2022 Mar/08

Research for Society

Gender Equality @EU-CONEXUS

Women represent half of the world‘s population and therefore, half of its potential. Thus, an International Women’s Day is a great occasion for the European alliance EU-CONEXUS to bring the Gender Equality Plan to the floor for discussion. The document is officially considered as a strategic EU-CONEXUS policy document.

Gender equality is a fundamental value of the European Union as well as one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the respect of all European Universities to it is highly appreciated. In accordance with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, EU-CONEXUS and its project Research for Society (RFS) shall promote gender equality as well as its diversity and shall not tolerate ‘any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation‘. 

Dr. Rima Mickevičienė

In the spirit of respect to gender equality, equalitarian careers, non-discrimination, human well-being, and environmental security, the work group Gender Equality Plan under dr. Rima Mickevičienė (Klaipeda University) presented a finalised Gender Equality Plan (GEP). The data collected from partner universities and shared experiences were analysed to establish an understanding of the key differences and gaps between women and men within the Alliance and its activities. The analysis has served to identify the key priorities for the GEP and to adjust these priorities to potential changes in the situation over time.  

Rima Mickevičienė notes that each partner and associated partner institution are going through different phases of implementation of this plan to their own communities. In addition, she names three institutions: La Rochelle University (France), Waterford Institute of Technology (Ireland), and Rostock University (Germany) as the best performers in fluent gender equality adaptation in their communities’ routine and daily life.

According to Natassa Frederickou, President of Frederick University Council (Cyprus), gender equality actions fall within the mandate of EnAF (Equality “n” Awareness), a dedicated Centre on Gender Issues, Diversity, and Equality founded by Frederick University in 2014. The Centre aims at promoting gender issues, diversity, and equality in the University community, incorporating gender equality into the University’s learning and teaching processes, research, operation, and public engagement and activity. The Centre acts as an advisor to the University Council and Senate on policies, programmes, and trainings related to the diversity and equality on campus. It also implements relevant campaigns and projects on and off campus. The Centre is very active and, among others, it has developed gender equality policies such as a Code of Conduct on Harassment and Sexual Harassment in the workplace. It runs several awareness-raising campaigns and organises training for the academic and administrative staff, such as training on Unconscious Gender Bias. One of the activities – the Red Card (Dating Violence) – an award-winning campaign was designed for students to promote violence prevention and development of functional and healthy communication, especially in relationships. ‘Our gender equality plan, currently being implemented under five thematic areas, aims to make significant progress by 2025 towards a gender-equal Europe‘, says Natassa Frederickou.

Natassa Frederickou

The Catholic University of Valencia (Spain) has already launched a Gender Equality Plan at their own institution and has been implementing various activities, such as round tables, exhibitions, etc., since 2020. The University recently created a Women’s Chair and appointed a director who is taking care of equalitarian careers. The Woman’s Chair is an academic space dedicated to research, training and dissemination of works and initiatives in which a certain Christian-inspired thought is reflected on the identity of women, the meaning of her femininity and the consideration of her dignity and mission in today’s world.

At the Technical University of Civil Engineering of Bucharest (Romania), an action plan for the implementation of the National Strategy on Promoting Equal Opportunities and Treatment between Women and Men during 2021-2027 was approved by the Senate in 2021. Vice-Rector Dr. Eng. Mirela-Mădălina Stoian has just taken the lead in implementing a large list of activities. A significant part of them is dedicated to awareness-raising events

Just recently, in February 2022, the University of Zadar (Croatia) also launched the Gender Equality Plan at its own institution. Developing a culture of gender equality is a long-term process of introducing new practices while eliminating the unconscious resistance of individuals in the community. The University has already included the dimension of gender equality in all its previous actions and is striving to further strengthen it by adopting appropriate legal acts valid at the national and international level. Thus, the University emphasised an importance of legislation: it introduced employment protocols which prevent bias in hiring. The University of Zadar provides a different example illustrated in the following charts of gender structure in leadership and decision-making. Unlike other partner universities, the underrepresented gender in University of Zadar is male.

Members of the Senate in the academic year 2021/2022 in terms of gender

Blue – male, red – female

Gender structure of the staff of the University of Zadar

Blue – male, red – female

At Klaipėda University (KU), the GEP was constructed by taking into account the characteristics and needs of the University, the ‘Horizon Europe Guidance on Gender Equality Plans’ and other European Commission’s sources, and the outcomes of Horizon 2020 project Baltic Gender project (2016-2020). In the framework of the Baltic Gender project, KU developed a Gender Equality Plan (GEP) of Klaipėda University for the period 2018-2023, intended for the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) units of the University, viz. the Marine Research Institute and the Faculty of Marine Technology and Natural Sciences. New initiatives on equality issues were launched at KU in 2021, e.g. the development of an Equal Opportunities Strategy and Action Plan and preparation of the material for the application for excellence award. Simultaneously with the development of EU-CONEXUS RfS Gender Equality Plan, the KU institutional progress has been reviewed and supplemented with the analysis of all departments of KU. A new edition of the KU GEP indicates that, in general, the experts of the Baltic Gender Project and representatives of the KU administration could carry it out as the Gender Equality Committee.

‘Let us all succeed in patiently pursuing institutional transformation. I believe we shall find time to stop, look around, and assess whether we are moving in the right direction or whether the whole community is involved, without which our activities would not make sense or produce good results’, says Rima Mickevičienė.