Building upon the progress of CEU’s first Gender Equality Plan (GEP, 2019-2022) and in response to new emerging challenges, this January CEU launched its second GEP (2023-2025), a new three-year plan of commitment to action to remove gender-based structural barriers that prevent our community members from realising their full potential.
Reflecting on the latest GEP, Gender Equality and Diversity Officer Ana Belén Amil said, “I'm proud of us as a community because gender equality is a very challenging institutional transformation project. It is a political process that elicits all types of resistances that must be carefully navigated, with negotiations and compromises along the way. It is not that common for a private university in continental Europe to enter a second cycle of Gender Equality Plans, so I think we can confidently say that our targeted efforts in the past five years have put us at the forefront of institutional gender equality work. This doesn’t mean that we’ve fixed all inequalities, but rather that we have the courage to continuously engage in critical self-reflection and say ‘this is not right. We can do better.’”
“The design and implementation of a Gender Equality Plan is never a one-person endeavor,” said Ana, adding, “It would have been impossible without strong leadership support, the tremendous expertise of our Senate Equal Opportunity Committee chaired by Prof Andrea Krizsán, and the invaluable input of our Gender Equality HUB”. The GE HUB is a horizontal body of people from all constituencies and hierarchical levels at CEU, who committed much time and effort to the assessment of gender equality in our institution, the design of possible solutions to the problems found, and the execution of those measures in the day-to-day running of the University.
CEU’s first Gender Equality Plan (2019-2022) was developed under the framework of SUPERA (Supporting the Promotion of Equality in Research and Academia), a 4-year Horizon2020 funded project that allowed the university to create the position of Gender Equality Officer. In 2018, a comprehensive initial assessment of the status of gender equality was conducted across a wide range of indicators in four key action areas: gender equality in the university’s mission, leadership and access to decision-making, gender equality in recruitment, retention, and career progression including availability of family-friendly policies, gender dimension in knowledge transfer and research, sexism, gender biases and stereotypes, and sexual harassment. This highly participatory six-month process informed the design of the first GEP.
Ana mentioned that many times, not only in Europe but also in the U.S., gender equality work in higher education institutions lacks dedicated human and financial resources, and it is generally taken up by committed community members on a pro bono basis. But this is no longer the case at CEU: once the SUPERA project was over, CEU took a huge step in securing the sustainability of its gender equality efforts by creating the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equality (IDEO), led by Pro-Rector and Professor Eva Fodor, and institutionalising the position of Gender Equality and Diversity Officer as permanent and internally funded. “This shows how much progress we’ve made in setting gender equality as an institutional priority,” said Ana.
Capacity building efforts and training are also a key aspect of making gender equality efforts sustainable. Later this year, selected employees will take part in a training for first respondents designed on the basis of CEU’s new protocol on emergency responses to sexual and other types of assault and sexual harassment incidents. Ana intends for the training to be later made available for the entire community, since everybody can be a first responder. IDEO will also repeat last year’s successful bystander training, offered to provide witnesses of all types of harassment, including microaggressions, with tools to safely intervene in such situations, and help build an institutional culture where there is no tolerance for such behaviour.
One of the balancing acts required of the Gender Equality and Diversity Officer role is simultaneously tending to current change management while at the same time planning for the future, which requires a thoughtful sequencing of priorities. “When it comes to gender equality everything is urgent and important. If someone knocks on your door with a gender pay discrimination complaint, you don't want to wait another month for this person to lose wages because you are busy designing a training. It's really difficult sometimes to choose what can be put on hold in order to pay attention to another pressing aspect.”
When it comes to current and future challenges, gender mainstreaming remains as the main question. How to move from an institutional culture in which gender is the add-on consideration that comes at the end of a decision-making process, towards a university that thinks with a gender-sensitive perspective from the very beginning of the design, implementation, and monitoring of its processes and measures? That’s the type of institutional change toward which CEU aims CEU is aiming for.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, March 8, Ana Belén Amil will be in conversation with Eva Fodor (CEU), Birgit Sauer (University of Vienna), and Wogene Berhanu Mena (Vienna University of Business and Economics) for the roundtable Cosmopolitan Gender Justice: Gendering (In)equalities in Theory and Praxis. Register here.