Second SNSF conference on Gender and Excellence: different perspectives in focus


The conference on Gender and Excellence was organised as a follow-up to its namesake in October 2014. It elicited great interest and positive responses.

​On 21 June, around 130 people met at the SNSF to discuss the latest challenges for equal opportunities in research funding. Among those present were the members of the Gender Equality Commission of the SNSF. Speakers from Switzerland and abroad explored key questions from different perspectives. The presentations and both panel discussions focused on a potential gender bias in the perception and evaluation of excellence as well as on the inclusion of the gender dimension in specific research areas.

Hopes vs. expectations

The conference got underway with a welcome address by Martin Vetterli, president of the Research Council. Susan Gasser, president of the Gender Equality Commission of the SNSF, then introduced the members of the commission and outlined its tasks. Next, Anna Wahl of the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, who is also a member of the Gender Equality Commission, described in her introduction "Excellent men and ambitious women" how men and women in executive positions are perceived differently: women are judged on the basis of what they have achieved so far, while men are judged on the basis of their future aspirations. As a result, women express hopes about their future careers while men talk about expectations.

Anna Wahl, KTH Stockholm: Excellent men and ambitious women

Presentation (PDF, 806 KB)

First panel: "Gender bias in the perception of excellence"

Led by Thomas Hinz, member of the Gender Equality Commission, the panel explored the question of how the perception and evaluation of excellence is linked to gender. A number of talks presented new study results on this topic, leading to lively discussions with the speakers and Angelika Kalt, director of the SNSF. Presentations included:

  • When scientific excellence meets gender: An analysis of discursive interplays
    Julia Nentwich, University of St. Gallen
    Presentation (PDF, 306 KB)
  • "It’s the elephant in the room!" – (gender) bias in ERC grant selection
    Helene Schiffbänker, Joanneum Research Vienna
    Presentation (PDF, 727 KB)
  • Gender differences in grant applications and awards, some evidence from the UK
    Paul Boyle, University of Leicester
    Presentation (PDF, 2,2 MB)

Second panel: "Gender perspectives in research"

The panel on how gender analysis should be integrated into research was chaired by Nicky Le Feuvre of the University of Lausanne, who is also a member of the Gender Equality Commission. The presentations and the subsequent roundtable discussion investigated how the integration of gender analysis can improve research quality and to what extent research funding organisations should be expected to take the lead:

  • Gender equality and gender dimension in academic research
    Vera Regitz-Zagrosek, Charité, Berlin
    Presentation (PDF, 2,2 MB)
  • Gender research in STEM fields: Change of perspective and/or diversity of perspectives?
    Carmen Leicht-Scholten, RWTH Aachen
    Presentation (PDF, 1,9 MB)
  • GRI or the gender dimension in research: Recommendations from and for universities, to funders and others
    Katrien Maes, LERU, Leuven
    Presentation (PDF, 1,4 MB)

In his closing address, Gary Loke of the Equality Challenge Unit in London, who is also a member of the Gender Equality Commission, summarised the main insights of the conference. He challenged all participants to think about what they can do in their positions to propel gender equality in research forward and avoid a scenario - as indicated by Paul Boyle in his presentation - in which it takes another 40 years to achieve equality.

Based on the outcomes of the conference, the Gender Equality Commission of the SNSF will elaborate recommendations that it will share with the National Research Council in due course.


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