Work-life balance and organisational culture

A key component of the transformation of an organisation’s culture for advancing gender equality is work–life balance. Work–life balance is relevant for all members of staff and involves ensuring that everybody is properly supported to advance their career alongside personal responsibilities that they may hold outside the workplace, including caring responsibilities.

It is important to highlight that the whole institution benefits from a more open and respectful organisational culture, and that it is not ‘a women’s issue’. Improving organisational cultures also contributes to becoming an attractive employer, and therefore to attracting and retaining the best talent. See below for tips on what to consider when implementing measures and to view examples from other organisations.


  • Watch the following video produced by the EU-funded project ACT on academic culture.




  • The EU-funded ‘Supporting the promotion of equality in research and academia’ (SUPERA) project prepared presentations on various topics, including the following on gender-sensitive communication in research and academia. Gender-sensitive communication in research and academia

General guidance and strategy documents

The information provided in the GEAR action toolbox is strongly oriented towards the Horizon Europe Guidance on Gender Equality Plans. Consult the document directly to receive additional information and to access links to additional best-practice examples.

EIGE’s toolkit for work–life balance in the ICT sector (2018) outlines how organisations, especially ICT companies, in the ICT sector can boost equal opportunities and gender equality to attract and retain the talent of women. It provides organisations with practical tools and real-life examples to support the implementation of work–life balance measures. It also provides a checklist for developing work–life balance provisions.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in European Higher Education Institutions is a report published in 2019 by the European University Association as part of the INVITED project, which aims to support universities in developing strategies towards equity, diversity and inclusion. It also seeks to promote dialogue between stakeholders at system level in order to ensure that regulatory and funding frameworks empower universities to fulfil their social responsibility.

Also published by the European University Association (2018), Universities’ Strategies towards Equity, Diversity and Inclusion shows how universities approach the topic from a strategic point of view, bringing together various smaller-scale projects focused on different aspects and dimensions into a comprehensive strategy that becomes an integral part of the institution’s mission.

The League of European Research Universities (LERU) published a position paper (2019) entitled Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Universities: The power of a systemic approach, which makes the case for why universities should, and how they can, engage with equality, diversity and inclusion. It provides many examples of what LERU universities are actually doing to build equal, diverse and inclusive organisations, including through tackling intersecting inequalities.

The Updated handbook of gender-sensitive indicators in the Baltic Gender project (2019) also provides indicators on work and family. For each indicator, the handbook provides a definition, a rationale for using the indicator, a list of required data, and how to collect and analyse the data.

EIGE published a report entitled Supporting Reconciliation of Work, Family and Private Life – Good practices (2015). It presents good practices and gaps in and challenges to the work towards supporting the reconciliation of work, family and private life.

During the EU-funded structural change project ‘Gendering the academy and research: combating career instability and asymmetries’ (GARCIA), multiple useful working papers were produced. Consider, for instance, its 2015 working paper ‘Mapping organisational work-life policies and practices, which provides examples of work–life policies implemented in each GARCIA beneficiary institution and the experiences of researchers. Its 2016 working paper on organisational culture and everyday working life shows the results of a quantitative and qualitative analysis of relevant indicators, compared across six European countries.

Gender-sensitive communication

The guidelines for gender-sensitive communication developed by the EU-funded SUPERA project (2020) consider the main factors influencing the development of an academic institution’s communication strategy through the lenses of gender-sensitivity.

The toolkit for gender-sensitive communication is one of a series of documents produced by EIGE to raise awareness of gender-sensitive language. Other useful documents include a glossary to explain the meaning of key terms linked to gender equality and a thesaurus exploring the relationship between different terms, both accessible at EIGE’s gender equality glossary and thesaurus. It provides guidelines for the use of gender-sensitive language in writing. Although it provides tips and examples for the English language, the underlying principles for gender-sensitive writing are universal and remain relevant when using other languages.

Check out the Antwerp charter on gender-sensitive communication in and by academic institutions. The organisations signing the charter undertake to promote respect for human dignity and social responsibility, eliminate all forms of discrimination and use gender-sensitive language at all times when communicating. The charter is one of the key outcomes of the EU-funded structural change project ‘Effective gender equality in research and academia’ (EGERA).

Good Practices in Gender Inclusion in STEM Communication, produced by the EU-funded Hypatia (2016) project, lists a number of gender-inclusive science education activities designed by European science centres, museums, research institutions, industrial institutions and other science education institutions.

Promoting a good organisational culture

Work package 2 (work and family) of the EU-funded Baltic Gender project aims to develop family-friendly strategies to raise awareness about the implications of career interruptions and to establish supportive policies. Its report on family-friendly strategies in higher education and research provides best-practice examples and recommendations from the Baltic Gender project. Its checklist for maintaining contact with staff taking family breaks (2019) is aimed at maintaining contact with the individuals taking family breaks and for employees returning to regular working conditions afterwards. It also includes recommendations to guarantee a successful career continuation with continuous institutional support. The project also produced a report on best practices for re-entry into science after a critical career break (2020), which can provide further inspiration. You can find a full list of the project outputs on its website.

Training materials on improving meeting cultures were published by the EU-funded structural change ‘Female empowerment in science and technology academia’ (FESTA) project consortium (2014). The aim is to facilitate open and constructive communication, and to raise awareness of the subtle ways of giving and taking away voice, power and visibility.

The Athena Scientific Women’s Academic Network (SWAN) factsheet on organisational culture provides ‘quick-win’ suggestions that were implemented by Athena SWAN award winners.
Imperial College London commissioned independent research to examine issues of gender equality and institutional culture, with a view to formulating advice on how to address sexism. In the context of this research, staff and students are encouraged to contribute to the project by filling in a short survey. Here is the template survey with the questions (2016).

Imperial College London commissioned independent research to examine issues of gender equality and institutional culture, with a view to formulating advice on how to address sexism. In the context of this research, staff and students are encouraged to contribute to the project by filling in a short survey. Here is the template survey with the questions (2016).