The FP7 project implemented by the Centre for Social Management and Community Development
 
UAIC Project Coordinator
Doina Balahur
Prof. univ. dr. Doina BALAHUR
Professor, PhD, Department of Sociology and Social Work, CSMCD
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FP7European Commission, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY 2011-1, STAGES, Structural Transformation to Achieve Gender Equality in Science (SiS.2011.2.1.1.-1)

Project co-funded by the General Inspectorate for relations with the European Union of the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance (IGRUE).

Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance
UAIC Research Group on Gender Equality in Science

UAIC Research Group on Gender Equality in Science is a multidisciplinary research team set up within the frame of the STAGES project in order to conduct scientific studies and evaluations on Gender Equal Opportunities in Romanian educational and research institutions, particularly at the UAIC (see the main objectives, research group members, research and publications).

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Steps towards excellence in science (see the profiles)

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"Alexandru Ioan Cuza" University of Iasi

Centre for Social Management and Community Development
"Gender Equality in Science" -
a theme for PhD studies


Cover women technological Since 2013, "Gender Equality in Science" is a theme for PhD studies at the UAIC. Prof. dr. Doina Balahur, scientific coordinator for PhD in Sociology, announced the topics and the bibliography for 2014 candidates competition. As for 2013, the research will be carried out in cooperation with the FP7 European project STAGES at the UAIC. (more info here).

UAIC Research Group on Gender Equality in Science

Action research within the STAGES project

1. The place of gender equality within the climate and organizational values. A participatory action research (Action 4.1.2/ 2012-2015)

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A complex action research focused on the place of gender equality within the climate and organizational values has been carried in the context of UAIC-STAGES project. The research has been planned as one of the first-line priority activities (Action 4.1.2) with the overall aim to document and evaluate, both quantitatively and qualitatively, equal opportunities situation for female and male academics and researchers at UAIC. The research objective has been to investigate the organizational climate from a gender perspective by addressing such questions: What is the representation of female and male in academic and research staff and also in managerial structures of UAIC? What is the level of awareness of senior and young female and male academic and research staff on gender issues and equal opportunities at UAIC? Are there differences between females and males in perception of academic and research career in relation with the gender discrimination?

The action research has been conceived as a longitudinal study, having as benchmarks the data collected by two surveys carried out in the first year of UAIC-STAGES project (2012) and the last one (2015) respectively, but as a matter of fact, the action research has accompanied the whole duration of the project implementation, watching the dynamics of organizational change from a gender perspective analysis. The initial objectives of this field research have been in fact to identify, beyond statistics (which clearly indicated a gender gap in professional/academic fields as well as in managerial positions), the 'matrix' of cultural and organisational circumstances that contribute to gender discrimination, and, based on this deepened inside knowledge, to probe adequate actions/strategies aiming at promoting gender-sensitive changes in organizational culture and behaviors. The main methodological tool used in both surveys has been a questionnaire built such a way that to permit gathering opinions and representations on research/academic career expectations, perception of gender discrimination in science, perception on work environment and career related issues that could be sources of gender discrimination. By comparing the data gathered in the first study (undertaken on the period 1 June - 30 October 2012) with the research findings from the second survey (1 May – 30 September 2015), the research could highlight significant change in perceptions, opinions and attitudes related to gender discrimination at the work place, awareness rising of its impact on the scientific career and professional satisfaction, the importance of work-life balance measures, and willingness to contribute to the improvements of gender equality practices.

These data collected through qualitative methods have been corroborated with data collected by using qualitative methods as interviews, conversations, focus group, case studies, content analysis of relevant organization documents, and regular evaluations of the satisfaction degree for the beneficiaries of the UAIC-STAGES actions during the 4 years period of the project. Moreover, according to our participatory strategy adopted in this organization-based developmental project, the research action has been comprehended and implemented so that a large number of beneficiaries to be involved as active participants, contributing at the research design, data collecting, cross-cutting analysis, and research findings interpretation. This way the Participatory Action Research has featured as a principal component of our strategy Fixing the transformative and formative praxis.

