SHEMERA BRIEFS: Main finding of the research in MPCs
Conclusions of the Synthesis report prepared by ULB, reviewed by all partners
A Synthesis Report has been recently published to present the main findings of the SHEMERA project. It includes the results of the statistical work performed as well as the methodological approach and the hurdles faced to gather reliable data on the situation of women in research and academic careers in the MPCs.
This article carries the conclusions published in this report; they have been the basis for the implementation of the networking actions and the preparation of policy recommendations established to strengthen gender equality in science.
Despite impressive progress in the MPCs towards gender equality in education and health, women’s political and economic participation has not improved at the same pace. This trend is also applicable to science. Women are more present than ever in higher education and research, but remain severely underrepresented at the top of scientific careers.
In a time when prospects for women’s rights are uncertain in many MPCs we can only hope that our work, alongside other gender studies, will help to push policy change towards strengthening women’s social, economic and political rights and supporting equal participation in all spheres of life.
Building statistical indicators on women in science for the MPCs is an exercise that is hindered by strong data limitations. The analysis of women in research in the MPCs is highly dependent on the existence of R&D surveys similar to the European ones. Unfortunately, an R&D survey exists and is regularly conducted only in two MPCs: Palestine and Syria. LFS surveys are also not systematically carried out in the MPCs, as they are in Europe where not only each country has its LFS survey but also national data are systematically harmonised at the European level.
The data the SHEMERA experts were able to gather from diverse international and national data sources proved sufficient to draw up an interesting picture of how female researchers compare with male researchers in the MPCs but unfortunately they do not allow for a systematic comparison with the whole set of European indicators analysed in She Figures.
Women in research
The scarce statistics available to map research and the research population show that the proportion of women is quite comparable in the MPCs and the EU. In Europe, one in three researchers is a woman, whilst in the MPCs this proportion ranges from 22% (Jordan) to 39% (Egypt). As in Europe, the presence of women in research is the lowest in the private sector and the highest in the government and higher education sectors. Patterns of horizontal segregation are present, although they are less marked in the MPCs than in Europe. Overall, the share of researchers in the labour force is very small in Europe (0.99%) and even smaller in the MPCs. Only in Lebanon (1.13%) is this share larger than (on average) in Europe.
Women in academia
In the MPCs female enrolment rates in higher education come close or, as in EU countries, surpass male rates, although enrolment rates for both women and men are lower in the MPCs. In EU countries, women represent 46% of all PhD graduates, with great variation across countries - from 26% to 62%. A similar trend is found in the MPCs, with percentages ranging from 33% in Syria to 56% in Tunisia. The distribution of women and men across scientific fields shows a high level of horizontal segregation in the MPCs, even though this type of segregation remains a less salient problem than in EU countries.
In both Europe and the MPCs, women in academia are underrepresented at the top of the academic ladder. In the EU, the proportion of women among academics at the highest grade (Grade A) stands at 20% on average, ranging from 9% in Luxembourg to 36% in Romania. In the MPCs, female representation at grade A ranges between 3% in Palestine and 35% in Egypt. Comparisons in this field have to take into account that the exclusivity, status and prestige associated with grade A differ significantly across the MPCs. However, even in those countries where female representation at grade A is comparatively high, their presence is always greater at the lower levels of the academic career.
Women in scientific decision-making positions
A similar trend marks access to scientific decision-making positions. Whereas the average proportion of women among grade A academics stands at 20% in the EU, just 15.5% of higher education institutions are headed by women. The higher we climb up the academic ladder, the fewer women we find. The situation is similar in the MPCs, where the share of higher education institutions headed by women ranges from 4% in Jordan to 11% in Egypt. In all the MPCs, the share of women among heads of higher education institutions is always lower than the share of women among grade A academics, although it is worth noting that in Tunisia these proportions are rather similar (10% and 13% respectively).
Differences between the EU and the MPCs are more marked when the presence of women on scientific boards is analysed. Boards are not restricted to higher education. They also cover research and scientific activities in other sectors and their coverage varies a great deal across countries. In the EU, on average, 36% of board members are women. In the Nordic countries, where quotas apply, the proportion of women ranges between 45% and 49%. This contrasts with the situation in the MPCs, where women represent only between 6% and 23% of board members. Lebanon stands out as the country with the highest share (23%).
Women in employment
The situation of women in science in the MPCs has many similarities with the EU countries. This is a remarkable fact, as women’s access to higher education is a more recent trend and gender inequalities in employment are more pronounced in the MPCs.
In fact, research shows the sharp contrast in the MENA region between the employment situation of the minority of highly-educated women and that of all others. The female participation rate in the labour force is the world’s lowest, although it is widely acknowledged that standard statistics do not reflect the high share of women in informal activities, i.e. family workers in agriculture and informal service jobs.
