Tool Guideline

Guidance to facilitate the implementation of targets to promote gender equality in research and innovation

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 06 April 2018

Prepared by the European Commission and the Helsinki Group on Gender in Research and Innovation, in consultation with the European research area stakeholders’ platform





1 Gender equality in research and innovation: current situation
1.1 Statistics
1.2 Legal/policy framework 
1.3 Targets and/or quotas in the EU Member States and Associated Countries

2 Setting targets/quotas for gender equality
2.1 Legal rationale
2.2 Scope and levels of targets/quotas

3 Implementing targets/quotas through national-level actions
3.1 Methods, approaches and governance
3.2 Supporting measures
3.3 Monitoring and evaluation





On 1 December 2015 the Council of the European Union ‘invite[d] Member States and institutions to strive for guiding targets for a more even gender balance for professors’ and ‘invite[d] relevant authorities to set up guiding targets, for example quantitative objectives, for better gender balance in decision-making bodies including leading scientific and administrative boards, recruitment and promotion committees as well as evaluation panels and encourage[d] research funding and performing organisations to reach these targets by 2020’ . The Council also ‘call[ed] on the Commission, in close cooperation with the Helsinki Group, to provide support for Member States to address policy challenges related to gender balance, including developing guidance to facilitate the implementation of guiding targets’1 .

This guidance draws on the national action plans (NAPs) submitted in 2016 and on a survey carried out by the Helsinki Group on Gender in Research and Innovation (HG) on practices adopted at national level by national authorities. It provides recommendations to facilitate the implementation of guiding targets in research institutions and higher education establishments as requested by the Council of the EU.

The HG survey shows that quotas or targets are mostly implemented through law or through wider national strategies for gender equality, and this enhances their effectiveness. Examples of existing national provisions are presented in this guidance.

Quotas and targets currently tend to relate to boards of funding agencies, research organisations and universities. Evaluation or recruitment committees, which are important decision-making bodies signalled by the Council, are often not addressed and should also be covered.

Monitoring appears to be a key driving factor for an effective implementation of quotas or targets. Monitoring mechanisms which comprise at least the collection of sex-disaggregated data should be applied both at the national and the institutional level.

Incentives and, when necessary, sanctions are useful tools that can be applied at national level to motivate universities and research organisations to set up and implement guiding targets or quotas. Among them, national awards schemes for universities and research organisations are used in some countries with a particular impact.

Experience shows that where targets and quotas are adopted and/or promoted at national level, their successful implementation and monitoring are contingent upon active support and commitment of institutional leadership. Transparency, namely in recruitment, promotion and nomination, is necessary and should be an integral element of human resources strategies.

The successful implementation of targets and/or quotas implies a change in culture which should be accompanied with appropriate awareness raising and training, showing the benefits that institutions can draw from a better gender balance and a more equal treatment of men and women.

Other national-level supporting activities, which are applied at the level of universities and research organisations, include initiatives to help women build their skills and capacity for leadership (such as mentoring, shadowing, trainings, coaching, etc.)

This guidance was prepared by the Helsinki Group and the European Commission in consultation with the European Research Area stakeholders.


Targets and/or quotas are an element of an overall strategy of cultural and institutional changes at national level. It is useful to provide direct support to women scientists, but it is not enough.
Changes must occur in the cultural and institutional conditions that promote fairness, equality and diversity.

Targets and or quotas can be applied gradually, from easier actions to more ambitious and
challenging ones, to be defined according to the national policy environments. Targets and quotas must be accompanied by a monitoring and evaluation system to assess the impact of the measures adopted.

It is recommended for national-level authorities to develop a regular and action-oriented dialogue with the universities and research organisations.

The following recommendations apply at national level:

  • Collect and publish sex-disaggregated data on the composition of professorship and management/leadership positions.
  • Promote gender balance in decision-making positions and professorships with adequate awareness raising and training.
  • Institutionalise gender equality plans as an assessment tool in the accreditation of universities and make them mandatory for universities and research organisations.
  • Institutionalise the proportion of women in grade A/professor positions as an assessment criterion in institutional evaluations (higher education accreditation, performance contracts with universities).
  • Set and implement guiding targets and/or quotas through legislation.
  • Evaluate regularly the implementation of quotas and/or targets.
  • Introduce incentives for institutions adopting pro-active measures and/or sanctions for noncompliance, as necessary.

You will find below concrete examples of the implementation of the abovementioned



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