of practice within the framework of the SPEAR project. The videoshows how these special network concepts can be used in the context of gender equality work.
  • Video about communities of practice by the ACT project, called ‘Introducing CoPs as an instrument for institutional change’ , in which you can learn more about how communities of practice can be used for gender equality work.
  • Video of a stakeholder engagement event, the HeForShe campaign event held at Sciences Po (Paris) to engage students, supported by the director and provost of Sciences Po.
  • Videos about the benefits of GEPs by the SPEAR project, from Germany and Sweden, which could be used to advocate for GEPs.


Examples and results of stakeholder work

Participatory methods and examples

  • Collection of participatory techniques from the ‘Supporting the promotion of equality in research and academia’ (SUPERA) project. This collection of participatory techniques/methods is the result of training facilitated by Yellow Window as part of the project.
  • GenderLab workshop format.The GenderLab combines elements of the design thinking method with the most recent insights from research on unconscious bias and norm critique.’. On the website, you can access the project report, which contains more details on how to conduct GenderLab workshops, and videos from the team on different aspects of the format and its basis. The format was developed by the Copenhagen Business School in cooperation with the Danish Centre for Information on Gender, Equality and Diversity, the Hanken School of Economics, the GODESS Institute and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
  • Resources on capacity building, training and support from the ‘Gender equality actions in research institutions to transform gender roles’ (GEARING ROLES) project. On the website, you can find useful resources on participatory techniques (GenderWave, personas, structured democratic dialogue).
  • CrowdEquality platform from the ‘Gender equality in information science and technology’ (EQUAL-IST) project. The platform uses a crowdsourcing approach to mobilise stakeholders and is intended to be reused. On the website, you can find the code and handbook with a complete list of requirements.
  • Participatory methods from the Institute of Development Studies (University of Sussex). On the website, you can find a general introduction to participatory methods, their basis, the individual steps and a collection of methods and ideas.
  • ACT co-creation toolkit.The ACT project Co-Creation Toolkit compiles a variety of participatory methods and tools useful for Communities of Practice to successfully operate and self-develop. The Toolkit contents are meant to offer methods and practices to help Communities of Practice engage collaboratively in activities for advancing gender equality measures, spreading expertise and promoting effective institutional change.’
  • CALIPER project. Valentine Duhant, Laurent Licata, Patricia Melotte and Sara Aguirre (2021), D2.1. Co-design guidelines for the development and reporting of scenarios .
  • Gender and diversity toolkit from the EU-funded structural change project ‘Transforming organisational culture for gender equality in research and innovation’ (GENOVATE). The gender and diversity toolkit presents and explains a set of interesting approaches and participatory techniques for engaging stakeholders.
  • ‘Structural transformation to achieve gender equality in science’ (STAGES) conference. A presentation by Evanthia K. Schmidt, Aarhus University (Denmark), about engaging leadership in gender equality initiatives (presented at the STAGES final conference on 3 December 2015) contains concrete suggestions, based on the experiences obtained in the STAGES project, on how to better involve leadership in gender equality.
  • STAGES project guidelines. The guidelines produced within the framework of the EU-funded structural change STAGES project provide practical insights on establishing and supporting networks for gender equality in universities and research organisations. For example, it is recommended to bridge top-down and bottom-up approaches by creating spaces for dialogue and negotiation within networks that can span the institution. Moreover, networks can be involved in planning, empowerment and negotiation activities. They can support, connect and empower internal actors. See pp. 46–48 of the guidelines.
  • ‘Systemic action for gender equality’ (SAGE) project guidelines. The Guidelines for the Implementation of Gender Equality Plans proposed by the EU-funded SAGE project (2016) provide support to GEP-implementing organisations in planning and managing their GEP process and decreasing organisational resistance to change, placing the emphasis on stakeholder engagement and building alliances.