Negotiating Gender Equality Policies in IST-ICT Research Institutions: Reflections from the Participatory Audit to Design of Gender Equality Plans in the EQUAL-IST Project
Gender structural changes processes in research institutions have been promoted by the EC in the last 2 decades through specific work programmes and supported by dedicated studies; one of the critical issues highlighted by the existing literature on the issue is related to the tensions and negotiations between the transformative goal of gender equality policies and the multiple ways they can be re-assumed and incorporated into existing policies and institutional goals contributing to small steps changes by exploiting existing discursive opportunities, or being overtly resisted and seen as destabilizing elements of the status quo and its power structures (Lombardo, Meier & Verloo, 2009; Kreissl, Striedinger, Sauer, & Hofbauer, 2015; Van den Brink & Benschop, 2012; Bacchi & Eveline, 2010). The H2020 EQUAL-IST (Gender Equality Plans for Information Sciences and Technology Research Institutions) project supports 7 Universities across Europe starting from their Informatics and/or Information Systems Departments to initiate the design and implementation of gender equality plans from a field such as ICT/IST featured by extremely low representation of female researchers and full professors. The paper analyzes the assessment and the preliminary steps of the initiated design process: based on a mixed methodology and a participatory approach to design of gender equality policies, quantitative data collection has gone hand in hand with a qualitative element from Participatory Gender Audit: staff members and students discussed the main challenges related to gender inequalities and an idea generation process was kicked off. Analysing the emerging challenges and proposed solutions we’ll highlight some discrepancies between ‘diagnostic’ assessment of problems and ‘prognostic’ ideas for measures that lead to interesting insights as far as the afore- mentioned tensions are concerned.