As we celebrate the end of the LeTSGEPs project, we are proud to publish our Handbook for Sustainable GEPs that we publicly presented during the Final Conference that took place on the 23rd of November 2023 in Brussels. This document represents our Legacy to future RPOs that will commit to implementing Gender Equality Plans and Gender Budgeting. It collects the methodology framework, as it was developed and implemented within the project, together with the partners’ experiences and best practices for each topic presented.

Here is the link to download the Handbook, of which we anticipate here the preface of Professor Tindara Addabbo, the LeTSGEPs Scientific Coordinator.

The European Research Area (ERA) objectives are aimed at expanding women’s representation and retentions at all levels of their career as well as promoting the integration of gender dimension in research and innovation content. These should induce research organisations and higher education institutions to implement structural institutional changes in human resources management, funding, decision-making as well as research programmes. However, as the new ERA (European Commission, 2020b) moreover also acknowledges, persistent gender inequalities still characterize Research Performing Organizations (RPOs), with few women at the top positions and visible limits to their career progression (European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2021a).

By promoting women’s careers, as well as a more balanced representation in decision-making and the inclusion of the gender dimension in research and innovation processes, in higher education and research organizations, Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) represent a crucial lever for enacting the required profound structural transformations towards gender equality in RPOs.

The European Commission has fostered the implementation of GEPs since the very first Framework Programmes, with dedicated calls to support their design and implementation. It has recently proposed as of 2021, in line with the Horizon Europe programme, objectives that introduce gender equality as a cross-cutting priority, the development of inclusive gender equality plans with Member States and stakeholders in order to promote EU gender equality in R&I. Gender Equality Plans are then recognized as an eligibility criterion of the Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation 2021-2027.

Another visible sign of the European Commission’s support in GEPs implementation is the effort it has provided in guiding the process by means of dedicated guidelines such as the “Gender Equality in Academia and Research” (GEAR tool). This is a tool developed by the European Institute for Gender Equality in 2016 and updated in 2022 (EIGE, 2022) together with the Horizon Europe guidance on gender equality plans (European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2021b). The latter explicitly defines GEPs as “a set of commitments and actions that aim to promote gender equality in an organisation through a process of structural change” (European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2021b, p.11).

Implementing structural change in institutions requires embedding GEP in the whole budget cycle, in a close interaction with gender budgeting. This is in accordance with the vision of Leading Towards Sustainable Gender Equality Plans in Research Institutions project (funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme) that led to the creation of this manual. The Budget reflects the organization’s real policy commitments. Gender equality plans and programs will succeed if they are accompanied by related specific fund allocations for their policy targets, and if the programmes enacted are evaluated in terms of their gender equality impact by means of gender budgets leading to more sustainable and powerful GEPs.

The Handbook for Sustainable GEPs offers organizations a useful tool for integrating Gender Equality Plans and Gender Budgeting in their efforts to improve gender equality. Gender budgeting here is based on the human capabilities approach (Addabbo, Lanzi and Picchio, 2010) that broadens its focus from being solely centred on monetary income and assets to the impact of policies on well-being in its multidimensionality and complexity. The well-being gender budgets resulting from the application of this approach make the impact of organisations on the various dimensions of well-being visible, an impact that is referred to in each GEPs action from a strategic planning perspective.

The Handbook will provide RPOs an overview of the theoretical background and methodological approach, and clarify the different steps to follow, consistently with the updated GEAR tool and the Horizon Guidance to Gender Equality Plan. These shall make it possible to enact the expected structural change and discern a sensible improvement in gender equality. By maintaining the interplay between gender budgeting and gender equality plans, the Handbook makes it possible to extend the gender perspective to all actions and expenditure programmes and to lead to an assessment of the use of resources on different dimensions of well-being and in accordance with a gender perspective capable of guiding the structural change being undertaken. The experiences of the implementing partners of the Leading Towards Sustainable Gender Equality Plans in Research Institutions project (funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme), are included in boxes, and contribute to increase the usability of the manual as regards its application by highlighting concrete experiences and ways out.
A handbook that, enriched with the LeTSGEPs implementing partners’ experiences, encourages RPOs to start or continue their journey towards gender equality, being aware that they are not alone in this journey!

Tindara Addabbo

Full Professor of Economic Policy University of Modena and Reggio Emilia

LeTSGEPs Scientific Coordinator