Throughout the INTEGER project’s life, partners have learned lessons and discovered opportunities for improvement that are described below. By capturing a specific learning point, with specific details and actionable recommendations, Lessons Learned enable a process-based learning and provide an opportunity to discuss successes, unintended outcomes and recommendations.
They also allow discussing things that might have been done differently, root causes of problems that occurred and ways to avoid those problems in later project stages.
These lessons learned should allow acquiring effective knowledge and ensuring that beneficial information is factored into planning, work processes and activities:
Evidence driven actions
Actions must be data-driven. A key initial task is to build reliable, gender-disaggregated databases that can feed into the decision-making process and facilitate ongoing monitoring. Data can be quantitative (key indicators/ratios/gender-pay gap/workload) and qualitative (culture/environment/satisfaction).
Actions should be designed to be gender-neutral and not for women only (e.g. paternity leave and post caring/sick leave can apply for sabbatical term off teaching…)
Implementation Team Structure
Teams at local and institutional levels drive actions that can be tailored to the micro or macro environment in which they operate. Implementation Teams should gather junior/senior staff, academic/non-academic staff (management, administrative and technical)…
It is extremely important and beneficial to involve men as champions/active participants in the transformational change process, as well as to have gender balance on all teams.
Align with core values
The actions should be strategically designed to align with the institution’s core values (e.g. funding and research excellence).
Importance of social events
Hold social events as well as functional meetings – to build team spirit/buy in and involve family members.
Benchmarking against ‘Good Practice’ Institutions
This allows for the gathering of good practice and assessment of ‘what might work here?’ The learning process was also accelerated by ‘Exchanges of Experience’ in each INTEGER partner institution.
An active communication strategy is vital to communicate on the actions and their benefits, to the widest possible community of stakeholders. This can include media training.
Widely-dissemminated events using high-profile speakers can help to draw in audiences, gain buy-in, and increase the profile of project activities and efforts.
Support of senior management – commitment and buy-in
Head of the institution needs to be committed and to demonstrate this visibly (interviews, videos…)
Involve other HEIs – Sectoral approach
Cross-sectoral collaboration is fundamental to facilitate benchmarking and the piloting.
- internally within your institution (e.g. via existing women’s networks)
- externally by engaging key stakeholders, such as national funding bodies and policy drivers
Inputs to policy formulation
Work with key allies (e.g. Human Resources and Equality/Diversity offices) to influence gender-related policy.
Dedicated office to oversee the Transformational-Gender Actions
Experience shows that there has to be an institutional driver to: navigate the process towards gender equality; capitalise on gains; and ensure a legacy for future GAPs.
Make use of existing training/development opportunities
Avail of external and internal programmes to build capacity amongst women researchers and directly-engaged project actors, e.g. leadership training programmes for women, media training, mentoring.
Not everything is achievable in a 2-3 year timeframe
Some actions (e.g. those involving broader, structural changes) will take longer. Focus on achievable actions in the short term to maintain momentum, while working on long term ones.
Prioritise Unconscious Bias Training
Addressing inherent unconscious biases at all levels within an institution is essential to furthering the achievement of gender equality and diversity.
Identify support but prepare for some resistance
Support may come from unexpected quarters, and anticipated allies can sometimes not engage as hoped. Some resistance is inevitable, but emphasising the evidence base for good practice, and the benefits to the broad institutional community, will help to maximise support.
Ensure support from top level
Support from top level enables the recognition of the working teams and the creation of decision-making committees/ teams that will later enable a strong institutionalization, sustainability and allow changes in policies & procedures.
For exemple, the creation of the “Comité de pilotage pour l’égalité entre femmes et hommes au CNRS” & of the « Stride Like Commitee » shaped to bring support to the MPDF for the elaboration and adoption of the pluriannual action plan and to guarantee political and operational support.
It is also important to keep in mind that support from senior leadership will provide the needed financial resources to implement the identified actions.
Besides top level representative’s participation to meetings shows the commitment of the institution and can possibly increase the general turnout.
Systematize regular meetings and ongoing communication
The horizontal exchanges and regular meetings are very important as they ensure that actions are widely adhered to. Regular communication is essential to ensure that weaknesses are identified early and addressed. Also, planning and taking decisions in cooperation will avoid later rejection.
Assessment, training sessions, and unconscious bias workshops
Sensitization can also influence other senior management members within the organization, and allow positive communication to all staff.
Respond to local context and specific needs
When trying to introduce change within an institution, acting at the institutional level is not enough. Transformation of culture is the most crucial element of enacting change as change can only be enacted in its local context to have impact and be embedded.
When comparing the physics, mathematics, chemistry or Human Sciences within the INTEGER project, one can notice they all have a different culture. Because it is important to recognize these local contexts, the consortium has chosen the model of exploring both actions at the centralized and local levels.
Improves autonomy & implication of the teams
Autonomy allows the creation of tailored actions that can be adhered to as well as the achievement of “bottom-up” actions that will bring various perspective and answer to specific needs, e.g.: Parity Charter, tailored training for the mathematic community and the physic community…
To this end, it is important to gather contextual information via surveys and assessment of local environment.
Set a well-defined local structure for implementation, with key personnel.
To avoid turnover, teams should not be reliant on any single person, and have a specific and durable leading structure, e.g. MPDF, WISER…
Pay attention to the “unintended consequences”
It is important to use actions as a support not only for the “target” groups but for the entire institution, to build a more flexible and productive environment. It is important to consider the concept of equality in general and keep in mind that a measure that could seem beneficial for a portion of the target group will not be necessarily for the other portion.
One of the solutions is to examine how the measures may affect all personnel and not only focus on those who have family responsibilities.
For exemple, the scheduling of meetings from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm benefits as much to somebody who does not fall within the “target group” (child or dependent …) and would want to devote more time to the private sphere.
Likewise, intervention of a woman to speak at conferences/seminars is added to an existing workload. If some women will be mobile and available to participate in these networks (seminars, meetings), others will not.