Why it’s important
In Europe, approximately half of our PhD students are women. However, the percentage of women researchers starts to decrease at the postdoctoral level and drops dramatically in leaderships positions (with 20% as group leaders and 15.5% as directors). These numbers raise ethical as well as economical issues, since they demonstrate a bias in the system and a dramatic waste of talent and resources in research & innovation.
 See Figures 2012 Report
Gender equality is one of the key values of EU-LIFE and a priority of action. As we aim to build and promote excellence in life sciences throughout Europe, our commitment to excellence is also a commitment to gender equality and promotion of inclusiveness and diversity within the research & innovation ecosystem.
From October 2015 to March 2019, the EU-LIFE members teamed up with ASDO, a gender expert organization, on LIBRA, a European funded project, to develop and implement gender equality in research. By the way, LIBRA has been recently highlighted in the European Commission success stories.
LIBRA has evaluated the current status of gender equality in the different institutes and implemented innovative actions to increase representation and participation of women in leadership positions in life sciences in Europe as well as including sex and gender dimension in their research strategies. The participatory process of mutual learning has led to the design and implementation of harmonised and tailored Gender Equality Plans at the research institutes’ level.
Through LIBRA, all EULIFE institutes have improved the awareness, commitment and expertise in gender equality in their institute. The project created a very open and constructive community of gender equality specialists from all EU-LIFE institutes that have implemented a gender equality plan at each of the institutes, created handbooks and tools on recruitment, work-life balance and sex and gender in research, organized workshops and a career development program for female postdocs.
As a follow up of this kick-starting project, EU-LIFE members agree that commitment to gender equality shall continue a key priority and added the goal to promote inclusiveness and diversion.
What we are doing
EU-LIFE created a Gender Equality working group, a core team that facilitates both mutual learning and coordinate new activities. The alliance committed as well to adoption of a LIBRA sustainability plan including sustaining some LIBRA actions and developing an EU-LIFE plan to tackle harassment and bullying.
Improving the gender balance in research institutes can be achieved bottom-up through awareness, training, mentoring, and other actions aimed at students and postdocs, but it should also be driven by top-down actions. The top management layer is indeed mainly involved in recruitment of group leaders (the group where we see most imbalance in gender representation) and has the power to create a gender-neutral environment. One relevant aspect is the commitment of EU-LIFE Directors to allocate staff to gender equality action and take a set of actions for themselves.
EU-LIFE plan includes measures to ensure sustainability at institutional and at the EU-LIFE level, as well as a dissemination strategy targeting external stakeholders. By keeping gender equality a priority, we aim to continuously improve gender equality in EU-LIFE institutes, advocate to include the sex and gender perspective in research, increase awareness in the wider community and disseminate best practices.
More information at the project website