While the preliminary research report on the "Climate and organizational values evaluation survey" has been the content of the 2nd deliverable prepared by the UAIC-STAGES team and submitted to the EC – DG Research and Innovation on 30 November 2012, the final research report constituted the content of the 11th deliverable sent to the EC – DG Research and Innovation on 30 September 2015. In the conclusions of the final report it was underlined that from our research findings resulted important changes of the perception of women and men academics and researchers from UAIC on gender equality in science. The data analysis made evidence of the formative effects of the practical actions carried out by the UAIC-STAGES project on the capacity of the participating actors – female and male academics and research staff - to understand, evaluate, take position and activate on gender equality issues. These formative effects are visible not only in the understanding of the issues of gender equality in science but also in the capacity to identify the discrimination in different situations and circumstances that prior to participation at the activities of the project had no relevance and connotation for the issue of gender equality in science. The relevance of the results is better understood if we compare them with the ones got from the first evaluation carried out in 2012. In the first evaluation we observed that according to the analysis of the data collected the phenomenon of "gender blindness" dominated the opinions of both senior and young academic and research staff from the UAIC. After more than three years and half of intensive activities that have promoted a participatory and cooperation strategy integrating practically the whole university, the analysis of the data collected made evidence that we may talk on real changes in opinions that are important indices and indicators for changes in mentalities and attitudes. These changes in perceptions and opinions do not simply mean a "raising awareness" phenomenon but a true reconstruction of understanding about the issue of equality vs inequality in science.

2. Gender analysis based on statistical research and evaluation (Action 4.1.3./2012, Action 4.1.5/2012, Action 4.1.7/2012-2015, Action 4.1.15/2014-2015)

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Developing gender-disaggregated statistics and gender-sensitive indicators has been the content of the Action 4.1.3, planned for the first year 2012. An initial statistical study was necessary for a preliminary gender audit in order to identify the main dimensions of gender representation both in academic and research positions as well in the decision-making bodies of UAIC. The data collected have been also used to feature the activities included in the Action Plan for UAIC-STAGES project and for Drafting and establishing guidelines and gender policies/programmes (the task of the Action 4.1.5 from 2012).

But this research activity initiated from the very beginning has been continued and developed the whole lifecycle of the project implementation as a component of the new introduced Practices of gender analysis and data collecting as well as of the Practices of monitoring gender equality dynamics, evaluation of activities and programmes, and periodic reporting. These practices are constituted in the process of deepening knowledge and investigation on structural gender inequalities at UAIC. They emerged from research-based actions as: Documenting and evaluating both qualitatively and quantitatively equal opportunities for women and men academics and researchers at UAIC; Analysis on the rules and procedures for appointing/electing members of high-level boards and commissions; Evaluation study on women's participation in funded research, and other gender investigations. These gender analysis practices, representing a novelty at UAIC, were carried out by the Research Group on Gender studies, and their results were largely disseminated within workshops, trainings, courses, and publications.

The statistical research has also been proved necessary for monitoring the dynamics of gender equality and to evaluate gender equality in science activities and programmes as tasks assumed by the new created UAIC Centre for Gender Equality in Science (set up in 2013). In this process, the need for adequate methodological tools has been considered and as a consequence a Gender Equality Database for UAIC has been created within the framework of the UAIC-STAGES project (new Action 4.1.15). This database is grounded on statistics collected in accordance with the European Commission's indicators from the reports entitled SHE FIGURES 2012 (2013) and Gender Equality Index (produced by the European Institute for Gender Equality/EIGE, 2013, 2015). It is appreciated as a necessary prerequisite to improve gender knowledge and to give scientific support for monitoring gender dynamics and future gender analysis at the UAIC. The collection of gender disaggregated data was realized by the UAIC Centre for Gender Equality in Science in cooperation with Human Resources Department, Research Departments and the Doctoral School from the UAIC.

The gender equality monitoring practices as a component of structural change have been also completed with the practice of regular reporting to the management boards (foreseen in the Action 4.1.7). After its institutionalisation (2013), the new UAIC Centre was officially charged to monitor, evaluate and give periodic reports on gender equal opportunities, based on statistical research, gender assessment and other gender analysis methods.