The employment situation of women with low education levels is marked by very low rates of female participation in the formal labour market and concentration in low paid occupations and informal activities. Participation rates are far higher for well-educated women, but so are unemployment rates, namely for young women. In turn, employment tends to be concentrated in a narrow set of jobs, namely at the lower end of the occupational ladder (health, education) in the public sector.
Root causes of gender segregation in employment
In Europe, gender segregation in employment persists in spite of significant changes over recent decades: impressive advances of women in education, the loss of importance of physical attributes for productivity, the enforcement of equality legislation, changes in family roles and the stance taken by feminism in defiance of traditional gender norms. In order to explain the persistence of gender segregation research focuses on four sets of factors: gender stereotypes, choice of study field, gender division of labour and time constraints, and covert barriers and biases in organisational practices. In spite of legal equality, subtle discrimination against women persists.
Our analysis shows that these factors are also relevant in the MPCs, obviously coupled with others more directly related to the specificity of the political, social and economic context. Overt legal restrictions combine with traditional gender norms and covert discriminatory practices; education disparities are more relevant as advances of women in education are still recent; and women’s employment opportunities appear to be disproportionally hindered by slow economic growth and the contraction of the public sector.
Research has paid special attention to the very low level of women’s labour force participation, a major challenge facing all MP countries. Traditional gender norms are probably one of the most relevant explanatory factors, although it is acknowledged that there is no single factor behind this pattern but rather a complex set of economic, social and legal determinants.
Gender segregation in science
In Europe, research on gender segregation in scientific careers is a relatively recent field which has developed in close relation to political debates and initiatives to foster women’s advancement in science. In the 1980s, the focus was on gendered socialization – how from an early age individuals internalise ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ roles that shape their educational and professional choices. Women were said to be less professionally ambitious than men and to give priority to their family over their career. Criticism towards this position emerged gradually since the late 1990s when it was claimed that it was not enough to ask women to ‘fit in’ to science: the nature of how science was taught and how scientific jobs were organised also needed to be changed. The focus thus moved from women to science, placing emphasis on subtle discrimination in scientific practices and gender bias in scientific knowledge.
In the MPCs, policy debates and initiatives to foster women’s advancement in science are just emerging whilst research in this field is scarce. Research nevertheless suggests that many of the problems faced by women scientists are the same as those faced by women around the world. Gender imbalance across study fields is related to gendered socialisation and reinforced through the education system. Family and career tensions help to explain why fewer women than men engage in a scientific career and more women than men leave academia at an early stage in the scientific career. Obstacles to women’s promotion are related to subtle discrimination and cumulative disadvantages in career advancement. The lack of transparency in decision-making processes and the persistence of unconscious gender bias in assessing scientific performance are major factors at play. However research also stresses that there are other social factors, specific to the MPCs, that limit women’s career prospects. More research in this field is certainly needed.
Employment opportunities and career prospects for well educated women in the MPCs, and in particular for women who want to pursue a scientific career, are shaped by a policy context that is marked by distinct salient trends compared to the policy context in EU countries. This includes both the research and innovation system and the equality climate.
R&D expenditure, outputs and recognition
The MPCs lag behind compared with Europe and North-America in terms of R&D expenditure, outputs and recognition. In the Arab countries, private sector investment in science, technology and innovation is reported as ‘minimal’.
Brain drain is a major issue in Arab countries. It depresses investment in S&T capacity as the return to this investment goes lost as soon as the trained population moves abroad. Current data indicate that about one third of qualified scientists and engineers, born in developing countries, move to developed nations to work.
The ‘Arab regional strategy for science, technology and innovation’ (March 2014) urges Arab states to increase financial support for research and development to 3% of Gross Domestic Product, with the private sector contributing for 30% to 40%. The strategy aims to target some long-term weaknesses in the R&D systems in the Arab World. Among others, it aims at improving the attractiveness of research careers in order to tackle the brain drain and at strengthening university-industry linkages in order to promote innovation.
Women’s legal status shows a clear divide between the MPCs and the EU countries, although indirect, subtle forms of discrimination are found to varying degrees in both sets of countries.
All MPCs have constitutional clauses that set out the equality of citizens and all have ratified international conventions that affirm gender equality, namely the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Nevertheless, there are laws that differentiate between the sexes in all MPCs and all maintain reservations to CEDAW.
Gender norms tend to be in line with the traditional male breadwinner model which confines women to the home and limits access to economic and political power to men. Traditional gender norms are also present in the EU and other Western countries, but they appear to be more pronounced in the MPCs. The persistence of patriarchal attitudes and strong stereotypes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men in family and society is a major obstacle to the advancement of women in society.
Prospects for women’s rights in the MPCs are uncertain. The political climate in the region is turbulent, marked by the so-called Arab spring, the increasing influence of ultra-conservative Islamist parties, the persistence of the Palestinian-Israeli military conflict and the war in Syria. Whilst military conflict seriously undermines any progress in this field, there is also pessimism in the aftermath of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Both secular and Islamic women’s movements in the region consider ultra-conservative Islamism to be a serious risk for the prospects of women’s rights.
