Gender Equality Plans (GEP) will be one of the novelties in Horizon Europe that stem from the Union’s first Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, published in 2019:
“In the field of research and innovation, the Commission will introduce new measures to strengthen gender equality in Horizon Europe, such as the possibility to require a gender equality plan from applicants and an initiative to increase the number of women-led technology start-ups.”
While much of the work is yet to be finalised, early information suggests that it will be mandatory for beneficiaries established in Members States/Associated Countries, which are public bodies, research organisations or higher education establishments, to have a GEP that covers the following minimum process-related requirements:
Publication: formal document published on the institution’s website and signed by its top management.
Dedicated resources: commitment of resources and gender expertise to implement it.
Data collection and monitoring: sex/gender disaggregated data on personnel (and students for establishments concerned) and annual reporting based on indicators.
Training: Awareness raising/trainings on gender equality and unconscious gender biases for staff and decision-makers.
Content-wise, recommended areas to be covered and addressed via concrete measures and targets include the following:
- work-life balance and organisational culture;
- gender balance in leadership and decision-making;
- gender equality in recruitment and career progression;
- integration of the gender dimension into research and teaching content; and
- measures against gender-based violence including sexual harassment.
The GEPs will be a strict eligibility criterion only for the types of institutions mentioned above (at least from 2022) and that other categories of legal entities, such as private-for-profit organisations (including SMEs), non-governmental or civil society organisations will be exempt from it.
A self-declaration will be requested from the relevant applicant organisations at the proposal stage and we understands that if all the above-mentioned requirements are met through another strategic document, such as a development plan or an inclusion or diversity strategy, it will be considered as an equivalent.
As a direct consequence of the GEPs, beneficiaries of Horizon Europe funds will also need to take all measures to promote equal opportunities between men and women in the implementation of the action. They will also need to aim, to the extent possible, for a gender balance at all levels of personnel assigned to the action, including at supervisory and managerial level.
With the GEP being a new requirement for many applicant organisations, there is likely to be a transition/grace period in 2021, with full enforcement of this eligibility criterion expected only for calls for proposals with deadlines in 2022. To support applicants affected by the change from Horizon 2020 (no GEP required) to Horizon Europe, the Commission plans to provide dedicated training to Horizon Europe National Contact Points before the first submissions are expected.