SNSF Gender Equality Commission: much achieved, but still a lot to do

The SNSF Gender Equality Commission has been working towards equal representation for women in science for four years. Michelle Cottier recently joined as a new member.

Women scientists are still heavily underrepresented in academic research. At the same time, diversity and equal opportunities are important quality criteria for Swiss research. The SNSF is committed to gender equality - it founded a new Gender Equality Commission four years ago. The members of the commission were recently reelected for a further four years. Michelle Cottier, professor of private law at the University of Geneva, joins them as a new member, replacing Patricia Schulz.

The Gender Equality Commission is efficient in its work, holding two meetings a year and supporting other SNSF bodies in all issues relating to gender equality. The commission's president is Susan Gasser, Director of the Friedrich Miescher Institute; she offers a positive overall assessment of the first four years: "The decision to set up a commission of national and international experts has paid off. We were able to give valuable input, for example regarding the new funding scheme PRIMA, which supports women researchers who want to become professors."

The commission sensitised the National Research Council to gender equality issues in a series of presentations and helped to shape the SNSF's gender monitoring. In the summer of 2016, it participated in the second SNSF conference on "Gender and Exellence". The speakers and the two panels focused on the question whether there is a gender-based bias in the perception and appraisal of excellence.

The Gender Equality Commission and the strategic bodies of the SNSF will further finetune their collaboration in the years ahead. In the words of Susan Gasser: "It is still vital to take a targeted and coordinated approach to gender equality, because there is still a lot to be done. We must systematically raise awareness. The share of female professors in Switzerland is still less than 20 per cent, even though around 40 per cent of people with a doctorate are women. Swiss research cannot fufil its potential like this."

• The members of the Gender Equality Commission

SNSF policy on gender equality