Gender Equality in Academia

Gender Equality in Academia: Comparative Perspectives From Feminist Institutionalism

Abstract: New Institutionalism (NI) explores how institutional rules, norms, and cultures constrain the choices and actions of individuals when they are part of an institution. Feminist Institutionalism (FI) applies NI through a gendered lens, starting from the premise that institutions are highly gendered, and considers how they constrain and/or enable gendered change. In their approach to institutional analysis and understanding of underlying mechanisms, NI and FI share common assumptions and concerns, such as institutional creation, continuity and change, structure and agency, and power. At a European level, the EU through its Research and Development programme, Horizon 2020, considers gender as a cross-cutting issue to be mainstreamed. Specific EU initiatives to support Research Performing Organisations (RPO) in implementing gender equality strategies seek to removing those barriers that generate gender discrimination in scientific careers. There are dedicated calls, targeted at research performing and financing organisations, to implement gender equality plans. RPOs promote gender equality and diversity through initiatives coordinated at national level. This study compares two of these initiatives: the Athena SWAN Charter in Ireland and the Italian “Comitati Unici di Garanzia” (CUG). It uses a qualitative exploratory approach, based on desk research, drawing upon scholarly research and grey literature in Ireland (and UK) and Italy. The paper examines the impact of these gender equality strategies and their implications for institutions across the EU.


(Conference Proceedings, p. 71) 8. Conclusions

This exploratory paper provides an overview of AS and CUG based on desk research. It is obvious that geographical size facilitates uniformity of approaches and coherence in Ireland, where all the 7 Universities and 14 Institutes of Technology are currently involved in the AS Charter. In Italy, there are 68 state universities. However, despite this difference there is a general appreciation of the progress seen in Universities/Departments where AS/CUGs are actively implemented, as well as of the advantages of belonging to networks promoting training and exchange of information, the AS with other Universities and the CUG also with external organisations with which they must collaborate by law.

In conclusion, the implications for practice and research may be useful for Universities engaging in international projects promoting gender equality projects. As suggested by UK research (Ovseiko et al., 2017), survey questionnaires could be used to collect comparable data at international level.

Gender Equality Plans represent a core element of the AS initiative and the EU approach to gender equality in the Horizon2020 programme. Observing the structure of the Italian Piani delle Azione Positive (PAP), the three- year strategic planning documents issued by each CUG, it is evident that only minor adjustments are needed to transform them into Gender Equality Plans, as in the AS initiative. This is indirectly demonstrated by observation of the work done by numerous Italian Universities in many EU-funded projects aimed at implementing Gender Equality Plans, available on FP7/H2020 project websites.

The higher education sector has already shown willingness and ability to harmonise and coordinate its efforts at international level. One example is the process that led to the European Credit Transfer and accumulation System (ECTS) credits, the standard means for comparing, measuring and recognising learning achievements in higher education across the European Union and other collaborating European countries. Nurturing a similar process to formally harmonise existing gender equality initiatives in academia might create a more efficient European academic system incorporating gender equality and inclusion.

Bencivenga, R. (2019). Gender Equality in Academia: Comparative Perspectives From Feminist Institutionalism. In P. Paoloni, M. Paoloni & S. Arduini (Eds.), ICGR 2019 Conference: 2ndInternational Conference on Gender Research (pp. 66-72). Rome, Italy: Ipazia, the Scientific Observatory on Gender Issues at Roma Tre University.