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Why is the gender dimension important in research?

Improving gender equality within science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and more broadly in society is needed. In March 2020, the European Union adopted its Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, which provides a framework to advance gender equality in Europe and beyond.

“Gender equality is a core principle of the European Union, but it is not yet a reality,” Ursula von der Leyen, EU president, said. “In business, politics and society as a whole, we can only reach our full potential if we use all of our talent and diversity. Using only half of the population, half of the ideas or half of the energy is not good enough.”

Integrating sex and gender analysis into research is one important way to contribute to gender equality and create more inclusive research results. The benefits of incorporating the gender dimension include increased scientific creativity and excellence as well as inclusion of all potential users of products and services. There are opportunities to incorporate the gender dimension at all stages of research: ideas, proposal, research and dissemination. This is best paired with an intersectional approach to include other characteristics, for example, age, income, education, location or ethnicity.

We know that a seatbelt that is designed for an average size man will not give the same level of protection to other types of bodies. Likewise, facial recognition with algorithms correctly identify 99% of men with light-skinned faces and are not as accurate with other genders or faces with darker skin – 93% of light-skinned women, 82% of dark-skinned men, and only 65% of women with dark-skinned faces are recognized correctly. The Gender Equality in Engineering through Communication and Commitment (GEECCO) project put together a short video to highlight the importance of these types of diversity considerations in research and product development. The video asks “imagine you are developing a product: who is later supposed to use your product? Who do you think about? And who don’t you think about?”

At InnoRenew CoE, we believe that being an advanced and internationally renowned research organization requires not only excellent science and innovative thinking but also addressing issues such as gender equality within our institutional operations and research and innovation activities. We strive to include gender and sex analysis in all our research projects. Our employees participated in a training about how to incorporate the gender dimension into research projects. In addition, InnoRenew CoE is committed to having a diverse staff, including gender balance. Among our 71 employees, 53% are women, which is above the European Union average in STEM researchers.

“Honest consideration of the gender dimension in research is critical to effectively address society’s needs when working both at the applied and fundamental levels of science,” Dr Mike Burnard, InnoRenew CoE deputy director, said. “Science is about exploration and understanding. Limiting what we explore and how we explore it by excluding the gender dimension necessarily restrains what we learn and how well we convert our understanding to societal advancement.”


Further reading:

Amy Simmons,
assistant researcher at the InnoRenew CoE