Interviews with Institutional Promoters: Philippe Liotard (06/2024)

At regular intervals, EPWS interviews an Institutional Promoter about some crucial questions. In this section, European Institutional Promoters are concerned with gender equality goals in science and research. In this series of interviews, we wish to shine a light on selected noteworthy institutional efforts to propose, adopt, and implement equality and diversity initiatives for gender equality in research –  and the gender dimension in a science context. On the EPWS website, portraits of institutional promoters alternate with those of distinguished women scientists and research policy-makers.

This month EPWS gives the floor to Philippe Liotard, President of the French Standing Conference of Equality-Diversity Officers in Higher Education (Conférence Permanente des chargé·es de mission Égalité-Diversité de l’enseignement supérieur – CPED)



Philippe Liotard is an Assistant Professor at Université Claude Bernard Lyon1, France, and a social science researcher, working on Gender-Based Violence, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, and Vulnerability more specifically in the field of Sports and Higher Education. He spent 15 years as Equality-Diversity Advisor of his University (2008-2023) where he was also the Racism and anti- Semitism referent and involved in the first steering Committee of the Professional Equality Plan. He played a great part in implementing the help, advice, and prevention unit against sexual harassment and discrimination of his university. At a national level, he is the co-founder (2011) and current
President (since 2020) of the French Standing Conference of the Equality and Diversity Advisors in Higher Education (CPED) and Board Member of the National Training Network against Sexual Violence in Higher Education.

He is regularly committed as an expert for public institutions (Ministry of Higher Education; Ministry of Youth and Sports; Interministerial Delegation Against Racism, anti-Semitism, and LGBT hatred…). He also worked as an Expert for the European Commission and participated in many European networks or research projects. More recently, he co- created an international francophone network for equality, diversity, and inclusion in higher education. His last book was published in 2024 (Coste & Liotard, Violences sexuelles et sport.
L’essentiel pour agir/Sexual Violence in Sport. The essential for action).


As president of President of Conférence Permanente Egalité Diversité (CPED), would you please explain what is CPED and what its mission is?

CPED could be translated as the French Standing Conference of Equality-Diversity Officers in Higher Education. It is a private law association established in 2011 by thirteen equality-diversity officers. At the time of its inception, there was no specific equality network, although the National Association for Feminist Studies (ANEF), founded in 1989, existed. However, ANEF primarily concentrated on research, despite its efforts to address inequalities in higher education and research, as evidenced by its white paper in 2014. I will return later on our links with ANEF, which remains one of our closest partners.

CPED is federating the equality-diversity staff in higher education. Today, it counts 106 members (65 universities, 36 institutes, and 5 communities of universities and establishments) which makes it the largest equality-diversity-dedicated network. The members are higher education organizations represented by staff whom the Governance of their university has nominated as equality-diversity vice-presidents, officers, project managers, referents, etc. Most of us are researchers or “teachers- researchers” as it is said in France. But we also count some administrative staff dedicated to equality-diversity offices.

The main historical focus of CPED has been to support the implementation of policies aimed at achieving gender equality. As an “association network” providing resources, support, experience- sharing, and generating specific content, CPED is committed to promoting professional equality at all levels within higher education and advocating for gender parity in governing bodies and decision-
making processes. This mission remains pertinent; however, since the mid-2010’s, CPED’s scope has broadened from addressing gender equality issues to encompassing all forms of gender imbalance.

In addition to its original mandate concerning gender equality in areas such as recruitment, career advancement, and decision-making, CPED now also endeavors to assist colleagues within Higher Education Organizations in combatting gender-based violence, sexual harassment, and various forms of discrimination. To this end, CPED develops and delivers specialized training programs for both staff and students. Furthermore, the organization disseminates information on equality-related matters, exemplified by its annual publication of a map detailing the initiatives undertaken by each organization in observance of international equality days (8th of March, 17th of May, 25th of

CPED maintains an active mailing list for engaging in discussions on a range of pertinent topics. Recent topics of discourse have included procedures for addressing gender-based violence (e.g., reporting mechanisms, support services, investigative procedures, disciplinary measures), professional equality and working conditions, efforts to combat LGBTI+ discrimination, strategies to combat racism and antisemitism, research initiatives (e.g., conferences, awards), and inclusive and non-discriminatory language practices. These discussions provide CPED with insight into the prevailing challenges faced by colleagues within their respective organizations.
Moreover, alongside its advocacy efforts, CPED undertakes various awareness-raising initiatives targeting both staff and students. Additionally, CPED actively promotes gender mainstreaming in research endeavors. Ultimately, CPED serves as both a support network and a lobbying organization, leveraging shared experiences, knowledge, and competencies to advocate for policy changes within higher education.

For instance, when Gender Equality Plans became mandatory in French Higher Education following the enactment of the French civil service transformation law in 2019, CPED played a dual role. On one hand, it assisted universities requiring support in designing these plans. On the other hand, CPED engaged in discussions with the Ministry of Higher Education to enhance the framework for Gender Equality Plans.

