Women's session in parliament: SNSF supports motion

At the women's session, taking place this week in Bern, research funding will be a topic of debate. A motion proposes to link third-party research funding to gender equality standards.

Women are still significantly underrepresented in research: the share of women professors is currently 24 per cent; in research projects funded by the SNSF, women hold a 39 per cent share, spread across different career stages.

One way to achieve greater gender equality would be to link federal funding for universities and third-party research funding to equality standards. The science committee of the women's session has referred this demand as one of three motions. It will be debated in the plenary session of 29/30 October 2021. The demand is supported by the SNSF. "What we need is decisive and coordinated action by all partners in the field of research and innovation," says SNSF director Angelika Kalt.

Diversity in research for the entire population

Advancing gender equality and diversity in research is one of the strategic priorities in the SNSF's multi-year programme 2021-24. "We want to promote a research landscape that benefits the entire population," says Angelika Kalt. This can only be achieved if enough women are able to pursue their own projects. "If too few women participate, problematic research gaps arise," adds SNSF gender equality representative Simona Isler. "Women's perspectives is not reflected in the design of research projects. That is why, for example, we don't know enough about many diseases or disease symptoms that specifically affect women."

Incentives and debates for more equality

The SNSF does not employ researchers and can therefore only have an indirect effect on promoting gender equality: by providing funding, setting incentives and launching debates on the subject. It supports the careers of young female researchers with specific schemes and mentoring programmes; supplementary measures help them to balance family and career. The Marie Heim-Vögtlin Prize honours outstanding female researchers and helps them gain greater visibility. In order to achieve a gender balance on its committees, the SNSF introduced a gender quota at the beginning of 2021. Through its annual gender monitoring, it keeps track of the success rates of women and men in research funding and can respond quickly to any anomalies.

Women's session 2021

The women's session will be held on 29/30 October 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of women's suffrage in the Federal Parliament. 246 women will debate the most urgent concerns across party lines and then submit their concrete demands to the Federal Council and Parliament. The science committee has 17 members. The presidency is shared by Trix Dettling (SP, Lucerne) and Marie-France Roth Pasquier (National Councillor for Die Mitte, Fribourg). The women's session is organised by alliance F, the non-partisan umbrella association of women's organisations in Switzerland.

The science commission referred three motions to the plenary session: first, it calls on the Federal Council to link the funding of universities and the allocation of third-party funds in research funding to equality standards. Second, it proposes targeted support for young academics by increasing basic university funding and creating more permanent positions at universities. Third, at least twelve new professorships in gender studies ought to be created by 2030, with a particular focus on medicine, STEM, economics, law and spatial planning.