Gender Equality: The importance of integrating the gender dimension into research and innovation

In research and innovation, the most important competitive advantage for any country or region is the talent and the working abilities of the people involved. Thus, in order to ensure sustainable and continuous development, not taking advantage of the existing talent pool, regardless of their gender, is not only a great discrimination but a huge disadvantage hindering progress.

Therefore, investing in equal opportunities for men and women in research and innovation (R&I) will not only help to solve a great social challenge but will also make teams perform better and attract top-level players.

“Research and innovation has to include all possible voices in both the goals and the trajectories of the innovation processes and it needs to recognize the 50% of the world’s population represented by women”

Richard Owen – University of Exeter Business School UK

Existing institutional efforts such as the European Commission’s strategy on gender equality in Horizon 2020, aiming to reach 40% participation of the under-represented gender in panels and groups and 50% for advisory groups.

However, in both political and economic decision making, much work needs still to be done regarding gender balance. For example, there is no reason to understand why in the majority of EU member states the underrepresented gender are women when they account for half workforce and more than half of new university graduates in the EU. This is not only a problem in the present but specially in the future as this unbalanced distribution will likely discourage young women to pursue their professional careers in these areas.

“Women are only 20% of professors in Europe but they are 60% of university graduates with excellent qualifications. This means that there is an issue of representation of women in research and particularly in high positions.”

Inés Sánchez de Madariaga – Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.

For this reason, it is not only relevant to take action and implement efficient measures from governments and institutions but it is also key to foster and promote the role of the women in traditionally male-dominant sectors as R&I. Communicating and disseminating the valuable research carried out and results achieved by women, and shedding a brighter light on influential women in science and research will have a crucial role in the inspiration of younger generations to come.

In the light of the above, as one of the pillars of Responsible Research & Innovation (RRI), it is extremely important to ensure effective gender balance in research and innovation and to take concrete actions to achieve gender equality in all fields, not only R&I.

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