I was given the opportunity to attend a day of the Gender Summit 15 held at King’s College London from 18-19 June 2018. The Gender Summit is a platform for dialogue where scientists, policymakers, gender scholars and stakeholders in science systems examine new research evidence showing when, why and how biological differences (sex) and socio-cultural differences (gender) between females and males impact on outcomes. The aim is to reach consensus where improvements to science knowledge and science practice are needed and who should take action.
Elizabeth Pollitzer, Director of Portia, set the scene for day two by using the example of crash test dummies to illustrate how many things are designed by men, for men, and aren’t necessarily appropriate for women. In this example we learned that women are 47% more likely to be injured in a car crash and this is partly due to car seats being designed for men and their safety being tested by male crash test dummies.
Key overarching themes across the various sessions were:
- The importance of gender-based research and innovation (e.g. see Stanford based project Gendered Innovations for more information)
- An emphasis on actionable changes brought about by evidence and dialogue
- Need for tangible metrics and actions that can be evaluated
- Placing gender equality within a broader diversity and inclusion agenda
- A focus on facts rather than opinions or assumptions
- The need for managers/leaders to be gender-aware and able to develop female talent
- Ensuring that organisations have a clear gender policy embedded within, and forming a key part of, the strategy
During the parallel sessions best practice from projects and programmes was shared, including the GEDII project which aims to improve research and innovation through gender diversity, and the PLOTINA project which focuses on promoting gender balance and inclusion in research, innovation and training. Both projects freely share useful resources and tools on their webpages.
Amanda Aldercotte from the Equality Challenge Unit presented key findings from the Athena Survey of Science, Engineering and Technology (ASSET) Survey 2016 with one of the headline findings being that:
“female STEM academics were more likely to perceive, experience or be exposed to some form of disadvantage compared with their male colleagues”
Amanda outlined how gender differences in the survey responses clustered around the following three themes: teaching and administrative duties; feeling supported and valued; and caring responsibilities. The report proposes action in these areas, with recommendations including:
- Establish workload allocation models
- Promotion criteria should include a specific focus on the quality of an individual’s work
- Reduce the variability in the amount and type of support provided by line managers
- Develop support and career progression networks and ensure staff have the opportunity to engage with senior staff/committees
- Ensure contracts accommodate flexible working policies
- Provide ‘Keeping in Touch’ days and flexible hours to support returners
- Encourage uptake of paternity and shared parental leave
It was an enjoyable day with interesting presentations and discussions on a range of projects, perspectives and good practice.
by Lindsay Melling
Career Development Coordinator, NHLI