3. Communicative Action Research on new transparent rules and procedures for appointment/election members of decision making bodies (Action 4.7.1/2013)

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Among the multiple and complex causes of the "missing women in senior management positions" that have made the subject of research for numerous studies and reports, the ways the persons are elected/appointed in the high level managerial and scientific positions could be also considered relevant. Indeed, some research indicated that "discriminatory appointment and promotion practices constitute barriers in institutions without equal opportunities policies" (EC, Structural change, 2012:19). In the last instance, the situation, so as it is de facto, also results from the application of the existing rules and procedures for elections and appointments in the current institutional practices. Knowing them helps us to understand why the proportion of women on boards is still so low and, at the same time, what changes could be made to increase women representation in top positions in academia and research.

This was also the rationale of our Action 4.7.1 (realised in 2013) entitled Negotiating for establishing new transparent rules and procedures for appointing/electing members of high-level boards and commissions at local/university level as well as at the national level. So as it was conceived, it is an action and also a research, so it could be presented and understood as an action-research. At the same time, it is a special kind of action research because the focus is on communication, especially on communicative action (in Habermas' sense), so it could be considered a communicative-action-research (Balahur, 2013).

The objectives of this communicative action research have been: 1) To map the statistical data and indicators related to the presence of women on the high-level managerial boards and scientific leadership positions at the European, national and the UAIC level; 2) To review the rules and procedures for electing/appointment in senior managerial and scientific positions in Romania at the national level and also at the universities level; 3) To identify reasons for under-representation of women in top positions and to see if, how and who should take into consideration new measures and rules in order to really improve the existing situation; 4) To test the receptivity of the different decision-makers for elaborating and supporting proposals of the new rules and procedures and to discuss, debate and negotiate them with the representatives of the actors in the institutional field (at the university level and also at national level); 5) To list and present the main rules and procedures that has been occurring in the process of communicative action research.

As for the operational design of the action, the following sequences have been considered as necessary: 1) documentation on current statistics, regulations, institutional practices etc. 2) identifying the space of discussions/negociations, that is the object, the levels and the actors in the academic field (national and local councils, boards, other bodies); 3) knowing the opinions/ interpretations of the actors/interloquteurs in the field and test/discuss/challenge their interpretations; 3) tentatives to clarify the content of desirable/possible new rules and to formulate them in some agreed forms as "symbolic negotiations"; 4) to register proposals concerning their support in institutional practices; 5) to challenge discussions about possible integration of such rules in gender policies.

The communicative action research consisted in three stages: 1) Within the first stage we aimed at mapping the issue by a set of questions that oriented our approach: Is it known/recognized the issue of women under-representation? Are there known the causes of this situation? Are the rules considered important within this process? 2) A second stage focused on the elaboration, systematization and justification of new rules and procedures for appointing/election of boards' members; 3) A third stage consisted in proposing and negotiating the new rules with the responsible actors/stakeholders.

Based on the action-research undertaken a set of seven rules has been identified: 1) Rule of open competition; 2) Rule of procedures' transparency; 3) Rule of gender transparency; 4) Rule of more refined criteria; 5) Rule of ensuring equal opportunities and of empowering women; 6) Rule of gender representativeness; 7) Rule of institutional evaluation based on gender equality policies.

The results of this communicative action research on the norms and practices that determine the women's representation on the scientific and managerial boards at the national and institutional levels has been reported in the 4th Deliverable (submitted on 31 August 2013). The research report also contains, within its 60 pages, proposals of new rules and procedures for electing or appointing members in decision-making bodies that are responsible for the institutional evaluation in academia and for scientific research projects funding in order to improve their composition in respect of gender representativeness.

