Horizon funding and gender equality plans

Maura O'Shea

By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 14 October, 2021

3D text reading

Higher education institutions applying for Horizon Funding will be required to have Gender Equality Plans in place for proposals with deadlines in 2022 onwards.

All organisations applying for Horizon Europe funding must submit a self-declaration at the proposal stage, through a specific questionnaire confirming they have a Gender Equality Plan (GEP) in place.

Gender equality is a fundamental value of the European Union. Gender equality benefits research and innovation (R&I) by improving the quality and relevance of R&I, attracting and retaining more talent, and ensuring that everyone can maximise their potential.

There has been demonstrable progress towards gender equality in the European Research Area (ERA), but data shows there is still significant work to be done.

Gender equality goals can only be achieved through a structural approach to change across the whole European R&I system, entailing the joint commitment of R&I organisations, their funders and national authorities, and the European Commission.

The introduction of the Gender Equality Plan (GEP) eligibility criterion aims to support these efforts, reflecting the Horizon Europe legal basis which strengthens gender equality as a cross-cutting priority.

Individual organisations applying to any part of Horizon Europe, and belonging to the following categories of legal entities established in EU Member States or Associated countries, are all required to have a GEP as of calls for proposals with deadlines in 2022 onwards:

· Public bodies, such as research funding bodies, national ministries or other public authorities, including public-for-profit organisations;

· Higher education establishments, public and private;

· Research organisations, public and private.


A GEP is a set of commitments and actions that aim to promote gender equality in an organisation through institutional and cultural change.

When developing a GEP there are some essential elements – ‘building blocks’ – which must be included.

To comply with the Horizon Europe GEP eligibility criterion, a GEP must meet four mandatory process-related requirements:

1. Public document: The GEP must be a formal document published on the institution’s website, signed by the top management and actively communicated within the institution. It should demonstrate a commitment to gender equality, set clear goals and detailed actions and measures to achieve them.

2. Dedicated resources: a GEP must have dedicated resources and expertise in gender equality to implement the plan. Organisations should consider what type and volume of resources are required to support an ongoing process of sustainable organisational change.

3. Data collection and monitoring: organisations must collect sex/ gender disaggregated data on personnel (and students, for the establishments concerned) with annual reporting based on indicators. Organisations should consider how to select the most relevant indicators, how to collect and analyse the data, including resources to do so, and should ensure that data is published and monitored on an annual basis. This data should inform the GEP’s objectives and targets, indicators, and ongoing evaluation of progress

4. Training: The GEP must also include awareness-raising and training actions on gender equality. These activities should engage the whole organisation and be an evidence-based, ongoing and long-term process. Activities should cover unconscious gender biases training aimed at staff and decision-makers and can also include communication activities and gender equality training that focuses on specific topics or addresses specific groups.

In addition to these four mandatory requirements, there are also five recommended content-related (thematic) areas that organisations may wish to consider in their GEP:

1. Work-life balance and organisational culture: GEPs aim to promote gender equality through the sustainable transformation of organisational culture. Organisations should implement necessary policies to ensure an open and inclusive working environment, the visibility of women in the organisation and externally, and that the contribution of women is properly valued. Inclusive work-life balance policies and practices can also be considered in a GEP, including parental leave policies, flexible working time arrangements and support for caring responsibilities.

2. Gender balance in leadership and decision-making: Increasing the number and share of women in leadership and decision-making positions touches upon all aspects in the GEP. Measures to ensure that women can take on and stay in leadership positions can include providing decision-makers with targeted gender training, adapting processes for selection and appointment of staff on committees, ensuring gender balance through gender quotas, and making committee membership more transparent.

3. Gender equality in recruitment and career progression: Critically reviewing selection procedures and remedying any biases can ensure that women and men get equal chances to develop and advance their careers. Establishing recruitment codes of conduct, involving gender equality officers in recruitment and promotion committees, proactively identifying women in underrepresented fields and considering organisation-wide workload planning models can be important measures to consider in a GEP.

4. Integration of the gender dimension into research and teaching content: The GEP should consider how sex and gender analysis will be included in the research or educational outputs of an organisation. It can set out the organisation’s commitment to incorporating sex and gender in its research priorities, the processes for ensuring that the gender dimension is considered in research and teaching, and the support and capacity provided for researchers to develop methodologies that incorporate sex and gender analysis. Research funding and research performing organisations both have a role to play in ensuring this.

5. Measures against gender-based violence, including sexual harassment: Organisations establishing a GEP should consider taking steps to ensure they have clear institutional policies on

sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence. Policies should establish and codify the expected behaviour of employees, outline how members of the organisation can report instances of gender-based violence and how any such instances will be investigated and sanctions applied. They should also consider how information and support is provided to victims or witnesses and how the whole organisation can be mobilised to establish a culture of zero tolerance toward sexual harassment and violence.

An effective GEP should be founded on a model of change that identifies the problems it seeks to address, their causes and desired outcomes, including targets, it should detail the set of activities that are required to achieve the aims, and indicators to monitor progress.

A GEP should engage the whole organisation, from senior leaders to staff, students (in the case of a teaching organisation) and stakeholders, and it should form ongoing process that encourages self-reflection and review of processes and practices.

All organisations applying for Horizon Europe funding must submit a self-declaration at the proposal stage, through a specific questionnaire confirming they have a GEP in place. This declaration will later be included in the entity validation process. If the four mandatory requirements are met through another strategic document, such as an inclusion or diversity strategy, it will be considered as a GEP equivalent.

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