Gender equality: more advances are needed

After eight successful years, the Gender Equality Commission of the SNSF began its third term in June. Four new members join and complete the international body of experts, which acts as an advisor to the Research Council and the Administrative Offices.

Diversity and equal opportunities are essential quality criteria for Switzerland as a centre for science. For this reason, the SNSF is committed to gender equality. For eight years now, the Gender Equality Commission has been advising the National Research Council and the Administrative Offices of the SNSF. As an independent and international body, it comments on gender-related topics and decisions in SNSF research funding and makes proposals and recommendations.

"To keep the quality of research in Switzerland high, improvements in gender equality are urgently needed," says Commission President Michèle Amacker. She sees a need for action, for example, in the area of sexual harassment in the workplace, which notably can reduce women's chances of a successful career. In addition, it is important to change existing structures in such a way that people who look after children or other dependents can remain in research and academia, Amacker said. "We need to acknowledge that care work is part of our lives."

Four new members

With Michèle Amacker as president, the seven-member commission began its third four-year term on 1 June. The professor of gender studies at the University of Bern had taken over the presidency at the beginning of 2021. New additions this year are Sébastien Chauvin, Yvonne Benschop and Stephen Curry. They follow Anna Wahl, Nicky Le Feuvre and Gary Loke. When Jasmine Lorenzini joins in October, the commission will be complete. As successor to Simona Isler, she takes over the position of Gender Equality Officer at the SNSF Administrative Offices.

Eight successful years

The Gender Equality Commission looks back on eight successful years: the introduction of SNSF Care, for example, ensured that panel members and other guests of the SNSF are compensated for childcare costs. In 2020, the SNSF also introduced a gender quota for all its evaluation panels. Since then, a minimum representation of 40 per cent each has applied for women and men.

The introduction of PRIMA in 2017 also marked an important milestone on the road to greater gender equality at Swiss higher education institutions. The scheme supported outstanding female researchers on their way to a professorship. PRIMA has since been superseded thanks to the continuous further development of SNSF funding schemes. The relevant measures for the advancement of women are directly integrated into the schemes at the highest level of career funding - this is the logical continuation of the SNSF's efforts to achieve greater gender equality.

All members at a glance:

  • Prof. Michèle Amacker - (President)
    University of Bern
  • Prof. Yvonne Benschop
    Radboud University, The Netherlands
  • Prof. Sébastien Chauvin
    University of Lausanne
  • Prof. Michelle Cottier
    University of Geneva
  • Prof. Stephen Curry
    Imperial College, London, United Kingdom
  • Prof. Ruth Müller
    Technical University Munich