Interviews with Research Policy-Makers: Marcela Linková (09/2021)

EPWS interviews a high-level EU research policy-maker in some crucial questions.

In this section EPWS is interviewing European research policy-makers concerned by gender equality goals. In this series of interviews we wish to offer women scientists the state of the art about the EU policy agenda on gender equality in research and the gender dimension in science content. On the EPWS website portraits of research policy-makers are now alternating with those of distinguished women scientists.

We have the great honour to interview Marcela Linková, Chair of the European Research Area and Innovation Committee (ERAC) Standing Working Group on Gender in Research and Innovation.


Marcela Linková PhD is a researcher at the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences where she directs the Centre for Gender and Science. She holds a doctorate in sociology from Charles University in Prague. Her research focuses on sociology of gendered organizations, research careers, governance of research and research assessment from a gender perspective. Marcela also examines the material-discursive practices through which gender equality policies and initiatives are adopted and implemented at the European and Czech country levels. She is the chair of the ERAC Standing Working Group on Gender in Research and Innovation. She is active in developing policy solutions for gender equality in research at the Czech and EU levels. Marcela has been involved in several EU funded projects; most recently, she is the coordinator of Horizon 2020 GENDERACTION and participates in GE Academy, Gender-SMART, CASPER, UniSAFE and RESISTIRE. She has served on expert and advisory bodies of the European Commission and in the Czech Republic. Her work has appeared in European Journal of Women’s Studies, Gender and Research, and Science and Public Policy, among others. She is co-editor of Gender and Neoliberalism in Czech Academia (Sociologické nakladatelství, 2017). With Mary Frank Fox and Kjersten Bunker Whittington she contributed to the 4th edition of the Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (2018) and with Lut Mergaert to the Routledge Handbook of Gender and EU Politics (2021). She is an alumna of the International Visitor Leadership Programme “Women in STEM”.


What role does your working group play in shaping the European Union’s (EU) gender equality policy in research and innovation?

The Standing Working Group on Gender in Research and Innovation (SWG GRI ) is one of the ERA-related groups under the European Research and Innovation Committee and as such as are part of the ERA advisory structure. We are a group of representatives of European national authorities and provide advice on what was ERA priority 4 gender equality and gender mainstreaming. Over the years we have analysed the implementation of the 2015 Council Conclusions on advancing gender equality in the ERA as well as the implementation of recommendations on targets and quotas in decision-making. We have also produced a report on policies to combat gender-based violence and sexual harassment with the support of the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research and another one on the Gender Equality Plan requirement in Member States and Associated Countries to see where we stand vis-à-vis the new Horizon Europe GEP requirement. The SWG GRI has also produced a host of other position papers and policy briefs on various topics, and clearly the new European Research Area and its priorities were at the core. And of course, when COVID-19 hit last year, we immediately developed a position paper on COVID-19 and its gendered impacts with recommendations.


Which are the most important gender equality policy decisions in research and innovation that have already been implemented a) by your institution and committees, b) in the science system?

In its position paper on the future of the European Research Area 2020-2030 the SWG GRI delivered two main recommendations, one was that gender equality must be in the future conceptualised as intersecting with other factors, such as age, health
status, disability, occupation, socioeconomic status, migratory status, and geographic
location. The second was that the institutional change approach must remain the core principle for reforming all ERA institutions to achieve these policy objectives and priorities. We have also recommended that equality must be linked with funding. In this sense the new ERA is perfectly aligned with these recommendations. We are moving to inclusive gender equality plans that must also address intersectionality. Moreover, intersectionality is a default requirement in Horizon Europe and applicants must have a Gender Equality Plan in place to promote institutional changes. And one last thing I wish to mention is gender based violence which we recommended must be considered in all gender equality actions. In the GEPs requirement this is one of the recommended areas. Clearly, then, the Commission has forwarded very fast and it is now key that at national level we can move equally fast. Some member states are taking huge leaps forward on gender based violence, in many countries we see GEPs as a requirement. Where we need more action is the integration of the gender dimension in research and innovation, which we really must take care to mainstream in all key areas of research from medicine to digitalisation and AI and beyond.


What new challenges for achieving and ensuring gender equality and the gender dimension in research and innovation will arise given the current rapid changes in society?

We are at a time of unprecedented opening to change, and the environmental degradation is one of the most serious issues facing humanity. We are also in process of digitalisation the contours of which are perhaps difficult to fathom in their complexity and as we have seen, we are very vulnerable in terms of health and illness – and we have not even factored in antibiotic resistance.

Women are advancing fast in education and I believe that continuing gender equality actions in higher education, research and innovation will lead to increased numbers of women from various backgrounds as well as other marginalised groups to work in R&I more. And recent examples give me the utmost certainty that when this happens, we will be producing better research, research results that will work better for diverse groups of people, not just the male default. With the recent examples I have come to be fully persuaded that representation does shape substance of research and innovation.


What role do women scientists’ associations play in the creation of gender equality policy in research and innovation at European level? What measures do your institution and committees take to actively involve women scientists’ organisations in its policy-making processes? With what formats do you think your working group‘s dialogue with women scientists associations could be enhanced/ rendered more effective?

I have always thought that the Velvet Triangle, to use Alison Woodwards concept, has a crucial role to play. It is key to bring policy makers and femocrats among them together with scholars and practitioners. This is a powerful alliance that has proven its importance in the past. In some of the EU countries we can see that engagement with stakeholders, including for example women professor or other types of organisations is part of the policy process, and this is very important. In some other countries stakeholder and citizen engagement does not play such a strong role but it is definitely something that as a whole, we will expand in the coming years. The ERA advisory structure is now being revised and we will see what the MS and Commission will agree; I certainly hope that there will continue to be a dedicated structure for gender equality in R&I and – and that stakeholder and citizen engagement actions will be promoted more in the new system. If the SWG GRI continues, we will definitely address this as a priority.


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