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|Name of Organisation:||Institute for Research in Biomedicine (Institut de Recerca Biomédica, IRB)|
|Main implementing organisation:||Institute for Research in Biomedicine (Institut de Recerca Biomédica, IRB).|
|Line of Business:||IRB Barcelona is an independent, non-profit research institution engaged in basic and applied biomedical science. It provides services and a space to research groups working for university or public research institutions.|
|Number of Employees||450||54.44 %|
|Employees in R&D||413||53.03 %|
|Number of Employees in Top Positions||42||21.43 %|
|Type of initiative referring to strategic objectives||awareness|
|Type of initiative, located on the stage of career progression of women scientists||Career entry|
The main aims of the initiative were:
The approach of the initiative is mostly practical, since the main focus was on debating and providing practical advice regarding specific situations to the participants.
The initiative is particularly conscious of the low number of women researchers occupying top positions in research groups, not as a result of a lack of internal promotion/ awareness but because of an almost absence of women candidates applying for these positions when they are offered.
As regards gender-awareness objectives, the initiative was a success and led to the publication of a wide-disseminated paper entitled “Breaking the Glass Ceiling, proposals to adjust the Role of Women in Science”.
However, the initiative was not fully able to attract the target group (the entire staff of the institution and staff from other institutions located in Barcelona Science park), since the number of male participants was not satisfactory, and the majority of participants were women.
As regards gender balance in top positions at IRB, the situation has slowly improved (initially, all the research group leaders were men except for one; nowadays the number of women has increased to three), although it is impossible to say whether this is a result of the initiative.
The Barcelona Biomed Forum was created as a means of harnessing the attendance of visiting experts at the European Science Open Forum (ESOF), held in Barcelona as well as bringing its debate closer to the IRB staff, as a free and open activity for all the researchers.
In this context, the main reason behind the initiative was the concern on the part of Joan Guinovart, IRB Barcelona Director, about the lack of women applying for positions of responsibility in the institution
No previous equal opportunity measures were in place, since IRB is a very young institution (active since 2005).
The initiative was addressed to the entire IRB staff, as well as researchers from the Barcelona Science’s Park.
It was mainly led by Joan Guinovart, together with Sonia Armengou and Sarah Sherwood, who were in charge of organising the event, and the IRB Office of Communications and External Relations.
The ESOF event gave the IRB the opportunity to approach leading visiting scientists such as Mary Osborn, Catherine Didion, Capitolina Díaz and Maria Luisa Lois, all of whom are experts on gender and science, and invite them to visit the IRB research community in their own working space, as part of the Biomed Forum series.
There were 60 participants at the event (2 of whom were men).
At the event, after the presentations by the four speakers, a question was posed to the group as a whole: What can women do to get and stay ahead in science?
Ten essential practical tips were gathered to support women researchers in achieving this goal. The tips included:
After the event, the Spanish Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Society journal published an issue on women and science (which included 4 articles by women speakers at the Biomed Forum)
This journal led to the IRB publication of an awareness-increasing English language paper entitled “Breaking the Glass Ceiling, proposals to adjust the Role of Women in Science”. The paper included also an article by Joan Guinovart and two articles from women in top policy maker positions.
The initiative was considered a success given that attendance was good, and participants were proactive in voicing their opinions and taking part in the debate.
However, participation was once again mostly women-based, showing that efforts invested in attracting men group leaders to the event had been unsuccessful.
Since then, several gender-related activities have been organized and certain measures have been planned to promote the work-life balance of women group leaders.
The scientific expertise on gender and science of the visiting speakers is a key factor of success, since it gave the event prestige and also provided the opportunity for publishing a paper after the event.
The practical and participative approach of the event, which enabled a fruitful debate among the speakers and participants. The debate ended up with a set of key points to ensure that women have access to and consolidate their presence in top positions, both in academia and research centres.
IRB scientists (and namely research group leaders) are under constant pressure to produce results. They appear to be mainly focused on their work and appear to be less concerned with research policies, working conditions, or the glass ceiling for women. In this sense, it is difficult to engage them in any activity that is not strictly science-related. This may explain the low attendance of male group leaders to the event.
- Define your professional strategy and fight for it, creating solid networks and taking advantage of opportunities.
- Increase your chances of success by preparing and promoting yourself.
The initiative has been sustainable through the publication and dissemination of the gender-awareness paper (including essential guidelines). Besides, the initiative has led to the IRB participation in the ‘Highways into Science’, a SET-Routes EU financed programme, through which the IRB has organized a second gender and science conference (similar to the Biomed Forum).
Despite this, the gender perspective has not been fully integrated in the structure and regular procedures of the organization
It was not taken from any other experience (although it did harness the participation of the visiting speakers at the ESOF conference).
It can be transferred to any research institution, science park or university
The initiative was organised to respond to a deep concern about the lack of promotion of women scientists, but has not yet materialized in a wider strategy to promote equal opportunities.
It is foreseen to implement work-life balance measures, but they are restricted to women team-leaders and only deal with issues relating to maternity.
The initiative does not deal with the integration of the gender dimension in research approaches.
The practical approach of the initiative, not only in providing a description of the situation, but also in offering advice and guidance for event participants in their professional careers, was innovative and therefore noteworthy.
Besides, the initiative can also be considered innovative because it does not only address the academic career, but also the non-academic one (In Spain, most of the initiatives for gender equality in science focus on academia).
IRB Barcelona is a young research institute. The 2nd Biomed Forum, organized by the IRB, was dedicated entirely to women in science. It featured a mainly practical approach that focused not only on demonstrating examples of gender inequality (by leading experts), but also on providing guidelines aimed at furthering the professional careers of participants. The forum led to the publication of a wide-disseminated paper entitled “Breaking the Glass Ceiling”.
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