Gender equality plans, the Charter & Code and EURAXESS

The European Research Area (ERA) aims at achieving:

  1. More effective national research systems
  2. Trans-national co-operation and competition
  3. Gender equality
  4. Optimal circulation, access to and transfer of scientific knowledge
  5. Open labour market for researchers

In order to achieve an open labour market for researchers, an important document was published by the European Commission (EC) in 2005, namely the Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (Charter & Code from hereinafter). This document is composed of 40 principles detailing the rights and obligations of researchers, as well as the rights of organizations recruiting researchers.

Since its publication, the Charter & Code has become a widely accepted framework for human resource departments, in research organisations, with more than 1100 organisations across Europe having endorsed it publicly.

The Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R) was designed as a tool to foster real institutional change through a process in which the organizations can benchmark the management of their human resources to the principles of the Charter & Code, in order to design an action plan aimed at improving their activities. This process is progressive and includes future assessments of the action plan’s implementation. The process also foresees the involvement of the different stakeholders in the organization including the human resources staff, managerial staff and, of course, the researchers themselves.

The implementation of the HRS4R is recognized by the European Commission (EC) through the HR Excellence in Research Award which is awarded to research organizations actively working to improve the management of their human resource departments.

Fig. HRS4R procedure chart source:

A key factor in ERA’s objective to improve gender equality, is the development and implementation of gender equality plans (GEPs). These are key instruments to encourage institutional change in research organizations and remove obstacles to achieving gender equality, which are inherent to the research system itself. The process of a GEP can be summarized in in the following actions:

  • Conducting impact assessment and audits of procedures and practices, to identify gender bias.
  • Implementing innovative strategies to correct bias.
  • Setting targets and monitoring progress via indicators.

This way, it is quite clear that the development of a GEP and the HRS4R should be made in unison and often involve a significant number of the same players within organisations.

It is important to highlight that a GEP by definition cannot be broader strategy or plan (e.g., a strategy to manage your human resources) including a gender dimension. Nevertheless there are possibilities to improve the connection between them to optimize the work of the people undertaking these changes.

EURAXESS as a transmission chain (where possible)

EURAXESS is an initiative of the EC directly linked with the ERA objective of achieving and open labour market for researchers. It is backed by the European Union, Member States and Associated Countries with more than 600 contacts points across Europe, a majority of them hosted within higher education institutions. Their objective is to support researcher mobility and career development.

The adoption of the “Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth” in 2012, introduced gender equality as one of the priorities for the EC. This implied removing barriers to the recruitment, retention and career progression of female researchers, address gender balance in decision making and strengthening the gender dimension in research programmes. EURAXESS can support these endeavours through different channels. Three aspects of the EURAXESS work are important in this regard:

  • EURAXESS services for mobile researchers,
  • EURAXESS career development services and
  • Support EURAXESS provides with the implementation of the Charter & Code principles, via the setting up of a HRS4R.

In light of these endeavours, the connection between the implementation of GEPs and EURAXESS support mechanisms, should be reinforced to optimise the institution’s efforts in achieving gender equality.

This is an approach which is being explored within the GEARING-Roles project. In fact, the project is including EURAXESS career development support for female researchers in the implementation of GEPs across six institutions. It is also reflecting on the current gender dimension of the Charter & Code and the HRS4R.

A first online workshop which addressed the issues discussed above, was held on June 26th 2019. The workshop also included the sharing of a number of good practices to achieve gender equality in recruitment and career development.

The workshop can be found here:

Xavier Eekhout

EURAXESS Spain Bridgehead Organization

Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología

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