November 19, 2014 Nick Preston

Gender mainstreaming in the university: Plan for Equal opportunities between women and men in the UOC (2011-2013)

The Gender Equality Plan of UOC’s objective is to establish an institutional strategy that aims at achieving real equality between women and men at work and to obtain a balanced participation of men and women in all the occupations and at all responsibility levels.

Objectives of the Intervention

The objective is to establish an institutional strategy in the UOC aims at achieving real equality between women and men at work, eliminating stereotypes, attitudes and obstacles which complicate women to access to particular professions and jobs in equal conditions than men and encouraging measures which support women’s involvement, permanence and professional development. The aim is to obtain a balanced participation of men and women in all the occupations and at all responsibility levels.

Stated (group) targets: The main target groups are the UOC staff, both academic and management and administrative sections. However, the university stakeholders, as a whole, are included indirectly in particular awareness raising activities. The idea is to reach the university students and society larger, in general, in future plans.

Size/scope: university (organisational) level

The Plan is conceived within the HHRR perspective, with some connections with the university strategy.

Origins and rationale of this initiative

The Spanish Law of Gender Equality passed in 2007 (Constitutional Act 3/2007 of 22 March for effective equality between women and men. - Ley Orgánica 3/2007, de 22 de marzo, para la igualdad efectiva de mujeres y hombres-) stablished as mandatory to have an Equality Plan for institutions with more than2550 workers.

In this context, UOC passed an Equality Plan in 2008 introducing the measures and actions already in place. From then, a Gender Equality Commission was created in 2009 and in 2010, the position of Delegate from the Rector was formalised.

This person from the academic staff and the Equality Agent, from the management staff, were the two key drivers of the design and development of the Plan. The decision-making bodies of the University support their proposals and doing without direct involvement, in general.

There is no a particular theoretical framework to develop the plan, but an already existing tool in the HE industry was used. The Polytechnic University of Catalonia's Research Group for Equal Opportunities on Architecture, Science and Technology (GIOPACT) had been commissioned to elaborate the “Guide to design and implement an equal opportunity plan in universities” by Women’s Catalan Institute in 2006. The guide was used as tool to develop their own Plan.

Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

The main target groups are the UOC staff (men and women), but the university stakeholders, as a whole, are included in the awareness raising activities, research, content subject (revision of curricula) and training activities, reaching the university students and the academy and society, in general.

The University staff accounts for about 800 people. About 80% of staff is in Barcelona, but there are other offices across Catalonia and in Seville, Madrid and Valencia.

In the academic staff, there are parity (40-60%) between men and women and in the management and administrative staff are more women, with somehow vertical segregation in place.

Political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

There is a key factor to stablish the need of a Equality Plan: the 2007 Spanish Law on Equality, which declared it mandatory.

However, the commitment to do it properly with a further diagnosis and structure is also embedded in the local and regional support of gender equality in general, and especially, in the High Education sector. There is public support, coming from the local and regional government, such as the Research and Innovation Catalan Plan (2005-2008) and the current Strategic Plan for Women’s Policies of the Government of the Generalitat of Catalonia (2012-2015).

However, the economic context of general budgetary cuts, and particularly in education sector, also has affected the availability of resources. Although there was not a particular budget commitment for this Plan, but established ad hoc or coming from the different budgets in each action area.

Overall Programme design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

The web documentation provides the plan dived by 8 action axis covering the following main areas:

  • Make gender equality policies form part of the solid structure of the university
  • Render visible gender inequalities and awareness rising on this
  • Take care for communication introducing a gender perspective and non-sexist approach in images, communications and publications
  • Promote the gender perspective in the content of lectures and research
  • Attempt to get a balanced representation in all bodies and decision-making levels
  • Promote equal opportunities in the composition of lecturer staff and academic activities
  • Encourage the access to work and promotion of professional careers by reducing gender inequalities in the access and development of careers
  • Organize working conditions with a gender perspective

Particular awareness raising activities have been specifically designed and implemented because of the Plan: workshops on how to introduce the gender perspective in particular areas and through revision of, content subject (revision of curricula), specific activities in relation to gender and TIC domains, awareness raising activities in general and training activities (within the HHRR mainly), especially focused on sexual harassment.

Current activities of evaluation of the Plan and diagnosis for the next one.

Describe if the project ensured its sustainability

The project assures its sustainability through the embedding of the Plan in the regular process of its renewal, not only as mandatory requirement but as an element integrated in the HHRR department and responsibilities, with collaboration of the decision-making bodies and academic staff.

The formalisation of a body responsible for its renewal, implementation and evaluation (equality unite) could be seen as evidence of its sustainability within the organisation.

There is no replication from the Plan analysed, but its development was somehow a replication as inspired in the Guide previously mentioned.

Resources used in the initiative

Regarding the human resources, there has been an evolution of the team and structure related to the Plan, following more general changes happened in the University. The commitment of people to the Gender Equality Commission was on a voluntary basis and added to the regular tasks of their other professional commitments. Part of the working time (about 50%) of the Equality Agent was foreseen to be allocated to the Plan design and implementation, and the formally recognised additive task of the Delegate to represent the UOC in the “Women and Research” Academic Commission. In 2013, there have been general internal changes in the decision-making bodies in the University, in terms of people and structures. The positions of Delegates have been eliminated. Now, there are two Vice-rectors. One of this is the Vice-rector of Research and Strategy, which include the gender perspective aspect. She is also part of the current gender unit, which is the new structure related to the Equality Plan/Strategy of the UOC from April 2014 on.

The Equality Unite is formed now by five people: two academics and three from management staff, this composition includes the Vice-rector of Research and Strategy, and the Equality Agent, role which continues to be present in the new structure. All members have also other commitments in the UOC.

Regarding the budget, most activities or actions were funded as part of the regular activity of each department and there is not explicit allocation of their budgets to the plan implementation.

Only there have been particular activities funded with resources specifically allocated to the Plan activities, as well as hiring people with specialised knowledge for punctual activities to complement UOC resources to design the Plan, awareness raising activities and in relation to training and development of sexual harassment protocol.

There has not been external funding for the project.

Did the intervention reach its objectives?

There is no a set of formal evaluation indicators as such in the plan, but the particular activity of evaluating the results for each axis is included in the plan. The evaluation process is currently ongoing, so no formal presentation of evidence is still available.

However, some initial evidence can be found:

  • There is an institutional formalisation of a gender equality body with a representative of the high decision-making positions of the university and with representation from the two main components of the staff: academic and management.
  • There is a place in the web to keep information and documentation related to gender equality and the plan, as communication activities to disseminate this commitment and work in this area.
  • There is an ongoing process of preparing the following plan, after the diagnosis period, which includes surveys to some members in key departments, such us docent, communication, marketing, to introduce qualitative information to the evaluation and diagnosis.
  • The collaboration through the plan period has caused further information to be registered disaggregated by sex.

There seems to be internalisation of the gender perspective in some actions or decisions, and some examples of behavioural changes such as asking for candidates from the sex less represented in particular teams, if possible, or nomination of gendered-balance top academic positions, both without previously targeted goals, have happened. They could be somehow considered as impacts of the plan.

However, general objectives are not totally achieved yet as initially expected in the Plan. Long lasting gender inequalities remain in the institution, as in the broader context, such as horizontal and vertical segregation, gender pay gap, etc. and structural permanent changes aimed at achieving gender equality are expected to require longer periods, further awareness raising and commitment and a slowly reduction of structural obstacles which crosscut the organisation and the social, economic and political context.

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