Indeed, CPED is now acknowledged as a crucial partner by public authorities, including universities, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, the Conference of University Presidents (France Universités), the French Human Rights Ombudsman (Défenseur des Droits), and all non- governmental organizations (NGOs) addressing gender inequality issues. For instance, we collaborate closely with the Association of Women Leaders in Higher Education, Research and Innovation (AFDESRI, the French branch of the Gender and Governance Action Platform); we work in partnership with Jurisup (the French Network of Lawyers in Higher Education), and ANEF for national training sessions and programs on gender-based violence, as part of the Gender-Based Violence ministerial plan. Furthermore, several of our members are also affiliated with organizations like Femmes et Maths (Women in Maths), Femmes et Sciences (Women in Sciences), and others.


At the CPED Meeting, Nice, 23 June 2023 (from left to right) CPED President Philippe Liotard with Aude Stheneur (CPED project manager), Alex Malergue (Advocacy Officer at the Student Observatory for Gender-Based Violence), Justine Azoze (CPED training project manager), Veronique Van de Bor (Vice President for Equality at the University of Nice Côte d’Azur and CPED Vice President).


Please let us know what role CPED -that you represent- plays in shaping the global gender equality policy in science in general and in particular in higher education. Please give a brief overview of the most important equality policy decisions and practices in research that have already been implemented, and which ones you consider important to implement in the future.

Historically, we have contributed to highlighting certain inequalities within scientific fields, and this was indeed one of the aspects we included in the equality charters of many universities in the 2010s. Today, our focus is much more centered on improving the organization of policies in higher education and research regarding equality. This naturally has implications in the sciences, particularly when we collaborate with certain universities to address gender balance within scientific fields. Another example of the consequences of our network’s work can be seen in the recruitment of female colleagues or research professors, where we advocate for the use of tools to mitigate gender effects and discrimination during the hiring process.

.The role we fulfill is the culmination of consolidating diverse experiences in implementing equality and diversity initiatives across various higher education institutions. Consequently, we possess a comprehensive understanding of current practices, potential strategies, and existing gaps. We are adept at identifying challenges, exchanging tools, and fostering collaborative discourse.

CPED is widely recognized as a pivotal partner for policymakers shaping equality agendas in higher education. For instance, we actively participate in ministerial working groups addressing issues such as gender-based violence and the rights of LGBTI+ individuals. Additionally, for the past eight years, our spring meetings have been intertwined with the Ministerial Day on Equality and Diversity in Higher Education, underscoring our central role in shaping policy discourse.

I can exemplify the outcomes of our collaborative efforts through three initiatives. The first one is the development of an Anti-Discrimination Kit. Recognizing the social responsibility of educational institutions to safeguard the rights of all stakeholders and combat discrimination, CPED partnered with the French Association of Diversity Managers (AFMD), supported by the “Defenseur des droits”, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, and JuriSup. This kit equips stakeholders with resources to address discrimination within the higher education and research sector effectively. The second example pertains to the comprehensive plan to combat gender-based violence and sexual harassment, initiated through the international colloquium in December 2017 titled “Gender-based and Sexual Violence: From Awareness to Action.” CPED collaborated closely with the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, ANEF, Femmes et Mathématiques, and five universities (Paris- Diderot, Paris-Créteil, Paris 8, Aix-Marseille, and Le Mans). Following this event, four working groups including people for the different stakeholders were established, each proposing tailored tools and initiatives over subsequent years.

The Communication working group spearheaded an awareness campaign addressing sexism in Higher Education and Research, which continues to be visible in various settings. The "listening unit and violence reporting system" working group published a guide for establishing systems to prevent and address gender-based and sexual violence in educational institutions. Similarly, the research-
focused working group produced a guide for investigating gender-based and sexual violence in higher education and research, providing recommendations for designing and conducting surveys.

The fourth working group implemented VSS training at a national level. Today, it goes on with training sessions in universities, science laboratories, student associations, and so on. This group (called VSS Formation for Sexist and Sexual Violence Training) has now evolved into a network of trainers. Their distinguishing feature is that they are or have been responsible for equality, violence prevention, counseling, or oversight of a reporting system at a university. Another characteristic of this group is its interdisciplinary nature (including lawyers, psychologists, sociologists, historians, biologists, etc.) and its ability to intervene in specific domains (journalism schools, sports faculties, medicine, etc.), both in French and English. This network is facilitated by CPED, but the training content is designed in close partnership with ANEF, with whom collaboration continues.

You can find (in French) the summary of those groups’ works, by following this link. The third example of collaborative outcomes is another Guide co-produced with a medical student association (ANEMF) to fight Gender-Based Violence in universities of medicine. All this shows that we work with many partners.

Congratulations on your thesis plan my dear! You are as charming as you are intelligent. I would like to invite you for a drink at my place to discuss your future. Do you make these kinds of proposals to students? sexist behavior, harassment: the law is clear


In your opinion, which actions are needed to improve gender equality and diversity in the field of research and innovation and in higher education in your country as well as in Europe? What are the new challenges concerned with rapid changes in the society rising for ensuring gender equality, equity, diversity and inclusion in higher education? Can you give us your comment on the latest EU science policies guidelines to address the mentioned challenges?

