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Women, research and universities: excellence without gender bias

League of European Research Universities

One of the most relevant sector specific resources is that produced in 2012 by the League of European Research Universities (LERU). The paper is motivated by the fact that:
  1. Academia in Europe is still losing a considerable amount of its female research capacity. From the PhD (45% females) onwards, women drop out at successive turns and for various reasons, albeit with discipline/country-specific exceptions. Only 13% of heads of higher education institutions in Europe are women.
  2. Women progressing in an academic career may face (un)conscious bias against their qualifications as excellent researchers. Often relatively small or less obvious in individual cases of selection or promotion, at a group level or in the course of a career, the effects of bias become more significant.
  3. There are financial considerations such as gender pay gaps, which manifest themselves in academe as they do in other labour sectors. It is important to note that on the whole women tend to receive less funding through research grants.
  4. A different type of challenge is the lack of an appropriate gender dimension in research design, implemention and organisation. It can result in serious flaws with potentially harmful effects, e.g. in medical research, thus limiting scientific excellence, creativity and benefits to society.

In response the LERU universities have committed to:

  • to promote gender diversity among their academic staff with strong leadership
  • to develop or continue to implement Gender Equality Strategies and/or Action Plans
  • to engage with EU policy makers, funders and other actors to promote the cause of gender equality at universities

LERU identifies four priority areas:

  1. Leadership, vision and strategy
  2. Structural change
  3. Effective implementation, and
  4. Support for a gender dimension in research

Women in the Science Research Workforce: Identifying and Sustaining the Diversity Advantage, was funded as an ARC Linkage project 2011-2014 (LP110200480).
Project Cis were Professor Sharon Bell and Professor Lyn Yates. The project was hosted by the University of Melbourne.