The CASPER project: Towards a European Certification-Award scheme for Gender Equality in Research

This blog entry focuses on the role that gender equality certifications and awards can play in improving gender equality in academia and research organisations. It is based on the work done within the CASPER project.

CASPER (Certification-Award Systems to Promote Gender Equality in Research) is a Horizon2020 funded project (Grant Agreement 872113) that aims at studying the feasibility of establishing an EU certification or award scheme targeting universities and research organisations.

The project relies on existing evidence that award and certification systems are, together with gender equality measures, effective means of driving and creating structural change in the context of research institutions (Equality Challenge Unit, 2015). Based on an extensive assessment of the available systems and needs across Europe, CASPER seeks to develop and evaluate four scenarios (including a non-action one) that pave the ground for a realistic EU-wide scheme.

To this date, the CASPER project has produced three public deliverables:

  • Deliverable 3.1“Policy Framing” report focuses on the description and analysis of the award and certification schemes in the 27 EU countries, Australia, Iceland, Norway, United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the United States of America
  • Deliverable 3.3 “State of the Art Analysis: mapping the award and certification landscape in Higher Education and Research”
  • Deliverable 4.3 “Key prerequisites for a Europe-wide gender equality scheme”

Deliverable 3.3 is the outcome of the combined efforts of 30 experts that explored the good practices in certification and award schemes for gender equality. This group focused on policies and measures adopted at the national level to integrate gender equality in Research and Higher Education. The result is a rich analysis of the landscape in which an EU Gender Equality Certification and/or Award Scheme could be developed. As stated here by Maria Sangiuliano, one of the authors of the report, it shows that “the European one is a favourable environment for the development of a CAS, with an overall positive trend in the adoption of CAS for HEIs and Research in the last years. Nonetheless, it also presents an uneven landscape, where countries have different levels of implementation of gender equality policies in research and Higher Education together with different priorities on the matter”.

Deliverable 4.3, is based on empirical and qualitative fieldwork, consisting of interviews with 74 different stakeholders,  and an internal consortium workshop. It points out the “must haves” for an effective GECAS which include:

  • Providing support and feedback
  • GECAS embracing a Gender+ approach which recognises that gender inequality and other inequalities are connected
  • General GECAS rather than discipline-specific
  • GECAS establishing a link with Gender Equality Plans (GEPs)
  • GECAS focusing on processes to structural change 
  • Focus on quantitative and qualitative indicators
  • The voluntary character of the scheme with mandatory elements
  • Progressive approach with incentives to work towards
  • Time-bound (usually 1 – 5 years)

The report concludes that the scheme “should be foregrounded by a Gender+ approach and should be underpinned by a process that would enable organisations in developing realistic, meaningful and transformative GEPs. A Europe-wide scheme should bring together certification and award aspects to enhance its flexibility and enable recognition of continuous institutional change along with celebrating different types of achievements in terms of context, content and time-horizon. The dynamic architecture combines a horizontal modularity (comprising different building blocks and modules) with a vertical progressive approach that would enable not only a level of harmonisation (establishing a minimum standard) with contextualisation requirements but would also facilitate engagement from organisations at different starting points of their gender equality work, as expressed by the stakeholders consulted in this phase of the project” (Deliverable 4.3, p. 46).

Building upon the results of the deliverables, a series of ten co-creation workshops took place in January and February 2021 with 133 participants. These workshops-created different scenarios and their outcomes. The output of the workshops was a concept board that summarised these scenarios.

The next step in the project is to consult with a broader range of stakeholders on these scenarios. The project welcomes expressions of interest to participate in future consultations about the scenarios, to be submitted via the CASPER website.

Post created by Agostina Allori (Yellow Window)

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