Investing in Women Scientists, Fostering Gender Equity and Equality

Published: 2020-02-27

Our new IFS strategy for 2021-2030 has the theme of Investing in Future Scientists. This year of 2020 will be one of transition, where we are continuing with elements of the “old” strategy as we begin incorporating parts of the “new”. To learn from this process, we are reflecting on it in several ways, for example, through these monthly blog posts. I will be highlighting our experiences as the IFS Secretariat and I also invite others in the IFS family to share any reflections they may have.

Nighisty Ghezae, DirectorNighisty Ghezae, IFS Director

In addition to March being the month in which the world marks International Women’s Day on the 8th, as of 2015, the 11th of February is the date on which the UN General Assembly decided to establish an annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Activities to honor the day are implemented by UNESCO and UN Women, in collaboration with institutions and civil society partners that aim to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.

As mentioned in last month’s blog post, as we began implementing elements of our new strategy for 2021-2030, we were not sure whether we would get as many women applicants as before, since the eligibility criteria are now based on academic age, instead of biological age. However, as in previous years, 30% of applications came from women. This reassured us that we have not taken a step backwards, and still have progress to make towards equity in the grants being awarded to women and men.

Our new strategy has among its supporting documents the Gender Policy of IFS, with this goal:

IFS aims to be gender-responsive, promote gender equity and equality, and ensure that all its programs, interventions, activities and research serve the needs and interest of both women and men, especially working to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

The Gender Policy’s objectives are to:

  • State explicitly the organizational commitment to gender
  • Provide the right direction and guidelines to all IFS staff, grantees, Board of Trustees, reviewers and Scientific Advisory Committees in policy making, planning, designing and implementing of programs and projects in a gender-responsive manner
  • Create equal opportunities and a congenial work environment which enables women and men to work together in an equitable, effective and mutually-respectful manner
  • Promote equal representation and participation of women in decision-making at professional, programmatic and administrative levels, and
  • Achieve gender equity and equality in a systematic manner both in the organization and in its program.

Within the organization, the Gender Policy takes up issues concerning the workplace; staff policies; harassment; working with a flexible schedule; recruitment, composition and representation; performance reviews; and capacity building for gender sensitization. IFS will aim to be gender-responsive in its program by:

  • Recruiting gender-balanced reviewers and members of the Scientific Advisory Committees (SACs)
  • Monitoring and evaluating using a gender-disaggregated approach
  • Implementing evidence-based, gender-responsive actions in a regionally tailored approach
  • Publicizing IFS policies for child-care and babysitting facilities at workshops
  • Holding capacity development workshops for women and men where we raise awareness on how to promote gender equity in science
  • Connecting our grantees to support and mentoring networks for women in research
  • Engaging in public outreach initiatives to increase visibility of women scientists, and
  • Providing guidelines for reviewers and SACs, incorporating the latest evidence on barriers for women in research and implicit bias.

Furthermore, IFS will encourage and support gender sensitivity among our research grantees through:

  • Measuring the gender dimension of research through gender markers
  • Championing women grantees, and
  • Needs-based workshops that are gender-sensitive.

With thanks 

Nighisty Ghezae



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