Through the Gender Lens: The National Research Council of Italy

In line with our ‘no data – no policy’ approach, the MINDtheGEPs project takes a multi-indicator approach to organisational gender data. The National Research Council of Italy just published a working paper detailing the gender equilibrium in 2016 compared to 2020 in decision-making, recruitment and career progression, research and work-life balance – all informed by the development and implementation of their Gender Equality Plan. 

The MINDtheGEPs approach to gender equality plans entails massive collection and analysis of gender-related data and policies concerning the management, research and administrative staff working at each partner institution. The National Research Council of Italy (Link removed) is no exception. Their gender data shows that there has been constant – but slow – progress towards a gender equilibrium in the organisation in the past decade. According to the authors of the working paper, the data collection that has been carried out through MINDtheGEPs highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the gendered data collection process currently implemented for monitoring and evaluation, and that has informed the development of their Gender Equality Plan

“In a situation of dispersed organisation across the country and career complexity, our administrative databases should be able to provide the basis for an intersectional analysis of gender differences. Data on careers, scientific production, welfare measures and related access, local specificities, and financial information - if accessible and analysable in an integrated manner - could facilitate the identification of the nuances in which female and, we would add, non-binary workers’ disadvantage would materialise. In this perspective of data integrability and intersectionality, the qualitative-quantitative integration work carried out with the MINDtheGEPs project will leave a great legacy to build on,” says Nicolò Marchesini, statistician & technologist at the Institute of Research on Population and Social Policies (IRPPS) of the CNR, and one of the authors. 

At the National Research Council of Italy, gender balance in decision-making bodies has been improving since 2016, a change that any single policy cannot explain. In 2020, several actions for gender equality has been implemeneted including collecting gendered data, approving a protocol against harassment, and drafting the first Gender Budget. Authors suggest the need to introduce gender balance amendments for appointing staff to senior positions, including working group and committee members, central administrative directors, and managers. To promote equal opportunities, awareness-raising, training activities, and gender-sensitive language work are essential.

In terms of balancing recruitment and career progression, their analysis reveals male dominance in technical-administrative staff across all career levels, especially in top tiers. According to the authors, this is because there are three times as many technical staff as administrative staff, and both these profiles still suffer from the division of gender roles. For researchers and technologists, the gender gap widens from bottom to top career levels, with more men in senior positions. Different fields also have different gender ratios, especially engineering and technology, where there are three men per one woman and medical and health sciences, with almost 70 per cent women. To address this segregation, the authors suggest a mentoring programme supporting women and early career workers to help build networks and develop strategies for navigating STEM environments.

Regarding work-life balance measures, the National Research Council of Italy provides flexibility through teleworking and ‘smart working’ since the pandemic, as well as child care during summers and financial aid for nurseries and kindergartens. Further measures to reduce gender inequalities could include expanding benefits to non-permanent staff currently excluded from welfare measures, enhancing support in different locations, and promoting ad hoc policies for male employees to access national measures like paternity or parental leave, fostering a culture of co-caring and co-responsibility.

The currently available data does not allow authors to conduct an in-depth analysis of the integration of gender dimensions in their research and innovation activities. The authors propose measures to strategically strengthen their data collection, specifically concerning scientific activities, to link it to already existing data. To create prerequisites to even further enhance gender equality in the organisation.

By Anna Holm Bodin

Marchesini, N., & Cellini, M. (2023). The CNR gender budgeting: Critical analysis and possible uses. IRPPS Working Papers, 139, 42. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.25330.07367


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MINDtheGEPs (Modifying Institutions by Developing Gender Equality Plans) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no 101006543.

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