4. National evaluation study on women's participation in funded research (Action 4.6.1/2013)

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The research on women's participation in funded research in Romania is the first one that was intended to investigate the national scientific research funding system from a gender perspective. In documenting the study, we search for data comparable with those regularly used by the European Reports on gender in science published under the title SHE FIGURES (2003, 2006, 2009, 2012), but we realized that there was no public database that could be accessed. Even in such reports the data for Romania are totally missing for some indicators or present significant errors for other ones. At the national level, one could collect some data from the annual communications provided by the National Institute of Statistics (INS) and from the sites of national agencies responsible with research (UEFISCDI, ANCS), but the setting up of an available national database on gender in funded research still a target to be achieved. Consequently, a first objective of this research was to identify the relevant data on women's participation in funded research, following similar indicators as those used by SHE FIGURES, namely: Number of applicants and beneficiaries of research funding by sex and field of science; Evolution in research funding success rate and differences between women and men; Success rate differences between female researchers in different programmes etc. The second objective was to feature possible gender gaps in funded research and also to analyse trends identifiable in gender dynamics following the evolution of the main funding programmes through disaggregated statistics (by sex, field of science, age).

To reach these objectives, we initially analyzed the structure of the national research funding system, its main programmes and the types of projects integrated in each programme, and then selected some representative cases for a deeper gender analysis on the women's participation in funded research. Concretely, we have analysed the number of applicants and beneficiaries of funded projects by sex and the field of science in two of the national research programmes with the highest number of applications (IDEAS and HUMAN RESOURCES), watching the evolution of differences between women and men in research funding success rate within the last two years (2011-2012) since a reorganization of the funding system took place.

As significant findings of this research we could mention:

  • Our exploratory study made evidence that there was an important difference between the programmes available for senior researcher (IDEAS) and those for the young ones (HUMAN RESOURCES). The proportion of female in IDEAS projects was around 33% while in the HUMAN RESOURCES programme was 66%. This difference suggested a positive trend and it is positively correlated with the increased number of women who obtained PhD title and a MA degree and who choose a career in science.
  • Like many other researches in this field on gender equality in science our study made also evidence that there was an important gender imbalance among different scientific domains. In fields like Engineering sciences, Physics, Mathematics and Informatics women were still under-represented but even in these domains there was – so as the data show - a positive (even if slow) growing trend (like, for example in Informatics).
  • The Young Teams (TE) projects prepare the young researchers not only for the scientific excellence but also for the management of science and research teams. So as we could observe there was a positive trend regarding female's participation in this type of projects.

Finally, research was concluded with several recommendations:

  • The concerns for the improvement of the funding system, in respect of gender equal opportunities inclusively, have to be continued and developed in close synergy with different European and international research funding programmes and sources.
  • The improvement of the gender structure of the evaluation panels as well as the opening to more women international experts should be in the attention of the national agencies responsible for research funding.
  • A national support for studies on gender equality in science is needed in order to improve the database on research funding available for national and international analysis and evaluation.

5. Action research on developing national standards for gender equal opportunities in funded research (based on a comparative analysis between RO and EU countries) (Action 4.1.12/2014)

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The main purpose of Action 4.1.12 has been to gain a better understanding of gender equal opportunities in the national system of research funding by comparison with the developments from other countries and to prospect, based on the experience of Romanian research institutions in the European projects, new possibilities for developing appropriate and mobilising national standards to benchmark this domain. It has been conceived as a communicative action research that has been designed and implemented in 3 operational stages, namely:

  1. Mapping gender challenge in the context of national research system;
  2. Framing the issues of gender equality in science in a communicative action framework;
  3. Setting on research community's agenda the issues and challenges of developing national standards on gender equal opportunities in research funding.

