FELISE (Feminist Leadership in Science) mentoring begins!

The GEARING-Roles mentoring programme FELISE (Female Leadership in Science) officially started on July 1st 2020.

This mentoring programme is coordinated by Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología (FECYT). The institutions participating are currently implementing Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) as part of the GEARING project: University of Deusto, University of Lisbon, University of Ljubljana, Sabanci University, Oxford Brookes University and the Estonian Research Council. FELISE is a common part of all six GEPs.

FECTY has been leading the programme, taking into account the needs and preferences of each of our partners – who, in turn, have been in charge of finding participants. Each of the six GEP implementers has coordinated between five and six senior researchers with awareness of gender equality issues in academia to act as mentors to the same number of early career researchers who are women – most in early postdoctoral positions – with career goals to remain in academia and reach senior leadership positions. Altogether, FELISE has recruited 35 mentors and 35 mentees (see Table 1 for details).

ROLES Mentors / Sponsors Mentees
Estonian Research Council (EE) 1 1 3 1 1 3
Oxford Brookes University (UK) 1 1 4 3 1 2
Sabanci University (TR) 0 3 3 0 4 2
University of Deusto (ES) 2 2 5 2 2 5
Geographic Institute and Spatial Planning – University of Lisbon (PT) 0 0 5 0 0 5
Faculty of Arts – University of Ljubljana (SI) 0 0 4 0 0 4

Table 1. Breakout of FELISE participants per GEP implementing institution and research domain (LS: Life Sciences, PE: Physical Sciences and Engineering; SSH: Social Sciences and Humanities)

In this way, the programme seeks to address gender inequality in top academic positions where women generally remain under-represented (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Proportion (%) of men and women in a typical academic career, students and academic staff, EU-28, 2013-2016 (Source: She figure 2018 https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/9540ffa1-4478-11e9-a8ed-01aa75ed71a1)

More specifically, FELISE will be supporting mentors and mentees to tackle the following:

  • Identifying and critically discussing gendered norms and practices in academia to address gender inequalities at both individual and structural levels.
  • Reviewing narratives within institutions to challenge gender-neutral assumptions about academic careers.
  • Experimenting with new work practices that can enable sustainable and meaningful careers.
  • Establishing a network of peers supporting institutional changes for gender equality.
  • Improving knowledge of academic career options and strengthening professional networks.

For this, FELISE builds on two strands:

First, a core mentoring scheme in which all mentees will be matched with a mentor within their institution to discuss self-awareness, gender equality in research, career barriers for women, ideas for how to foster gender equality in research and teaching, and how to navigate institutional cultures and practices.

Second, a complementary sponsoring scheme in which the mentees will each be matched with a mentor from another institution from a similar research field (if available) to discuss career development, strengthening professional networks and identifying advancement opportunities.

Figure 2. Graphical representation of the FELISE Mentoring Programme

70 researchers in total are thus far participating (see Table 1 for details), totaling 35 intra-institutional mentoring pairs and 33 inter-institutional sponsoring pairs.

Participants will have at least five mentoring meetings and two sponsoring meetings during the FELISE’s seven-month duration (July 2020 to January 2021) and resources such as the FELISE Handbook, on-line trainings and keynote presentations webinars will be offered to facilitate these meetings.

To launch the mentoring period, FECYT organized a Kick-off webinar for all participants in two different sessions to facilitate participation (June 30th and July 7th 2020). During this webinar, the FELISE coordination team addressed the basics of mentoring, the rationale for the programme, and provided tips for participants to facilitate connections and to make the most of the programme. Last but not least, these sessions were vital to answer any questions from participants and ensure everybody started on the same foot.

On July 14th 2020, a first keynote presentation was arranged to further inspire the participants at the beginning of the programme. Dr. Elena Dr. Gómez-Díaz (@elenagomezdiaz) from the Institute of Parasitology and Biomedicine “López-Neyra” (IPBLN-CSIC) shared her experiences confronting gender inequalities while building communities of women researching parasitology. She also presented guidelines for individual scientists and institutions to overcome unconscious bias and create environments with better gender equality and diversity. These included recommendations to avoid unconscious biases, tools for publishing neutral and inclusive job advertisements, support to peer mentoring initiatives and recommendations to facilitate engagement with equity measures.

The webinar can be viewed here.

Following summer, other activities will be organized to continue supporting the participants, including online training linked to leadership and career development.

Follow us on this blog and Twitter @GearingRoles for more updates on the FELISE Mentoring programme!

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