Businesses and institutions willing to take part in Horizon Europe will have to lay out a Gender Equality Plan (GEP). This will be no general document, but a real plan to establish an inclusive working method, approved by the top management and integrated in daily activities. Adopting a GEP will be compulsory for public bodies to take part in the programme as of 2022, while being ‘recommended’ for private businesses. All applicants will be required to include a GEP in their proposal as of 2023. An important requirement that shows a relevant interest to change: according to the European Commission, ‘a GEP is a set of commitments and actions that aim to promote gender equality in an organisation through institutional and cultural change’.

Therefore, the Commission has published a guide to lay out the content of such document, how to define and implement priorities for the GEP, in order to support applicants in their compliance with EU requirements.

A GEP must include 4 ‘building blocks’:

  1. Be a public document signed by the top management and published on the institution’s website.
  2. Dedicate resources and expertise for its implementation
  3. Include a data collection and monitoring system
  4. Include trainings and awareness actions on issues of gender balance.

In addition, 5 content-related areas should be considered when preparing a quality GEP. They are:

  1. Work-life balance and an inclusive organisational culture
  2. Gender balance in leadership and decision-making
  3. Gender equality in recruitment and career progression
  4. Integration of the gender dimension into research and teaching content
  5. Measures against gender-based violence, including sexual harrassment

The procedure to develop and implement a GEP includes 4 phases:

1. Audit: collecting data divided by gender, identifying issues, as well as the existing legislation and available resources.

2. Planning: defining objectives, as well as actions and policies (and their relative timings) for their implementation.

3. Implementation: carrying out trainings, capacity-building sessions, campaigns to boost the visibility of the GEP within and outside the organisation.

4. Evaluation: revising results, collecting feedback necessary for the adaptation/reformulation of the GEP in the new cycle.

The Commission stressed the need to include the whole organisation throughout all phases, so as to raise awareness on the matter among all members: this is fundamental for the initiative to be successful. On the other hand, each GEP will be developed according to each organisations’ specificities, such as dimension, organisation structure, and sector.

Furthermore, the guide includes examples of best practices to inspire or to contact for guidance in the development of new GEPs. Several resources on gender balance in R&I are also listed. Finally, examples of resources for the implementation of the GEP are provided, such as a dedicated office, the devotion of a portion of employees’ working time to their participation in the plan, as well as gender budgeting actions.

An online tool is also available to analyse the current scenario, lay out a plan, implement it and monitor its results: GEAR can be found online on the website of EIGE – European Institute for Gender Equality. EIGE has supported the European Commission in developing the GEP guide and can provide game-changing advice for entities who develop a GEP for the first time.

Several public or private organisations throughout Europe have already adopted strategies for gender balance in the work environment, although sometimes under different names. Pre-existing or duly reformulated plans will be accepted by the Commission as part of applications for Horizon Europe funding, provided that they comply with requirements listed in the guide, and that they include the 4 building blocks.

dott. Beniamino Brunati – European policy expert
ing. Paola Bazzoni – senior project manager & developer