“Research and Innovation Excellence through gender equality: New pathways and challenges” EU Finish Presidency Conference, Helsinki, 23-24 October 2019

The conference, organized by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland, was celebrating the 20th anniversary of activities on Women and Science at Directorate General Research of the European Commission and of the creation of the Helsinki Group of national representatives on Women and Science. It gathered more than 100 persons from all over Europe. The Conference produced the Helsinki Call for Action.

The Former President of the Republic of Finland and current chair of the Board of University of Helsinki Tarja Halonen in her keynote speech stressed that after 20 years not only the governments but everyone has to continue to make gender equality in research and innovation happen faster.

The first round table “Founding mothers of gender equality in research and innovation” took stock of the advancement over the past 20 years of gender equality policy in European research and innovation, its achievements and continued challenges. Nicole Dewandre, Barbara Hartung and Claudine Hermann recalled the circumstances in the early 2000’s. Claudine Hermann evoked the essential role of Brigitte Muehlenbruch in bringing the concept of networking national women scientists’ networks at European level into the discussion. This led to the creation of EPWS in 2005 and the complementary influence of the Platform in the EU policy since then.


From left to right : Liisa Mayow (moderator); Nicole Dewandre (European Commission), Barbara Hartung (German member of the Helsinki group) and Claudine Hermann (EPWS President). Photo: Federica De Luca.


The session New pathways to institutional change in gender equality in research organizations reflected over the Structural change, today the dominant approach to advancing gender equality in Research Funding and Performing Organisations in the EU and the experienced gained on this approach. Marcela Linkova, GENDERACTION coordinator and chair of the Standing Working Group on Gender in Research and Innovation, pointed the uneven implementation of gender equality across the member states and the need of better indicators. The Business and Entreprise sector, which receives public funding, should be included in the measures

In the Panel discussion on sexual harassment and gender-based violence in academia, the speakers noted the different level of awareness according to the country. They recommended an institutional message to the students and diffusion to the other staffs. Even if a short term action cannot change a deeply rooted culture, there is a societal responsibility of the universities. This issue is not just statistics, it is necessary to find the way to talk to people and name the things.

In the Panel discussion on disruptive solutions for the EU gender in research and innovation policy, all speakers stressed the importance of funding agencies at national and supranational levels. What can the researchers do for changing the current gender segregation of the universities tasks? Everybody is personally responsible. For gender equality, EU should give the guidelines.

The panel discussion on research funding organisations’ role in gender equality advancement explored the responsibility that research funding organizations have in advancing gender equality: building transparent research ecosystem free of bias, with fair working conditions for researchers, and integration of gender dimensions in the research content.

The session on Gender equality and dimension in innovation policy and activities aimed at exploring the hurdles to equality in RDI activities in companies and seek ways to address them in the future.

The session on Gender challenges in digitalisation, artificial intelligence and robotics stressed that Artificial intelligence (AI) is amplifying our bias on society.AI is affecting all society sectors; AI education and science education in general should start in primary schools.

Policy makers should educate themselves on the basic understanding of AI, otherwise they will take irrelevant decisions. EU should give the guidelines.

The panel discussion on intersectionality and cross-cutting dimensions of inequality in research and innovation addressed the ways to have them mobilised effectively in research and innovation to foster the inclusion of racial, religious, ethnic, sexual and other minorities in European research in the future.


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