Process

The evidence that we wish to highlight includes primarily recent empirical studies, critical reviews and evaluations of examples of 'good practice'. The evidence about the different ways in which women's and men's careers in science develop, and the roles each plays, has been accumulating for many years, and is often discussed as part of the 'leaky pipeline' phenomenon.

More recently, it has been recognised that it is important to understand and raise awareness of how excellence in science can be compromised if gender bias, e.g. ‘male’ accepted as the norm, and gender blindness, e.g. exclusion of males/females from studies, are not challenged. The same considerations apply to the innovation process.

Our work is organised around a process consisting of four key elements: EVIDENCE, DIALOUGUE, CONSENSUS and ACTIONS

The evidence becomes the driver for a dialogue that is of interest and can involve a range of key actors (policy makers, scientists, gender experts), agreement on evidence results in a consensus on what needs to be done and why, and on the best actions that can be taken. When actions are evaluated, the evidence gets stronger or new gaps are uncovered in our understanding.

Concerns about gender issues have been historically investigated by the social sciences.  The evidence of gender bias in the life and clinical sciences, which emerged in the last 10-15 years, promoted interest in gender issues in connection to health.  The dialogue that Portia is promoting advances these developments further by raising awareness of the impact on quality of research and innovation and includes all relevant stakeholders.

When framing the content of the dialogue, we follow and respond to policy developments and emerging issues as well as trends in research and innovation.  For example, the 2nd European Gender Summit is used to introduce three new themes to the gender discourse: age, gender as a 'big ticket' time, and creating a gender equality standard for research and innovation.

Portia has developed a consensus seminar process based on the consensus conference model to enable multi-stakeholder discussion and consultation on different aspects of gender issues in science where contrasting views exist.

This was successfully tested in the gensET project, where 14 science leaders represented the "lay" group, world renowned gender research scholars represented the "experts", and science institution, industry and policy makers represented the "public".  

We use research evidence as the reason for reaching a consensus.  This is the closest approach to how science itself functions.  The consensus seminars can be adopted to other circumstances, for example where different actors (e.g. national policy, institutional governance, and local or regional policies) need to establish common agreement on specific issue. 

We would be happy to assist organisations in adopting the consensus seminars model to their needs.  Please contact us to discuss your interests.

Among the significant actions we have introduced was the formation of the genSET Science Leaders Panel as a way of bringing into the discourse on gender in science the views of science leaders.  Their task was to  consider gender research evidence, agree where improvements were needed and recommend what actions institutions should take to address common gender issues. Details can be found on the genSET website.  Since its publication in 2010, the science leaders' report, Recommendations for Action on the Gender Dimension in Science has been adopted by a number of institutions across Europe as the guiding principles for gender equality work, and has been widely recognised as an example of 'best practice'.  It has subsequently contributed to the Manifesto for Action on the Gender Dimension in Research and Innovation.