There are several levels on which we can act concomitantly.

Firstly, we need a strong, clear policy or, more precisely, a combination of policies at every level – European, national, local, and organizational – with ambitious objectives, effective tools, financial and human resources, and accompanying measures.

The European guidelines are very important and helpful tools and I must say that they are not enough used in France and also in many other places. The Gender Equality Plans and the European Research Area (ERA) policy propose an efficient framework if you follow the process. It can also help efficiently the Gender Equality Plan monitoring.

The European guidelines are very important and helpful tools and I must say that they are not enough used in France and also in many other places. The Gender Equality Plans and the European Research Area (ERA) policy propose an efficient framework if you follow the process. It can also help efficiently the Gender Equality Plan monitoring.

Changing institutional culture is a long race. If you want to go the distance, you need resources and to be well prepared. A clear policy with an efficient theoretical framework also needs data, monitoring, and training, at all levels (and specifically for the high-level governance positions).

The effectiveness of CPED on this matter, namely addressing new challenges, undoubtedly stems from its responsiveness and ability to mobilize the community of equality officers and vice presidents in Higher Education. We work together on common issues to create shared resources: When an issue arises, we promptly address it and strive to develop tools that we make available to the community.

For example, over the past two years, we have produced resources on breastfeeding spaces or on supporting painful periods in universities, a guide on managing sensitive data regarding violence and discrimination, another guide to support the aftermath of sanctions and reintegration into the institution for cases of gender-based and sexual violence. We also developed the MOOC “Sexist and Sexual Violence: STOP!” to raise awareness among students, funded by the Ministry of Higher Education and distributed in over sixty universities.

Additionally, our participation in international networks, such as the Francophone International Network for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, which we established with colleagues from Quebec, Switzerland, Belgium, Romania, and the VOICES network, where I lead the working group dedicated to gender-based violence and institutional change as the CPED president with Elif Kaya a Turkish colleague, also contributes significantly.

These efforts not only strengthen the skills of equality actors in higher education but also promote awareness of European directives that have long encouraged change based on quantitative evidence (such as She Figures and the Equality Index by EIGE).

Participants at the CPED Meeting, Nice, 23th of June 2023.


What impact CPED’s activities, in terms of gender equity, diversity and inclusion, may have on higher education policies and improvement of existing working culture as well as working conditions and careers?

CPED’s actions primarily support higher education institutions and bring about noticeable changes at the organizational level. For example, conducting awareness sessions on discrimination (not limited to gender) before each recruitment, establishing listening and reporting mechanisms on gender-based violence and discrimination, and designing and implementing equality action plans with the involvement of various administrative components, including requiring approval from the board of directors and governance, contribute to a lasting and positive shift in perceptions. By consistently upholding equality conditions and preventing discrimination in the institution’s operations, the institutional culture is transformed. CPED also provides support for colleagues who are advocating for similar changes within governing bodies.

To promote and foster equality and diversity, CPED also raises the voice of equality missions to French and international institutions, creating links between establishments in the field of equality. The fact that we share information, but also questions and issues with our members using our mailing list, the fact that we promote the actions for equality and inclusion implemented by establishments, and the fact that we gather twice a year for CPED meetings, is a real plus. The training and awareness actions that we organize, contribute to creating a common culture.

Please let us know your opinion about the role of women scientists’ associations in the creation of gender equality policy. Which actions do you think are most suitable for ensuring a more effective collaboration between the women scientists associations and the science policy makers?

Women’s scientist associations play a crucial role in promoting gender equality within higher education and research. Firstly, they provide invaluable support to female scientists, particularly in fields where they are underrepresented, thereby alleviating feelings of isolation. By sharing their experiences of inequality, discrimination, and sexist behavior, these associations demonstrate solidarity and collective strength, empowering women to effect change within their respective fields. Through their ongoing advocacy efforts, they contribute to shifting societal attitudes.

Secondly, women’s scientist associations contribute to the production of knowledge, helping to illuminate and address inequalities. For example, they highlight the pervasive existence of the glass ceiling across various scientific disciplines, particularly in STEM fields. Science policymakers require data to fully comprehend and address inequalities within the field. Effective collaboration is crucial, and engagement in European networks and projects plays a significant role in achieving this goal. For

instance, participation in initiatives such as the COST Action called VOICES has proven invaluable. Through workshops and sessions attended by individuals from across Europe, we have had the opportunity to exchange insights and experiences, fostering mutual understanding and cooperation.

At the local level, partnering with women’s scientist associations is essential for advancing gender diversity in academia. These associations play a vital role in developing impactful awareness campaigns and serve as invaluable partners in the implementation of Gender Equality Plans. By leveraging their expertise and networks, we can collectively work towards creating more inclusive and equitable academic environments.

I sincerely hope that this interview will serve as a step towards strengthening the ties we have with EPWS.



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