Women in science: Time for action
Initiatives to promote gender equality in science have developed worldwide over recent decades. Ensuring equal opportunities in education has been a common international concern since the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995 called on governments to eliminate disparities between women and men in both access to education and educational outcomes. Significant advances in women’s equal access to education have paralleled a growing concern about the underrepresentation of women in scientific careers and especially in decision-making positions. Evidence from all over the world shows that progress in this field is at best slow and cannot be taken for granted. Gender equality is one of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals and this clearly calls for action in the field of science, technology and gender.
In the MPCs, the issue of women in science has attracted attention in recent years. Significant steps, among others, are the launching of the Women’s Initiative at the Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF); the activities carried out by the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD); and the establishment of women in science associations in some MPCs.
International initiatives and foreign grants are also playing a relevant role, providing support to women’s scientific careers and contributing to increasing gender awareness in scientific research.
In spite of this, policy initiatives are scarce. More systematic efforts are needed at different levels and involving a variety of actors in order to strengthen women’s situation in science and promote gender equality in the field.
An overview of the recommendations produced by the SHEMERA national workshops Gulsun Saglamer and Mine G Tan,
Technical University of Istanbul
One of the most interesting features of the SHEMERA project was the timing of it. It was, on the one hand, unbelievable that so many of the historical events that shocked Middle East i.e., the so -called ‘Arab Spring’, Syrian war, Egyptian “coup d’état”, rising of ultra conservative Islamic invasions, Israeli attacks on Gaza could happen all in the course of this project. On the European side the financial difficulties faced by CIREM and the fire that partially destroyed Città della Scienze created threats to the initiative. In spite of all these risks that touched the daily lives of people and institutions it was remarkable that women -and some men- researchers from several of the countries of Mediterranean Basin could get together and accomplish the task to enhance research cooperation on gender and science between the European Union and the MPCs.
The project helped to gather not only a considerable amount of data to carry out comparative analysis for future research but also a comprehensive list of recommendations to encourage evidence-based national and regional policymaking. These recommendations were mainly based on the presentations of the SHEMERA research and discussions that took place in the national workshops of the MPCs.
In total, eight national workshops were organized by the S&E in each MPC with the support of the social scientists and the national task force, as well as the collaboration of two European partners: BZN and ITU. They were addressed to institutional policy/decision makers in the field of RTD policies, representatives of the scientific community and RTD organizations and students. Speakers included gender experts, ministry and university delegates. The conclusions from these workshops were elaborated and discussed at the 4th project meeting and Euro-Mediterranean Workshop in Naples on May 29-30, 2014.
The main problems stressed in the national workshops concerned the statistics, institutional mechanisms, employment policies and practices, and cultural bias. The policy recommendations concerning the problem areas were addressed to a multiplicity of actors at several levels.
At the state level:
Legislation reinforcing statistics pertaining to scientific research to be gender-sensitive and preparing a scientific research database that considers gender; prioritizing efforts to achieve gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting in education, science and industry; setting up ‘surveillance systems’ with specific indicators; developing effective communication and media strategies to change the mind sets and improve the image of women in education and society
Organizational structures on gender and science at the highest possible governmental level, i.e. national observatories, gender management cells at regional academies of the ministry of education
At the level of gatekeepers of scientific excellence:
- Encouragement of gender research, i.e. funding of specific programmes on women and gender, gender specific scholarships, prizes, quotas
- Transparency and gender sensitive evaluation in recruitment, promotions and recognition
- Supporting women through mentoring, training, visibility of women scientists, role models
- Networks of women scientists as well as mix
At the level of universities and scientific institutions:
- Gender Mainstreaming i.e gender budgeting, integration of gender dimension into the university curricula, texts, teacher education
- Equality plans, i.e. gender action plans, road maps, institutional regulations
- Gender balance in all decision making bodies, committees, etc.
- Gender fair distribution of research funding
- Work-life balance schemes, women friendly work and study environment, gender sensitive academic bodies and research centers.
The discussions and the ensuing policy recommendations of the national workshops were important in showing that there were serious similarities in the participation of women in science. They also helped to see the cultural and structural differences between the MPCs and the European countries. The consensus was not always maintained about where to or who should start. Some emphasized the governmental intervention. Others prioritizied university level actions. The voice of the feminist movements were not often incorporated in the national workshops.
It was our impression from the discussions that some of the participating women expected too much from their themselves and their sisters. At least in one workshop it was argued that ‘housework is our responsibility.’ Due to this reason the debates on work-home balance were perhaps not as dominant as we expected. Although the MPCs had a good reservoir of well qualified women scientists and researchers not all women are strong, enduring or willing to be perfect both at home and work. Therefore it was not surprising that some of the other participants insisted on starting real work at the level of institutions. They were interested ‘not only in increasing the numbers but also in changing the organizational practices to be more human centered’. They stressed that family care and other social policies to support the entry of women in the labor market were feeble. Salaries were low and existing facilities were therefore not affordable. At the end it was agreed that time was ripe to shift the emphasis in MPCs from the women to the institutions as it was done in Europe in the recent past. Coordination of overall efforts and involvement of a multiplicity of social actors, especially of men was found to be essential for this.
