Gender quotas & positive action: An attack on meritocracy? – An Open Forum on structural incentives for gender balance in research organisations

20 March 2024 dalle ore 14:00 alle ore 15:30

When: 20 March 2024 14:00-15:30 CET

Where: Online

Speaker: Professor Cristina Solera, CIRSDe, University of Turin


Tackling gender imbalances in research is vital for inclusivity and women's career progression. In this Open Forum, we will share and discuss the contents of our second policy brief – exploring the contentious topic of positive action, assessing arguments for and against, drawing insights from MINDtheGEPs' Gender Equality Plan development.


Despite EU efforts, gender disparities persist in research institutions. Positive action is proposed to address the imbalance, but concerns about protecting the meritocracy are an obstacle to acceptance. However, evidence is challenging the notion that merit is impartial, revealing biases favouring men. With this policy brief and Open Forum, we target diverse stakeholders, emphasizing the need for consensus-building to efficiently introduce economic incentives for reducing gender gaps. Decision-makers must engage in dialogue, negotiation, and discussions to navigate the complexities surrounding gender quotas and positive action. During this Open Forum, we will provide insights and recommendations drawn from some innovative actions implemented within MINDtheGEPs' Gender Equality Plans, including how to tackle resistances and risks.


The recommendations are published in the MINDtheGEPs policy brief series - Gender quotas & positive action: An attack on meritocracy? – Structural incentives for gender balance in research organisations


Read more and register for the Open Forum on 20 March 2024

Gender quotas & positive action: An attack on meritocracy? A MINDtheGEPs Policy Brief

Taking steps to address gender imbalances is essential to ensure women's career progress and promote diverse and inclusive research environments. Positive action (sometimes referred to as positive discrimination or affirmative action) is widely acknowledged as a crucial tool for achieving this goal. However, resistance persists, and opinions diverge about which are the most effective and valid strategies. Do gender quotas or economic incentives challenge meritocracy? Can balancing the numbers really improve institutions and knowledge? 

This policy brief provides an overview of the multifaceted debate around positive action, the arguments for, arguments against, and pathways for implementation. The policy brief draws insight from the Gender Equality Plan development process of and interviews performed by MINDtheGEPs. It ends by presenting two case studies from Italian universities.

The policy brief will be presented during the MINDtheGEPs Open Forum on 20 March.

The policy brief is published on Zenodo: Solera, Cristina., Cipriani, Nastassja., & Holm Bodin, Anna. (2023). Gender quotas & positive action: An attack on meritocracy?. Zenodo. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.10370468


Read more & download the policy brief