1) The aim of the first stage, Mapping gender challenge in the context of national research system, was to identify and to map the issues of gender equal opportunities in research funding that are characteristic for the current situation in Romania and to analyse and evaluate this situation by comparative references to the European trends. This supposed a laborious documentation and research on 'gender challenge in research funding' in Romania, by consulting and analysing numerous EC Reports, research studies and statistical surveys in order to prepare theoretical framework and methodological tools necessary for identifying and mapping the issues of gender equal opportunities in research funding in Romania. As a result of this documentation, a research strategy was conceived for understanding the gender challenge in the context of the challenges of the national research system and research funding system. Consequently, the main contributions of this stage have been:

  1. elaboration of an integrative approach focusing on the systemic dimensions and indicators of the gender challenge in research funding;
  2. application of this operational model to identify the basic features, characteristics, variables and indicators for gender dimension in the national research system;
  3. multi-level analysis on gender challenge in the larger context of structural challenges of the national research system and national research funding system, respectively, following successively Gender representation in national research system by facts and figures, Main challenges of the national research system, Peculiar challenges of the research funding system. Finally, a summary on challenges of the national research system provides a synoptic perspective.
As for the main research findings of this stage, we mention:
  1. The indicators for the situation of gender equality in science in Romania setting show a relatively positive dynamics when compared with correspondent data for the EU average.
  2. As concerns the policy measures for improving the situation of gender equality in research, they are generally missing, and therefore in the EC reports the evaluation is rather negative in comparison with other EU countries.
  3. Finally, to evaluate the importance and relevance of the gender issues in research funding, the gender challenge should be understand in the context of the structural and functional challenges the national research system as well as its research funding component actually faced.

2) The second stage of this communicative action research consisted in discussing the specific issues of gender challenge in the research funding with the actors interested in deepen knowledge and take actions in order to develop national standards on gender equality in science. This supposed Framing the issues of gender equality in science in a communicative action framework. Therefore, special meetings have been organized with representatives of the national institutions that were considered as being responsible for policy measures and action plans implementation in order to develop national standards on gender equality in research funding, (as UEFISCDI, ARACIS, and Ministry of National Education) as well as with beneficiaries of research funding from different universities. The main contribution of this stage included:

  1. creating a framework for addressing the problems and to exchange ideas and experience on the gender challenge in research funding;
  2. exploring possibilities to cooperatively contribute this process based on recent participative experiences of Romanian research and funding organizations in European projects (as for example our experience in the STAGES project).
As significant results, it is worthy to mention the necessary clarification of such issues as: Legal and policy environment for gender equality in science in Romania; the role of cultural and institutional factors in gender dynamics; the problem of multi-actor responsibility for promoting and monitoring gender representation in research.

3) The final objective of this action was to promote and to foster a proactive attitude directed to developing national standards on gender in science not only as a general objective, but rather as a progress in our real everyday life. This supposed a focus on the praxis, that is on measures and changes needed both in policy and legal environment as well as in the practices and attitudes. Of course, nobody expects that these changes to be done suddenly, but it is evident that no change is possible unless setting the problems on the community's agenda and jointly approaching real issues that could inspire and mobilise change agents. Therefore, by orienting the framework of communicative action towards the praxis of concrete measures to be taken in order to advance the gender equality in science, and, at the same time, exploring possibilities to cooperatively contribute this process by valuing our own experience in STAGES project at the UAIC, we made up a list of concrete proposals on developing national standards for improving gender representation in research funding and discussed on them with the representatives of national institutions and Romanian universities. The main contribution of this phase has been:

