Gender Working Group assesses gender equity in scientific research
Global Research Council’s annual summit turns its spotlight to women’s participation in research. Gender Working Group posts survey online to collect data from all five continents.
By José Tadeu Arantes | Agência FAPESP – Gender equity in scientific research is on the agenda at the 8th Annual Meeting of the Global Research Council (GRC), an association of research funding agencies on all five continents. The meeting was held May 1-3 in São Paulo, Brazil.
A highlight of the event was a study by the GRC’s Gender Working Group (GWG) analyzing 53 cases that involved the promotion of participation by women in research.
The cases refer to actions performed in 28 countries in all five continents: the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. They have been compiled as a booklet available online: Supporting Women in Research: Policies, Programs and Initiatives Undertaken by Public Research Funding Agencies.
“The case studies provide an overview of the current status of women’s participation in scientific research and offer guidance on what to do to promote it. The aim of the booklet is to enable us to decide what measures to take in our respective countries and to establish an agenda for the GRC to promote gender equity in the coming years,” Phethiwe Matutu, representing South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NSF), told Agência FAPESP. The NSF is one of the GWG’s co-leads.
The first case study focuses on FAPESP’s broad coverage of women’s participation in research, their challenges and successes in a range of media (Agência FAPESP, Pesquisa FAPESP magazine, the Ciência Aberta (“Open Science”) video program, and Innovative R&D, among others).
Another case study details a programme of the US National Science Foundation (NSF) that offers grants to support workforce equity and inclusion in scientific research, with US$315 million invested since 2001.
Yet another case study describes how the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) raised the upper age limit for women applying for the Young Scientists Fund and the Excellent Young Scientists Fund to 40 years of age.
Since the change was effected in 2011-12, women’s applications for research funding have increased steadily year by year. In 2018, almost 51% of all applications came from women. According to participants in the GRC’s annual meeting, this was a very important initiative because pregnancy and childcare can delay or even irremediably interrupt a woman’s scientific career.
The GRC set up the Gender Working Group (GWG) in 2017. The group expanded in the following year by including representatives of all five regions and produced the above study as its main output.
The GWG now aims to promote exchanges of experience among member organizations, draw up a plan of action for the next two years, and explore opportunities for partnership with global organizations such as UNESCO.
In this direction a survey to collect gender data from all the GRC’s participating organizations is available online. It is entitled Survey: Gender Disaggregated Data at GRC Participating Organisations.
“The GWG comprises representatives of organizations in 11 countries. Our goal is to encourage all the GRC’s members to promote more participation by women and ensure that as many women as men are in positions of leadership in scientific research,” said Roshni Abedin, a senior manager with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the other GWG co-lead.
“The survey we’ve just put online will enable us to collect gender data from the GRC’s members. There are many talented women scientists who haven’t yet reached the positions they should hold because of the glass ceiling. The survey is designed to provide us with an overview that will help us identify the problems and decide what to do to break down these barriers,” Abedin told Agência FAPESP.
The GWG has established a timetable for completion of the survey, according to a presentation to the GRC’s annual meeting by Ana Maria Fonseca Almeida, a professor at the University of Campinas in São Paulo State and a member of the steering committee for FAPESP’s Adjunct Panel on Humanities and Social Sciences.
The milestones are as follows: survey posted online in May 2019; GRC members officially advised of the survey in June 2019; regional meetings and production of a progress report by the GWG during 2019; survey ends in December 2019; final results presented to the GRC’s annual summit in May 2020.
More information on the 8th Annual Meeting of the Global Research Council: www.fapesp.br/eventos/grc.