On January 23-25, 2019, eleven partners from nine European countries gathered in the Danish city of Odense to kick-start the implementation of SPEAR – a four-year Horizon 2020 project supporting and implementing plans for gender equality (GEPs) in research and academia.
The coordinator, the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) chose an engaging and creative approach to the meeting structure – all three days were filled with brainstorming exercises, culture presentations, interactive discussions, personal interviews and sharing personal impressions on relevant issues.
The meeting started with inspiring speeches by SDU’s scholars.
- SDU’s Vice-Chancellor Henrik Dam emphasized the importance of structured and systematic efforts to be applied within SPEAR “in taking on the complex and notoriously difficult task of practicing diversity, inclusivity and equity in European Academia – to the benefit of everyone: the students, researchers, the universities as work-places, the industry and other sectors who hire alumni as well as the wider society”.
He also underlined that recognition from the European Commission for the support and collaboration across the European academic landscape is uplifting.
- Mr. Ole Skøtt, the Dean of Health Sciences was impressed by the presence of many “strong advocates for both the academic and the GE-agenda”. He noted that “with such a competent crowd, SPEAR is sure to have a deep and lasting impact on all the participating organizations and their national contexts”.
According to Mr. Skøtt, “there is now an acute awareness, appetite and momentum for a practice-oriented approach to ensuring diversity, inclusivity and equality, in academia as elsewhere” and “SPEAR is a qualified and timely response to this appetite and momentum”.
- The welcome words by SPEAR’s coordinator, Ms. Eva Sophia Myers explained SPEAR’s mission in tackling an equality and diversity problem by making a real mark on daily university practices of hiring and promoting, providing equal opportunities, decision making, conducting research, educating new talent and “breaking new ground which will benefit and affect everyone equally”. She also voiced SPEAR’s aspirations for the project’s solutions to “work for equality in all areas”.
- The kick-off agenda also included an introductory presentation about the project and its structure given by Ms. Myers, followed by the presentations on H2020 regulations for project implementation as well as Policy Perspective on Gender Equality in EU R&I delivered by Ms. Simona Misiti, Project Advisor and Ms. Anne Pépin, Senior Policy Officer respectively. The participants learned about H2020’s approach to the Gender Equality and relevant supported activities aimed at facilitating institutional change through Gender Equality Plans.
- An important part of the meeting was devoted to the discussion of administrative, legal and ethics issues within SPEAR under the moderation of Ms. Liv Baisner, SPEAR’s Administrative Coordinator, Mr. Lars Engelstoft, SDU’s Lawyer and Ms. Kirsten Kyvik, the Ethics Advisor.
- The rest of the official meeting was comprised of the presentations by Work Package leaders on GEP implementation (Uppsala University, Sweden), supporting GEP implementation through Communities of Learning and Communities of Practice (RWTH Aachen University, Germany), mainstreaming and sustainability (SDU), communication and dissemination (Europa Media, Hungary) and project self-assessment and internal evaluation (Joanneum Research, Austria).
- The implementing partners from South-West University Neofit Rilski (Bulgaria), Plovdiv University (Bulgaria), Vilnius University (Lithuania), Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania), University Nova de Lisboa (Portugal) and University of Rijeka (Croatia) contributed to the discussions specifying local needs for successful GEP implementation.
Interaction, Brainstorming and Meeting Results
As the kick-off was taking place in Odense, the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, the organizers could not have passed the opportunity to present his legacy to the consortium in an engaging way – during the dinner the partners had to detect any gender/social bias indication hidden in one of writer’s stories.
The second and third days were dedicated to the work of SPEAR’s Coordination and Administration Group in order to set a clear path ahead for the project and each WP through brainstorming activities and discussions. Additionally, dissemination responsibilities were explained by Europa Media as well as the first steps to be taken for wide project promotion.
As a result, the consortium compiled a list of actions for the next two months, recorded interesting videos with project’s experts and agreed on the topics for the blog posts to follow.
Therefore, stay tuned and follow the news on our website and social media to learn more about SPEAR and its initial steps for successful set-up and implementation of Gender Equality Plans in Europe.
In the words of Eva Sophia Myers, the opportunity presented in SPEAR is “a hard and fast help in that it gives concrete hours of work to instigate and support positive and necessary change” and “it is an obligation that will help us stay on a true course and aim our SPEAR!”