We have recently brought to its conclusion the CASPER project after a three months extension granted by an amendment, and sealed by a final public (online) event last March. CASPER’s key goal was to study the feasibility of establishing a European certification system for gender equality in Research and Innovation.
The Smart Venice team of researchers, Maria Sangiuliano, Felicita Pedevilla and Oriana Salomon Balsamo (with Giulia Nason back in 2019 and 2020) participated in the 27 months Horizon 2020 project together with an international Consortium including the European Science Foundation (Coordination, France), Oxford Brookes University (UK), Yellow Window (Belgium), Knowledge & Innovation (Italy), Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and Joanneum Research (Austria).
The main results of the project include an extensive mapping and assessment of existing European gender equality award/certification schemes and the design- and validation of three concrete schemes with numerous stakeholders throughout Europe and beyond.
The scenarios, which have been delivered to the European Commission, include a (1) brand new ambitious gender equality certification scheme, a (2) Gender Equality Strategy for Researchers building upon the widely used Human Resource Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R), and finally, (3) the internationalization of an existing national scheme, namely the Athena SWAN Charter from the UK. A fourth option presented refrained from building a pan-European scheme and rather supported a convergence and harmonization of already existing national gender equality award and certification schemes.
As the lively discussion with participants and invited panelists at the final project’s event showed, gender equality certification in Europe would provide a window of opportunity to further institutionalize gender expertise while also facing important challenges such as a strong push-back to “gender ideology” in some European countries such as Hungary. Issues of ownership and prestige associated with a EU certificate as well as measuring and achieving real impact in R&I beyond the paper work involved were furthermore identified as key issues. The link of any certification scheme with access to research funding – as recently introduced by the European Commission with the Gender Equality Plan eligibility criterion – was deemed crucial to guarantee wide-spread uptake and impact, especially when it comes to addressing the persistent under-representation of women in decision making positions. Another important element at stake consists in the diversity of gender equality policy frameworks across European countries and its implications in terms of existing knowledge, available resources and required support in case the European Commission should decide to go ahead with a new certification scheme.
Two supporting tools have been developed by the CASPER project, that are worth mentioning. An “Impact Drivers” model for assessing the institutional capacity for gender mainstreaming, and second, delivered by Smart Venice, a benchmarking tool for assessing the alignment of existing national gender equality certifications with the new Horizon Europe Gender Equality Plan eligibility criterion.
A detailed report of the final conference is available here while a summary blog post including links to all presentations and contributions of panelists can be found on the project website at this page.
We strongly hope that the CASPER’s results will inform the next steps within the ERA and EC policies on Gender in Research and Innovation to advance on this important agenda that we are keen to keep contributing to, with current and future projects and services.