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 within a fair and equitable ecosystem.

Mandated within the Horizon Europe framework programme, participating stakeholders such as research organisations and higher education institutions, both private and public, from EU Member States and associated countries, must have a Gender Equality Plan (GEP) or equivalent strategy in place to be eligible to calls for proposals from 2022 and beyond. For compliance with the Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation 2021-2027, four mandatory process requirements must be met, Figure 1:

Figure 1; the four criteria for Gender Equality Compliance (GEP) are:  1.Megaphone image representing a 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.	A hand elevating a euro coin to represent 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. A pie chart representing data collection and monitoring - organisations must collect sex/ gender disaggregated data on personnel 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.A light bulb and wheel cogs representing GEP awareness and 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.
Figure 1: Obligatory organisational GEP criteria under the Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation 2021-2027.

In tandem with these requirements, a number of cultural operational themes are recommended, as summarised in Figure 2.1

Figure 2:  The following five thematic areas are recommended by the European Commission for GEP content. An image of a weighing scales representing work-life balance and organisational culture: 	Four hands in a circle representing gender balance in leadership and decision-making. A cartoon representing a pyramid of workers to promote gender equality in recruitment and career progression. A cartoon to represent the lab/teaching activities to promote the integration of the gender dimension into research and teaching content. A dart board image to represent the focus to act on measures against gender-based violence including sexual harassment
Figure 2: EU recommended GEP themes under Horizon Europe.

SFI Gender Equality Plan Compliance

Valuing equity within the workplace, SFI is committed to promoting a culture of  fairness, openness and inclusivity within. Building on the assessment of our existing Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)-related policies and procedures and the results of our organisational EDI survey, the agency have developed and published SFI’s EDI Internal Strategy 2023-2028.2

Furthermore, working towards the agency’s vision of attaining an inclusive research and innovation system and building on work previously undertaken as part SFI’s Gender Strategy3, SFI have published their External EDI Strategy 2023-2028.4

Both strategies encompass a goal to remove barriers to inclusion across the work place, science and society, including those not only rooted in gender but also other areas of inequity, to promote both a diverse and equitable workplace and wider research culture. Reflecting the Irish Government’s vision and commitment to EDI as detailed in national research and innovation strategy, Impact 20305 and in-line with SFI’s own principles for fair and equitable processes and the GEP requirements and thematic goals outlined under Horizon Europe, the strategies put forward a clear vision for EDI policy realisation including monitoring, education and implementation.

Table 1 summarises the mandatory requirements that SFI have met in accordance with new eligibility criteria to access Horizon Europe instruments.

Table 1: SFI Horizon Europe GEP Compliance

CriterionSFI Compliance

Formal Public Document

Published on the organisation’s  website  signed by top management and actively communicated within the institution

Internal and External EDI Strategies, approved by Executive Committee and Management Board. Both are publicly available through the following:

Dedicated Resources

A commitment to provide sufficient resources and expertise in gender equality for implementation

Dedicated personnel and resources in place to support  plan monitoring and the implementation of both EDI strategies;

Data Collection or Monitoring

The strategy should be informed by collecting and analysing sex-disaggregated data on personnel and organisations should report progress annually based on specific indicators
Data is monitored, collected and updated across the organisation and informs both internal and external EDI evaluation, processes and actions across all equitability grounds

Training and Capacity Building

The strategy must include awareness-raising and training activities on gender equality for the whole organisation and training on unconscious gender biases for staff and decision-makers

EDI training programmes for all SFI staff throughout the organisation to increase awareness of EDI dimensions, including unconscious bias, microaggressions and inclusive language. More broadly, SFI is developing and implementing guidance and training (for SFI staff, applicants, and reviewers) to ensure capacity is developed to support the progression of sex- and gender-based analysis (SGA) and the introduction of other elements of diversity into its funded research.