In the workshops the wider context of gender inequalities in society often were stressed in relation to the gender inequality in science. Legal restrictions, gender stereotypes, high levels of unemployment and poverty, low levels of female participation in employment and political life were among the topics of such contextual debates. Many of the differences between the European and the MP countries were observed in such issues which had deep implications for the policy context and the equality climate. Demands were raised for the ‘ritual be replaced by evidence’, ‘converting risks into chances’, ‘public policy established on rigorous evidence’ and ‘women’s involvement in public and political issues’.
Prospects for the realization of these policy recommendations are yet uncertain. Systematic efforts are needed to share them with all the constituencies to make the expected improvements for gender equality in the MPCs. There is a strong need for close monitoring and feedback mechanisms. Otherwise all of these efforts will be staying on the shelves of the partner universities letting down the researchers who have done their best to lead the way to achieve equal opportunities for their female and male colleagues.
Greater risks lie in the traumatic political-economic situation of the region. The situation not only inflicts wounds on scientists as citizens but also threatens the policy context strengthening the salient trends, because of its implications for the brain drain, patriarchal attitudes, already low investments in S&T and existing very low participation of women in employment. Therefore it is our great hope and wish that the peace may be restored in the region soon.
Mine G Tan,
Professor of sociology of education and gender studies. Received her phd from Ankara University and carried out post -graduate studies in Cambridge University, England. She was the founding head of the department of Women's Studies in Ankara University and executive board member of CenterforWomen's Studies in SET in Istanbul Technical University. She taught and published extensively in the field of education of Women and worked for such gender and science projects as UNICAFE, Meta Analysis of Gender and Science, FESTA.
Prof. Dr. Gulsun Saglamer
, Former Rector of Istanbul Technical University (ITU) (1996-2004) is a professor of architecture. She received her PhD from ITU, carried out her post-doc studies in Cambridge University(1975-1976). She was a Board Member of European University Association (2005-2009). She is a member of the Advisory Group of Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions (2006-) and the Chair of the Advisory group of MSCA since 2013. She is a Member of the Board of Global Relations Forum(2009-), a member of European Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters(2011-). She is the founding president (2009-2012) of the Center for Women Studies in SET at ITU. She has been the Chair of the European Women Rectors Platform since 2008.
Why considering Gender-medicine?Flavia Zucco,
Association Women and Science, Fondazione IDIS-Città della Scienza
The gender-related health studies are recent. We can say that everything is started by Bernardine Healy, first women director of NIH (USA) between 1991 and 1993, who launched, in those years, the “Women’s health initiative” (www.nhlbi.nih.gov/whi/index.html
). As a cardiologist she knew very well that cardiac disease symptoms and thus diagnostic and treatment are not the same for male and female.
We can be surprised that a science, which is founded on the principle of objectivity, has not paid attention to this aspect for a long time, affecting medicine with such a big bias, and making women paying a tribute in terms of sufferance and also death. For example, stroke in female often has been not correctly identified in time.
But why that could happen? Again we should go back to Aristotele who claimed that the male was the perfect prototype of the human species and this has been a permanent belief in the following centuries. Just to give an example, Londa Schiebinger in her book The Mind Has No Sex? Women in the Origins of Modern Science (Harvard University Press 1989 Cambridge)
shows the bias present since the beginning of the modern science. In the famous Vesalio tables (De humanis corporis fabbrica,
1543). the skeleton represented as the human skeleton was that of a man.
Only in 1759 Marie Thiroux d’Arconville was suggesting that the female skeleton should be different (see figure), but unfortunately she was also biased and suggested that the female skeleton should have a more little skull and a larger basin (sic!). Only in 1796, in the Tabula sceleti femminini
, Soemmerring, an outstanding anatomist, drawn a real reproduction of the female skeleton.
However the bias was not removed: the real differences between males and females continue to be restricted to the reproductive apparatus and related influences on the women’s mind: remind the hysteric women of the 19th
On 2002, it has been again a women, G.H. Brundtland, General Director of the World Health Organization between 1983 and 2003 who launched the WHO Gender Policy “Integrating Gender Perspectives in the Work of WHO” (2002) which was followed by the “Strategy for integrating gender analysis and actions into the work of WHO” (2007). In the same year, also the European Commission financed a project called “GenderBasic” www.genderbasic.nl
dedicated to this topic.
When the topic was focused, it became evident that gender was neglected in many epidemiological studies, being most of collected data not broken down by sex.
