Feature Story | 31-May-2022

Women make up only a third of Europe's research staff

The UOC is taking part in the development of a European certificate for gender equality in research and innovation

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

Given the need to continue progress in gender equality in research and innovation, the CASPER (Certification-Award Systems to Promote Gender Equality in Research) study has been carried out as part of the European Horizon 2020 R+D+i framework programme. CASPER, which has taken two years to produce, outlines three possible scenarios for a future European certification or recognition system for promoting gender equality in research and innovation. The study has been carried out by an international consortium led by the European Science Foundation. One of the researchers authoring the project is Jörg Müller, a member of the Gender and ICT research group (GenTIC) of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).

"We've studied the feasibility of implementing different systems that certify or reward gender equality in research and innovation in the European Union," explained Müller. "Now it's up to the European Commission to decide which of the three proposed scenarios it is going to adopt, whether it will choose a fourth alternative path, or simply do nothing," added the expert.

Three scenarios in a diverse Europe

The first scenario, which is the most ambitious, includes a progressive scoring system which must be updated every four years and include an inter-sectoral perspective. It would also analyse both the process and the results after the implementation of measures such as an equality plan. The second scenario takes advantage of the well-known and widely implemented Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R) and would use a simple pass/fail test when assessing the process that has been established to achieve gender equality goals within organizations. Finally, the third scenario involves importing the successful Athena SWAN Charter, an experience aimed at gender equality created in the United Kingdom and currently in use in Ireland, Australia, Canada and India.

The authors of the project warn that the effort will be long-term in any of the scenarios. Additionally, since gender equality is a complex, multifaceted and dynamic phenomenon, they say that a common European scheme makes sense if it can accommodate national differences, enable engagement with national stakeholders and be endowed with sufficient resources to drive cultural and behavioural change.

"If we really want to improve the situation, we need to invest more resources, especially in the countries where it is most needed, which are basically those in Eastern Europe," said Jörg Müller. According to the UOC researcher, in this region "there is strong resistance to change on gender equality issues at the political level, and not enough resources are being allocated to progress in this area." "You can't even discuss the problem of gender equality," he added. However, Müller said that countries like Sweden, Finland and Norway have a long tradition in this area.


This research by the UOC supports Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, Gender Equality.



The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century, by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health.

Over 500 researchers and 51 research groups work among the University's seven faculties and two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The University also cultivates online learning innovations at its eLearning Innovation Center (eLinC), as well as UOC community entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer via the Hubbik platform.

The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu #UOC25years

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