Interviews with Research Policy-Makers: Lina Gálvez Muñoz (02/2021)
EPWS interviews a high-level EU research policy-maker in 5 questions.
In this new section EPWS is interviewing European research policy-makers concerned by gender equality goals. In this series of interviews we wish to offer women scientists the state of the art about the EU policy agenda on gender equality in research and the gender dimension in science content. On the EPWS website portraits of research policy-makers are now alternating every month with those of distinguished women scientists.
We have the great honour to interview Prof. Lina Gálvez Muñoz, Vice-President of the ITRE (Industry, Research and Energy) Committee of the European Parliament (EP) and member of EP FEMM (Women’s Rights and Gender Equality) Committee.
Lina Gálvez Muñoz is a Member of the European Parliament since July 2019. In the EP, she is Vice-chair of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and member of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee and of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA). She also belongs to the committees on Employment and Social Affairs. Lina Gálvez Muñoz PhD, European University Institute (Florence) is Economic History and Institutions Full Professor at the Economics Department at Pablo Olavide University (Seville). She has also been professor at the Universities of Reading (Reading), Carlos III (Madrid), and as a visiting professor at Centre for time use research at Oxford University (Oxford). She has more than hundred scientific publications and she has also been Vice-Rector of her university from 2007 to 2012 and served as Regional Minister of Knowledge, Research and University of the Government of Andalusia from 2018 to 2019.
What role does your institution play in shaping the European Union’s (EU) gender equality policy in research and innovation?
In the European Parliament (EP), we are fighting to achieve gender equality in many policy fields, also in research and innovation (R&I). I am committed, personally and as a MEP, to make gender equality a reality. I am part of the gender mainstreaming network of the EP which has the purpose to ensure that there is a cross-cutting gender perspective in EU legislation, and not only where gender aspects are more obvious. As Vice-Chair of the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and member of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), I am well aware of the need and the potential it has to include gender equality aspects when developing R&I policies.
The participation of women in higher education has increased exponentially in recent years, but while there are more women with university degrees that men in the EU, less than 30% of scientific researchers and entrepreneurs in the world are women and they are still underrepresented in many science-related fields. It is also true that the statistics at national level are still far from being perfect. Therefore, we need better cross-nationally comparable statistics on women in research and science in terms of understanding how women’s careers develop and where the main obstacles are, in order to understand better the reality to change it.
In the legislative work I have been involved so far, in the Industrial Strategy, the Strategy for SMEs, the legislative package on the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the report on the Digital Future of Europe or the European Skills Agenda; I have always included aspects denouncing the gender gap in digital and technological sectors, actively promoting the participation of women in STEAM and calling to improve statistics and data disaggregated by gender with the intersectional approach.
EPWS: Which are the most important gender equality policy decisions in research and innovation that have already been implemented a) by your institution, b) in the science system?
A positive element to highlight in recent research and innovation policies is linked to the new Framework Program, Horizon Europe, and the requirement to include gender equality plans as an eligibility criterion for projects that are presented for EU funding. Thus, the new program ensures that equal opportunities for all are effectively promoted and that the mainstreaming of the gender perspective is applied. In addition, there is a line of financing for specific gender projects, which will finance projects on advanced strategies and innovative methods for gender equality in all social, economic and cultural spheres, and to tackle gender bias and gender-based violence.
Above all the mentioned measures, it will be paramount to have an overall gender perspective in Horizon Europe projects in order to overcome the androcentric knowledge. The science that has developed so far, and which designs our way to see and understand our world is androcentric, meaning that the masculine experience is immediately and naturally identified and treated as universal, as standard, thus making the vision and experiences of women invisible.
In addition, the new EIT legislation, which is currently being negotiated, will include provisions to promote and ensure women’s participation in its education programs and also within the EIT structure. From a more general perspective, which can also have positive effects in the science system, the EP recently managed to include a provision on gender equality as a horizontal principle in both the Multiannual Financial Framework and the Next Generation EU, although it had to be formulated as equality between women and men, due to the rejection of some political groups and governments of certain Member States to the concept of gender.
Furthermore, the EP Research Service published in April 2020 a study on “Education and employment of women in science, technology and the digital economy, including AI and its influence on gender equality” that provides an update on the status of women’s education and employment in STEM fields and the digital sector and includes policy recommendations to tackle that issue.
Furthermore, in the first plenary week of 2021, the European Parliament debated three legislative reports on the EU Strategy for Gender Equality, on the gender perspective in the COVID-19 crisis and post-crisis period and on the gender gap and women’s participation in the digital economy. As you can imagine not all political forces in the Parliament are in favour of gender equality or not in the same degree. Therefore, passing three reports on these issues is already an important sign that the topic is taken seriously and that there is still work to be done.
EPWS: What new challenges for achieving and ensuring gender equality and the gender dimension in research and innovation will arise given the current rapid changes in society?
At the start of the Von der Leyen Commission, the EP was focused in pushing the Commission to develop specific policies for gender equality, to ensure gender mainstreaming in all policies and in the EU budget. Then, when the pandemic started, the direction of many policies had to be revised. Nonetheless, the need to include a gender approach is even more necessary and the time to act is now. It is also urgent to do so in research and innovation policies, as data repeatedly show that the effect of this crisis is disproportionately affecting more women than men, also in research. This is, on the one hand, because of the occupational segregation, as women are at the forefront jobs fighting this pandemic with 70% of health workers and first responders being women globally. But also, and perhaps more importantly, because the care burden, household and family care, still relies heavily on women. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a sharp decrease on women’s publications, while those by men continued. We have also seen a drop in the funding received by women innovators, which was already at an embarrassing low of 2% of the available funding, down to 1% after the crisis.