In experimental pharmacological studies the female sex (either using, as samples, animals or clinical patients) has been neglected, due to the persistence of a long-lasting stereotype: in the drug administration, the quantity of drug, must be adjusted to the mean-body weight of female. Other factor that have limited the experimentation on female sex are more reasonable, such as the risk to affect the reproductive functions (this has not avoided the famous thalidomide scandal) or the difficulty in homogenising the experimental sample, due to the fluctuation of several factors due to the menses. It could have been more complicate but science has faced more severe problem than that!
Now we know that they are many gender differences affecting the physiology of the body: they last from chromosomes, hormones, to environmental and socio-cultural factors (diet, life style ect). Genes are regulated by sex steroid hormones, directly or indirectly, through cell signalling (a real cell language). Estrogens have receptors in different tissues and are part of cell signalling in several essential pathways, particularly in immune modulation. For instance, they inhibit NF-kB activation and thus act as anti-inflammatory agent. The two following table show the differences in pharmacokinetic parameters, and thus the different effects of drugs in the two sex.
The papers on this topic are increasing in important scientific magazine as it is shown in the following table.
Gender in pharmacy: does it matter? (Vive la difference, Science vol.308,2005, pp.1569-1594)
There is now evidence that Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR) is more frequent in females than in males. Indeed 8 out of 10 drugs removed from the market were responsible for more ADR in females (F) than in males (M).
In the case of cardiovascular diseases the Digoxin increases mortality in female cardiac decompensation: in females the dose should be selected in order to maintain plasma levels below 0.8 ng/ml, thus showing that the body weight is not a correct parameter to adjust drugs to the sex.
Beside cardiovascular disease, difference among sex/gender have been demonstrated inImmunological diseases:
- F quantitative immune response greater than in M
- Lupus eritematosus F/M ratio: 3 to 1
- Rheumatoid arthritis F/M ratio: 3/1 (gender effect of methotrexate on kidney excretion)
- Allergic reactions: (cough) to Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACEI) in F.
- Depression and anxiety are twice as common in F than M
- Since 1939 evidence has been gathered that female rats are knock out with half a dose of barbiturates needed for male of the same weight.
- Differences are present, but if we compare the data according to socioeconomic and cultural conditions, these differences disappear.
- this aspect lead us to the consideration of the usually lower status of women in many societies.
A final comment is needed: it is widely known that women live at least 5 years longer than men, but it is now evident that their quality of life is really bad because they suffer of several pains, disabilities etc. This is due to missing knowledge of several factor influencing their health and thus the absence, during their lives, of correct prevention and therapies.
Flavia Zucco was a biologist of the National Research Council. In recent years he has worked at the Institute of Neurobiology and Molecular Medicine, CNR, Rome till she retired in 2009. Her research was focused on the study of cell differentiation and toxicology in vitro being an expert in the field in various national and international organizations. She has coordinated many European projects of the 6 and 7FP. Since the 80s she has focused also her work on bioethics having a teaching assignment on the topic of biotechnology at the University of Viterbo. Since the 80s she deals with the promotion of women in science, and founded the association "Women and Science" (www.donnescienza.it) of which was the first President.
Does a change in health research funding policy related to the integration of sex and gender have an impact?
by J. Johnson, Z. Sharman, B. Vissandjée, D. E. Stewart*
Summary by Claudia Grasso
*Copyright Johnson at al.
This is an open-access article distributed under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Since it is increasingly recognized that scientific evidence often fails to account for sex and gender, funding agencies and journals are beginning to develop policies and approaches to enhance the uptake of sex and gender considerations by health researchers.
Internationally, numerous research funding agencies acknowledge the importance of sex and gender in their funding programs. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), is a signatory on a 2009 federal health portfolio policy related to the necessity of accounting for gender and sex in policy and research. The authors analyze the impact of introducing a requirement that all CIHR applicants indicate whether and how they are taking sex and gender into account in their research. Their intent is to identify areas of health research where sex and gender are well and poorly integrated.
The CIHR Institute of Gender and Health defines sex and gender as follows:
Sex refers to a set of biological attributes in humans and animals. It is primarily associated with physical and physiological features including sex chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy. Sex is usually categorized as female or male but there is a variation in the biological attributes that comprise sex and how those attributes are expressed;
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender is usually conceptualized as a binary (girl/woman, boy/man) yet there is considerable diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience and express it.
In December 2010 CIHR made a change to its grand application forms, requiring that all applicants respond to the following two questions: 1)are sex (biological) considerations taken into account in this study?; 2) are gender (socio-cultural) considerations taken into account in this study?
This paper is primarily interested in literature on research funding and policy. It highlights two examples from the literature: (1) the Netherlands organization for health Research and Development (ZonMw) which utilizes a diversity-focused approach, and (2) the US National Institutes of Health, which utilizes an inclusion-focused approach. CIHRS approach is policy-driven, in that the mandatory questions for applicants were implemented in response to a wider federal government policy on sex and gender based analysis. The authors conducted a descriptive analysis of the OOGP applicants’ responses to mandatory questions on the integration of sex and gender. Success rates for the OOGP currently hover around 17%.
