The UT’s Gender Equality Plan, published this week, provides an overview of policies and initiatives that the university has set up in order to reduce gender inequality, such as special scholarships for women, mentoring programmes and female networks at UT. The GEP also stresses the need to make additional efforts and includes a general outline of actions necessary in the future. ‘We need to continue the focus on gender equality and getting more women into scientific positions on all levels,’ stresses Michael Neys, HR Policy Advisor on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.
European Commission requirement
From January 2022, having a Gender Equality Plan (GEP) is required for all European researchers and institutes that wish to apply for funding within the Horizon Europe programme. This means that all academics applying for grants must be able to prove their institution has a GEP. As a result of this requirement announced by the European Commission, the Gender Equality Plan was prepared by the UT’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Team in close collaboration with the Grants Office.
Implications of not having the plan would therefore be large, says Sterre Mkatini, the UT’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion officer. ‘All academics need to show their university has a GEP, but hopefully it will not only be a checkbox,’ she says. ‘Ideally all researchers actually read the document and use it to consciously think about gender equality within their projects.’
The document lists specific steps that need to be taken in the near future. These include, for example, running a new Hypatia Chair campaign to recruit female professors, exploring possibilities to attract female students in fundamental technical study programmes and conducting an internal soft audit. ‘We need to gain better insight into the effectiveness of our current measures, strategies and policies,’ says Linda Pasqual-van der Landen, Communications Advisor from the DE&I Team. ‘We need to know exactly what our problems are and critically assess whether our current actions are effective in fixing them.’
‘Getting more data and defining the problem is indeed the number one action that we need to take right now,’ agrees Neys. ‘The UT has come up with targets, such as having 25% female full professors by 2025, but those are only numbers. Cultural aspects are just as important in attracting and advancing female academics.’
Gender equality targets
‘Working on our GEP has shown us that the UT has been committed to overcoming gender gaps over the years. We need to build on this strategically to fully benefit from all these efforts, in order to achieve our updated goals, ’ says Sterre Mkatini, the UT’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion officer. ‘The plan was an extra impulse for us to do that. It highlights the need for continuous attention to gender equality.’
At the beginning of 2023, the DE&I Team plans to publish an updated GEP – as part of the updated overall DE&I action plan – containing adjusted targets and specific and measurable actions for achieving gender equality targets. In fact, the plan will be updated annually to demonstrate what works well and what should be improved.