It shows there is still a lot of work to be done and that specially now, while defining the recovery strategies, we must ensure that a gender perspective is included, otherwise we risk seeing a backlash in what has been achieved until now. This approach has to be applied also to R&I policies, funding schemes, high education institutions and research institutes, which will have to be redefined through a gender lens.
However, in order to truly combat gender segregation and stereotyping we need to include a third transition, in parallel to the digital and green ones, towards a new organization of care, as care duties still rely heavily on women. The full inclusion of women in science and innovation will not be a reality unless we also tackle the care mandate. We need a real distribution of care duties among men and women. Otherwise, we will see the same situation happening as in previous crises, where male work recovered faster, and we will end up with backlashes on gender equality.
There is much talk on women as an untapped potential for research and innovation, but in the same way men and public institutions are an unexplored potential for care. We need a real distribution of care duties between men and women, especially since Covid-19 has once again shown that it falls disproportionately on women. For that, we need to work with girls and boys to start changing the mindset. Clearly, much remains to be done, but it is clear that women still need their own time and funding to do research and innovate.
Which of the latest EU research and innovation policy guidelines address the mentioned challenges? How does your institution react to these challenges? How does your institution ensure that Europe’s answers to the grand societal challenges will be gender equitable and sensitive to the gender dimension?
The existing inequalities in research and innovation should be tackled to face the climate crisis and the digital revolution and invent together a green, fair and human future. Designing the solutions and ideas that will help us in a transition to a green, digital and healthy future will depend on harnessing all talents and this involves getting more women in science and innovation. We cannot afford to lose any of the talents in our society, since each one of them is essential to embark in the decarbonisation and digitalisation of our societies and economies. We need to make sure all talents are included, as talents are equally distributed, despite gender, geographical origin or family background, but opportunities are not.
STEM related competencies are essential for the fastest growing and highest paid job categories. Several recent studies show that changes in the global labour market will lead to net job creation of 58 million jobs, especially for scientists, data analysts and specialists in artificial intelligence. We know that only 22% of artificial intelligence professionals worldwide are women – a huge gender gap that reflects major issues such as job segregation, biases, and the perpetuation of inequalities.
We urgently need to address this situation, especially when we know that only 18% of ICT specialists are women in Europe, according to the European Commission’s Women in Digital 2020 index, although the number of women with university degrees has increased exponentially in the last years. Furthermore, according to the report on the situation of the European Technology Sector 2020, prepared by Atomico, only 9% of the total capital invested in technology companies in Europe went to teams with at least one female founder, while 91% went to men-only teams. This means that, if technological developments are carried out almost entirely by men, half of society is not represented in the development process.
I would also like to mention the need to re-evaluate the notion of innovation, as it is currently understood as essentially linked to digital initiatives. Without underestimating the importance of technology, especially in dealing with the green and digital transitions and overcoming the Covid-19 crisis, we cannot ignore the many innovations in non-digital areas, many by women, who are contributing enormously with benefits to society and should be considered as such to receive funding and support. Likewise, we must challenge ideas of leadership and success built on masculine parameters and stop using the white man’s experience as the standard and universal.
Therefore, we must be critical and act in a comprehensive manner, actively promoting the participation of women and girls in STEAM, taking advantage of, on the one hand, the potential of women in innovation and, on the other, that of men in care, using and advocating a broader meaning of innovation and eliminating barriers to women’s investment access, both from public and private sources, in order to attract all available talent and knowledge.
At the same time that we have to work on specific measures such as those mentioned in the previous paragraph, we must promote general measures of equality, linked both to the labor market and to the best distribution of care, otherwise we can hardly close that gap. We need those changes now, we cannot wait any longer. Because not only innovation and science play a fundamental role for sustainable development, but also gender equality.
What role do women scientists’ associations play in the creation of gender equality policy in research and innovation at European level? What measures does your institution take to actively involve women scientists’ organisations in its policy-making processes? With what formats do you think your institution‘s dialogue with women scientists associations could be enhanced/ rendered more effective?
I was for many years an active member of the board of the Spanish association of Women Researchers and Technologists, AMIT (Asociación de Mujeres Investigadoras y Tecnólogas). Therefore, I understand and see the relevant role such associations can have in shaping the policy in research and innovation at all levels. But not only, as they also have a big role in promoting and supporting women in these fields. One of the things we identified is that often women do not feel they deserve recognition, which is another thing that should be addressed from the early education stages. Therefore, one of initiatives I was involved in was to support and encourage women to run for awards. Another recent example along that line is a recent and very successful campaign AMIT launched, with the support of the European Parliament in Spain, titled “No more Matildas”, with the aim to promote the scientific vocation in girls and adolescents. The Spanish President echoed this campaign, bringing this issue to the highest point in the political agenda.
Now that I am an MEP, I collaborate with different associations that fight to make women more visible in these fields, participating and organising meetings and discussions, discussing ways to increase investment and financing opportunities. Organising these meetings, even online, in which we can talk to each other, discuss the challenges and obstacles and try to find solutions is very useful.
Moreover, and this is very important, I make sure that in all public meetings organised by the EP, women scientists and innovators are represented and their knowledge and experience is heard so that, on the one hand, they are actively involved in the policy-making process and, on the other one, they are visible, as we know how much representation matters. Role models and mentors have a real impact on how people, in this case girls and women, imagine what they can do and who they can be.
I look forward to continue collaborating with EPWS in the future to achieve equal participation of women in science and innovation to strengthen European excellence in those fields.
“Education and employment of women in science, technology and the digital economy, including AI and its influence on gender equality” European Parliament Study
Report on closing the digital gender gap: women’s participation in the digital economy
Report on the EU Strategy for Gender Equality
Report on The gender perspective in the Covid-19 crisis and post-crisis period