The study focused on trends over time and conducted a qualitative analysis of a subset of responses. It analyzed data from the three OOPG funding competitions: December 2010, June 2011, and December 2011. There was an overall increase in the percentage of researchers responding affirmatively to the sex and gender questions over the course of the three competitions which funded a total of 1,459 projects. The highest proportion of researchers indicating that they took sex into account was in the clinical research field, and the highest proportion indicating they were taking gender into account was in the population health field. A two-tailed binomial significance test was performed to determine which set of applications to the 51 panels diverged significantly from the overall rate at which proposals included a stated focus on sex and gender. Seven panels were significantly more likely to award both grants focusing on sex and grants focusing on gender. Eight panels were significantly less likely to award grand focusing on either sex and gender. The 19 remaining panels did not significantly diverge from the normal distribution in either of the measured values.
In most of the categories, there was evidence of applicants using terms sex and gender interchangeably.
Among the proposals that integrated sex and/or gender, it was observed that respondents equated a sampling parameter with a sex and/or gender based analysis.
A number of abstracts for studies indicated there was an indication of sex referred to sex as a covariate, stratifying by sex or controlling for sex, or to strategies for avoiding differential item functioning on gender variables.
Among the studies that did not integrate sex or gender, many respondents used the justification that sex or gender were not relevant to basic science or to non-human research focused on animal or cell models.
The authors’ analysis showed an overall increase in the proportion of CIHR–funded researchers incorporating sex and gender in their research designs. Our study had several limitations. Their analysis was confined only to successful applicants because privacy requirements prevented the authors from analyzing data for unsuccessful applicants. Moreover, their analysis was limited to data from the three funding competitions after implementation of the mandatory questions on sex and gender. Strategies to foster the inclusion of sex and gender in health research have had success, yet the literature reveals a clear knowledge gap.
Indeed, specific analysis and reporting of sex specific results remain limited. There has been discussion of the role of journals in emphasizing the importance of accounting for sex and gender in health research, and a call for international journals to require authors to report results by sex and gender. As the results of this paper have shown, funding agencies have a key role to play in enabling this shift.
As training materials and other initiatives are developed and launched the authors will continue to grapple with the challenge of how to enable meaningful and appropriate integration of sex and gender through the health research process.
Science represents an opportunity for sustainable development and peace for all people living along Mediterranean shores. The number of women, with high and creative profiles, has grown within the scientific community in Mediterranean countries. These women enrich scientific research with their own personal experiences and individual personalities. This is why every issue of the Shemera e-newsletter offers “portraits” of three researchers who have all contributed, and continue to do so, in making science an opportunity for sustainable development and peace in their countries and in the entire Mediterranean region.
Pietro Greco, Science Writer, Fondazione IDIS-Città della Scienza
Nagwa Abdel Meguid
Nagwa Abdel Meguid, 63 years old, Egyptian, winner of L’Oreal UNESCO Award for Women in Science for Africa and the Middle East in 2002, is a professor of human genetics and head of the Department of Research on Children with Special Needs at the National Research Center (NRC) in Cairo.
After the degree, she has earned a Ph.D. in Human Genetics and has studied abroad for a long time. Still, she is a Senior Geneticist at the Genetics Institute, Pasadena, California a fellow of Uppsala University, Sweden.
Nagwa Meguid teaches Human Genetics and deals with Neurodevelopmental disorders at Human Molecular and Cytogenetics. Her fields of activities are clinical and of research.
At a clinical level she is engaged in the care of children who have particular diseases. She was among the first scientists to study autosomal recessive disorders in Egyptians as a consequence of the high prevalence of consanguinity. Moreover, Nagwa Meguid heads the laboratory of research in DNA and biochemical changes in genetic disorders. subject of study are the molecular basis of some genetic diseases common among Egyptians, such as phenylketonuria, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, congenital sensorineural hearing loss, fragile-X syndrome.
The importance of her research activities is nationally and internationally recognized and she has won a number of awards. Nagwa Meguid is also engaged in the activities of scientific communication: she participates in the editing of several magazines. But she is also involved in the relationship between “science and society”. My activity, she argues, demonstrates how important is science for women and how important women are for science. Not only in pure research, but also by taking into serious consideration the ethical aspects of genetics. The study of biochemistry and molecular biology - Nagwa Meguid says - must be addressed to improve the lives of women and men and should not be, on the contrary, a source of discrimination and isolation.
Hayat Touchan, Syrian, is a professor of Plant Physiology and head of the Plant Physiology Laboratory at the Faculty of Agriculture, Aleppo University. After getting the degree, her scientific training was held in France, where she earned a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and now she is Senior Plant Physiology at the Faculty of Science, Pierre and Mary CURIE University, Paris.
