Over the last decades, European higher education and research systems have been characterized by deep changes. While doctoral and postdoctoral researchers constitute a fast-growing workforce, their working conditions have become increasingly precarious and their career prospects uncertain. Moreover, their working conditions have become increasingly unstable. They face, among other things, insecure employment conditions (short-term contracts, part-time), low remunerations, long working hours, increasing requirements (mainly mobility), intense academic competition, overwhelming administrative and organizational tasks, and a lack of recognition by research organizations. PhD candidates are still often perceived as “students” instead of full researchers.
Those processes tend to exacerbate and create new forms of gendered inequalities for Young Researchers and Innovators (YRIs), first and foremost women – that have been magnified by the COVID-19 crisis. Those inequalities are also reinforced by disparities within academia linked to other social determinants, such as origin, socioeconomic status, sexuality, or ability. For example, as for the post-doctoral phase, women tend to occupy more precarious positions and they drop out on the way to permanent positions, commonly known as the “leaky pipeline” phenomenon.
However, current institutional Research & Innovation (R&I) policies, including gender equality policies, rarely consider YRIs’ specific challenges. Moreover, implementing efficient and impactful policies that promote sustainable gender equality remains a great challenge throughout R&I institutions.
The main aim of the VOICES COST Action is to increase visibility of inequalities faced by Young Researchers and Innovators (YRIs) from a gender perspective and to promote a sustainable dialogue between YRIs and stakeholders in the research ecosystem at the systemic level (European & national policy-makers) and the institutional level (senior researchers, academic managers) by creating a community of gender equality practitioners composed of various stakeholders (YRIs, researchers, academic managers, organizations) across Europe and beyond.
The key challenges addressed by VOICES are:
- How to enforce policies that ensure better career prospects and career development within and outside academia (ensuring that female YRIs have the pertinent skills, mentoring and networking opportunities needed for intersectoral mobility), as well as appropriate working conditions for female YRIs and a fair and attractive research environment
- How to better integrate YRIs and their interests into decision-making bodies
- How to further share and disseminate knowledge on gender as a research dimension in PhD & post-doc training and R&I content
- How to tackle gender-based violence at early career stage within academia, and to disrupt current sexist discourses that sustain violence in R&I institutions
- How to introduce an intersectional analysis to research policies to account for a more complex understanding of how inequalities play out at early career stage
- How to assess the effectiveness and impact of measures aimed at YRIs and their career progression
- How to tackle the implementation gap of gender equality plans and make sure they are inclusive of YRIs’ specific challenges
The Dissemination Plan aims, beyond strengthening the network and gathering best practices, to create opportunities for YRIs, making sure YRIs voices are heard. Structured dialogue between YRIs, policymakers, researchers and institutional administrative management in the Working Groups will be a major asset of VOICES.
European and national networks of YRIs involved in the VOICES COST Action will allow for an impactful dissemination of the Action’s activities and outputs. Moreover, the Action website will have a specific “forum” section aimed at fostering the dialogue between YRIs and other stakeholders, and another section with resources.
Action outcomes and main deliverables to be disseminated will be:
- Action website featuring YRIs forum: online platform that will promote the work of the Action, share resources, etc. The Action website will be regularly updated and content dissemination will also be done through social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Medium) to disseminate the Action activities and results and engage more stakeholders.
- White paper about the specific situation of the ECIs and tools to improve gender equality, fairness, and attractiveness of research careers, with inputs of all WGs.
- At least two articles per year will be published on a large public magazine reaching a broad, but relevant audience such as The Conversation or other similar magazine.
- At least 2 scientific joint publications per (thematic) WG will be published in Open Access format throughout the Action lifetime. Publications will be co-authored by Action participants and directly resulting from work carried out in the Action.
- Annual training schools organised by different WGs each year (3 training schools during the Action).
- Annual Action conferences (3 conferences, in the second, third and fourth year)
- Introduce the Action to relevant European-wide organisation promoting fairness and equality in career assessment and research organisation’, with the aim to raise awareness and dialogue between YRIs and decision makers to promote fairness and equality in career assessment and research organisation. Participation of YRIs to leadership will be promoted.
Stakeholders and impact
VOICES is particularly aligned with the European political agenda regarding gender equality in research.
Here is a list of the related European projects:
Communities of Practice for Accelerating Gender Equality and Institutional Change in Research and Innovation across Europe.
Baltic Consortium on Promoting Gender Equality in Marine Research Organisations
Linking research and innovation for gender equality
Building Consensus towards European Gender Equality
Evaluation Framework for Promoting Gender Equality in R&I
Effective Gender Equality in Research and the Academia
Gender Equality Plans for Information Sciences and Technology Research Institutions
Gender Equality Plans
Female Empowerment in Science and Technology Academia
Gender Equality Academy
Gender Equality Actions in Research Institutions to traNsform Gender ROLES
Gender Diversity Impact: Improving Research and Innovation through Gender Diversity
Gender Equality in Engineering through Communication and Gommitment
Gender Equality in the ERA Community to innovate policy implementation. Coordination and Support Action.
Gender in Science Management of Agriculture & lifesciences, including Research and Teaching
Gender in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI)
Transferring Implementing Monitoring Equality
Gender Equality Network in the European Research Area
Leading Towards Sustainable Gender Equality Plans in research performing organisations
Unifying innovative efforts of European research centres to achieve gender equality in academia
Modifying Institutions by Developing Gender Equality Plans
Promoting gender balance and inclusion in research, innovation and training
Practising Gender Equality in Science
R & I PEERS
R&I PEERS — Pilot experiences for improving gender equality in research organisations
Redesigning Equality and Scientific Excellence Together
Systemic Action for Gender Equality
Supporting and Implementing Plans for Gender Equality in Academia and Research
Structural Transformation to Achieve Gender Equality in Science
Supporting the promotion of Equality in Research and Academia
Taking a reflexive approach to Gender Equality for institutional Transformation
Transparent and Resilient Gender Equality through Integrated Monitoring Planning and Implementation
Ending Gender-Based Violence