  1. setting on agenda and debating with responsible officials and other representatives from central institutions and Romanian universities some specific and concrete measures which deserve to be taken into account in order to develop national standards on gender equal opportunities in research funding;
  2. stimulating exchange of arguments, position-taking and decision-making on concrete measures as: Statistics and monitoring of gender equal opportunities in research funding; Gender equality as a criterion in projects evaluation; Special provisions for women in research funding; Women representation on decision-making boards for research funding and in evaluation panels; Gender equality performance-based funding; Introduction of gender equality plans; Research and studies on gender equality in science.
  3. fostering a proactive attitude to approach gender challenge both from the part of the central institutions representatives and the other categories of stakeholders and beneficiaries of research funding.
Concluding on this communicative action research we could mention as its main results:
  1. Making up of a significant collection of data and information on gender equality in research funding in Romania;
  2. Increasing the awareness on gender challenge in research funding so that the issues to be set on the research community's agenda;
  3. Encouraging the contributors and beneficiaries of research funding to be change agents who actively contribute to the development of national standards on gender equality in science.
Content of the report on Action 4.1.12:
1. Introduction
1.1. Rationale and objectives
1.2. Design, implementation and progress of the action
2. Mapping gender challenge in the context of national research system
2.1. The systemic dimensions and indicators of the gender challenge in research funding
2.2. Gender representation in national research system: facts and figures
2.3. Main challenges of the national research system
2.4. Peculiar challenges of the research funding system
2.5. A summary of challenges of the national research system
3. Framing the gender equality in science within the legal and policy context
3.1. Legal and policy environment for gender equality in science in Romania
3.2. Role of cultural and institutional factors in gender dynamics
3.3. Problem of multi-actor responsibility for promoting and monitoring gender representation in research
4. Developing National Standards on gender equal opportunities in research funding. A summary of main problems set on community's agenda
4.1. Statistics and monitoring of gender equal opportunities in research funding
4.2. Gender equality as a criterion in projects evaluation
4.3. Special provisions for women in research funding
4.4. Women representation on decision-making boards for research funding and in evaluation panels
4.5. Gender equality performance-based funding
4.6. Introduction of gender equality plans
4.7. Research and studies on gender equality in science.
5. Conclusions

6. Evaluation research on child care services and other work-life balance conditions at the "Alexandru Ioan Cuza" University (Action 4.2.1/2012-2015, Action 4.2.2/2012-2015)

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During the 4 years period of the UAIC-STAGES project the work-life balance conditions of women and men academics and researchers have been periodically investigated and evaluated in order to identify opportunities and propose adequate measures that could improve and develop the existing programmes. In this respect it is worth mentioning that while in many countries across the world (from Europa, USA, Japan, Australia, Canada and others) the universities regularly provide child care services (nursery care, kindergarten, school placement) as part of Gender Equality Programmes initiated by the management team of those universities, in Romania, "Alexandru Ioan Cuza" University of Iasi is the unique academic institution that provides child care services for its staff and students who are parents, through a special department entitled "Junior Programme". This programme includes two institutional structures managed by the University - the UAIC "Junior" Kindergarten, inaugurated on the 1st October 2003, for children between 3 and 6 years old, the first initiative of this kind in a Romanian University, and the UAIC "Junior" Primary School, inaugurated on the 12 September 2007.

Starting from the existence of these functional institutions, the research undertaken in the context of Action 4.2.1(Proposals for improving and developing existing childcare services for academics and researchers) and Action 4.2.2 (Dissemination information on childcare and other services delivered to staff), aimed at documenting new opportunities for improve these services and other facilities provided for the families of the UAIC employees and students.

The research has been based on interviews with managers responsible for the programme (like the vice-rector and the director of the Primary School) as well as with the parents who benefit from these child care services. The data collected through interviews helped to consider such dimensions as: the nature of the programm and the beneficiaries; the curricular resources; the human resources; the educational offer; the physical and symbolical environment; other competitive advantages; the engagement of children's families; but also the difficulties and other needs that should be taken into account. Possible measures to improve the activity, identified through the research, have been discussed with the university management and the "Junior Programme" Director, and also with female and male academics and researchers whose children are enrolled at the "Junior Primary School" and at the "Junior Kindergarten". Consequently, some of these proposals have been assumed by the management and their application produced positive change, so as the research team learned from the data analysis of the last interviews. For example, the "Junior programme" became more flexible and delivers more services so that to be better tailored, on the one hand, to the irregular working time of the academic and research staff of the university and, on the other hand, to better meet the diversity of learning interests of the children and also their play needs. The interviews with the parents, young researchers and academics from the university, indicated a high degree of satisfaction both with the new daily and weekly programme of the school and with the more diverse offer of extracurricular activities and balance between learning activities and play/relaxing ones. The creation of the "teacher on duty" for emergency situations and the possibility to prolong the daily programme till 8-9 PM was highly appreciated by the interviewed parents. Among the most appreciated new measures aiming at supporting the parents after the close of the school's regular programme are the "summer school" and "summer campus".

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