In Syria, Hayat Touchan has a leading role in biotechnology research. She has more than 100 scientific publications and 2 chapters in international books and she published 8 books in her field. She participated in several local, national and international committees.
But her effort is directed in particular to highlight the role of women in this research. It is a very intense activity. In fact, Hayat Touchan contributed to the foundation of the initiative “Arab Women Association in Research, Development and Innovation” (AWARD) at Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF) at Sharja (UAE) since 2002 and she was elected as a responsible for this initiative in the West Asia region from 2002 to 2011. She participated in the first conference of the Women in Science and Technology, held in 2009 at Sharja (UAE).
She organized a second conference for women in science and technology to be held at the University of Aleppo (Syria) in 2012, but the events in Syria barred held it. She is now currently a member of the National Council for Women in Science and Technology. She Participated to creation of Mena network on 3 December 2013, at BATH University (UK) for bridge the worlds of research, policy and professional practice to address some of the major policy challenges face on a local, national and global scale.
She is Chief of Water & Development team and responsible of Shemera project at Aleppo University (Syria). She’s working in increasing women’s access to science and technology and on women training for development, data analysis and publication. She has supervised numerous MSc and PhD students.
Hala Khyami – Horani, 66 years old, Jordanian, teaches Microbial Biotechnology at the University of Jordan at Amman. Her course of studies was all held in Jordan, until her graduation (Bachelor of Science, B. Sc.) get at the University of Jordan. Her specialization has had a more pronounced international character. She earned a Master (M. Sc.) in Microbiology, American University of Beirut and then the Ph.D. in Microbial Biotechnology in 1991 at the Herriot-Watt University at Edinburgh in Scotland.
Her scientific interests are addressed in particular toward the biological control of insects in Jordan, with a specific focus on Entomopathogenic bacteria. An adjacent field of interest is the biodiversity of bacteria, including the biodiversity of marine bacteria: bacteria associated with coral reefs; antibiotic and inhibitory compounds produced by marine bacteria.
Hala Khyami – Horani works long since at University of Jordan. These are the most significant steps of her teaching activity: Vice Dean of Student Affairs from 1995 to 1996; Acting Dean of Student Affairs in 1996; Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Science from 1997 to 1998; Vice Dean of the Faculty of Science from February to July 2005; Dean of the Faculty of Science from 2005 until 2009; Vice-president for scientific research, graduate studies, and quality from 2010 until 2013.
He gave a very important contribution at the development of science in Jordan: from 2007 to 2009 she was a member of the accreditation committee at the Ministry of Higher Education. She was also head or member of several committees and organizations related to both scientific research and Women’s Studies.
Hala Khyami - Horani has paid and still pays particular attention to the role of women in science and society: since 2007, for example, she is a member of the board of the Jordanian National Forum for Women.
Call for nominations: Elsevier Foundation Awards for Women Scientists in the Developing World.
This year’s awards will recognize early-career researchers in physics and mathematics http://www.elsevier.com/connect/call-for-nominations-for-elsevier-foundation-awards-
Nominations are being accepted for the Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Researchers in Developing Countries.
Eligibility: Nominees should be women in physics and mathematics early in their careers (within 10 years of receiving a PhD) from the 81 scientifically lagging countries as defined by TWAS
To submit a nomination: Nomination form and instructions
Deadline: October 17, 2014. The Gender Dimension in Research: would the adoption of a Gender Perspective be crucial in the evaluation of H2020 project proposals?: Good news and some concerns from the 4th EU Gender SummitBarbara De Micheli
, Fondazione Brodolini
The 4th edition of the EU Gender Summit, last 30 June and 1st of July in Brussels, has renewed the occasion to meet for the EU and international community of researchers, policy makers and organisational consultants concerned by the promotion of gender balance in science. Two days full of presentations, speech and networking to share ideas, practices, feelings and experiences around women in science and the gender dimension of research.
Having participated also in the previous years, I would summarise the characteristics of this edition as follows: strong affluence (over 300 attendants); interdisciplinary, intersectional and international focus; concrete attitude aiming at combining science, research, innovation and market
; strong social media attitude
; increasing presence of men (which is to be seen as a good sign as far as gender equality issues as concerned).
And, above all, the constant presence of Horizon 2020 (H2020), the EU Programme funding Research and Development projects
As Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, EU Commissioner with responsibility for research, innovation and science, stated in her welcome message “The 4th Gender Summit is focused on Horizon 2020. There's a lot of money at stake in Horizon 2020 and the new rules ensure that women are at the centre of the decisions on how it should be spent and at the heart of the research and innovation that is funded. Horizon 2020 provides a clear incentive to applicants to ensure a better gender balance in their research teams. If two proposals receive exactly the same scores on all other evaluation criteria, the gender balance will be one of the factors in deciding which proposal is ranked higher. Horizon 2020 also promotes the gender dimension in research and innovation content to ensure that it takes into account the needs, behaviours and attitudes of both women and men. This is the way to excellence, jobs and growth”
Moving from this introductory statement the Summit presented a selection of projects and practices
focusing on gender mainstreaming in science. Among the various presentations my personal preference, probably given my non-scientific background, went to those practices promoting structural change in scientific organisation in order to support women scientist careers: the Norvegian Scientific Research Council Balanse Project,
aiming at promoting gender balance among senior scientists, the Talenta Project
by Fraunhofer Institute which promotes a new mentoring model aimed at increasing women presence in all Institute levels, as well as CERN
initiative to promote new role models for women in science.
But, as for many of the EU summit attendants, most of my attention was captured by those presentations stressing the focus H2020 will place on gender mainstreaming in science and the adoption of a gender perspective in all projects.
A focus, as repeated by different stakeholders, that will go beyond promoting a quantitative approach
(more women in science, at all levels) towards a qualitative approach
(introducing gender as a dimension of science, as a key for excellence in science).
This would mean that H2020 will not only finance few budget lines dedicated to women in Science (the GERI lines) but will strongly promote gender mainstreaming in all research budget lines.
As it is clearly understandable this approach has raised hopes and expectations but also some worries and concerns.
Having in mind the resistances encountered by more than 20 years of EU policies and initiatives aiming at promoting women in science, with results far below expectations, as the last SHE Figures reports shows
, optimism was shadowed buy the risk of facing once again high level proclaims not followed by effective practice.
The new systemic approach is, off course, very welcome and seems very innovative, as the gender mainstreaming approach seemed when it was firstly introduced, but the same holistic attitude which represents a point of strength in terms of innovation and structural change can be a limit when it comes to clearly define the lines of actions. And to evaluate them.
Despite the emphasis placed in promoting women in science, the lack of a clearly indication on how
women would be at the hearth of research and innovation projects represents a risk for a concrete implementation.
For the time being the (gender) evaluation criteria,
a part from gender balanced research teams
(which can be measured through a quota system), are still partly undefined and the same level of incertitude can be applied to the crucial concept of gender dimension in research.
According to the Vademecum on Gender Equality in Horizon 2020 “Gender dimension in research: is a concept regrouping the various elements concerning biological characteristics and social/cultural factors of both women and men into the development of research policies, programmes and projects”
Supporting the gender dimension in research
is a potentially revolutionary concept able, if duly applied, to reshape and innovate the paradigm of scientific research since it will introduce gender since the very early stages of research definition. Example on how powerful this approach can be in promoting innovation through a gender sensitive approach in research can be found on the Gendered Innovation Project
which collects the findings and pilot initiatives of Londa Schiebinger’s research group.
But, unfortunately, not all H2020 project promoters own this combination of strong gender mainstreaming expertise with high research skills. Most of them, to be honest and independently by their gender, do not have a gender sensitiveness at all.
The questions troubling the EU Gender Summit Community are then focusing on how could most of H2020 project promoters deal with the gender dimension of research. Who will provide support, training, expertise to put in practice and to implement a gendered approach in research? Who will evaluate the gender dimension of research in the hundreds of H2020 projects that DG Research will receive (some deadlines have been already closed, huge number in October 2014)? How will evaluation teams be selected/created? Would gender experts be present in all teams? Should gender expertise be mixed with specific STEM knowledge in order to experts to fairly evaluate project proposal? And, even more important, are H2020 National Contact Points presenting gender as one of the crucial criteria in H2020 evaluation? (Rhetorical question, we know most of them are not)
Some of these questions have been asked, and answered, during the Genport stakeholders meeting in the morning after the conclusion of the Summit. Genport, as a portal of gender and science resources, promoted by DG Research as a point of reference, could provide expertise, resources and knowledge, but the lack of information on the importance of the gender dimension of research (National Contact Points seem to be not completely aware) can play against this important occasion to implement gender mainstreaming in science.
The commitment, for the EU Gender Summit community as well as for all those interested in promoting a gender dimension in science, should be to inform and arise awareness on the gender criteria in H2020 and to provide monitoring tools and indicators in order to avoid the boomerang effect. As it happened to gender mainstreaming adoption in many policies, when the concept is not clear and operational, given the difficulties to monitor its implementation and evaluate its impacts and effects, it risks to be left behind, in the land of incomprehensible and unrealistic intents. We definitely do not want this to happen again.Barbara De Micheli is Member of the coordination team of the Genis Lab (Gender in Science and Technology Lab www.genislab-fp7.eu) and Genport (http://www.genderportal.eu
) FP7 women in science structural change projects for Fondazione Brodolini; coordinator for the Master in Gender Equality and Diversity Management www.fgblearnng.it/master
This attitude is very clearly expressed in the Gender Summit title “From Ideas to Markets: Excellence in mainstreaming gender into research, innovation, and policy”
The hastag #ge4eu on twitter can still be followed to have first hand impression on feelings and moods