EU parliamentarians want suggestions

2012-05-30 08:30

‘Let us know if you have any suggestions,’ said Kent Johansson from the Centre Party when the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research arranged a seminar in the EU Parliament on future EU research policy.

The new EU framework programme for research and innovation Horizon 2020 will go into effect in 2014, and right now the Commission, Council and Parliament are in the process of determining the exact wording of it. The Commission presented its draft in the autumn of 2011. This year the draft is being discussed in the Council and in the Parliament, and the final version of Horizon 2020 will be presented in 2013.

The Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research has submitted comments on the Commission’s draft, and arranged (together with VINNOVA) a seminar in the European Parliament to inform parliamentarians, the Commission and other stakeholders about the relevance of a gender perspective in European research and innovation policy. The seminar had a particular focus on what climate research has to benefit from a gender perspective.

‘The focus on societal challenges in Horizon 2020 is great,’ says Kerstin Alnebratt, Director of the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research. ’However, at first there was no gender perspective at all, which was very disappointing. The current draft is better in this respect, but there is still room for improvement.’

At the seminar, several researchers gave presentations on the consequences of including a gender perspective in climate research. It is clear that women and men contribute to climate change to different extents. Men eat more meat and take the car more often, while women are more prone to use public transport. If you look at the entire production chain, meat is the type of food that contributes the most to CO2 emissions.

Men enjoy meat and driving

‘Historically, meat has symbolised power, and men have more power,’ says Annika Carlsson-Kanyama, researcher at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, FOI. ‘And cars are also related to power.’

The differences are largely due to men having more money, and therefore greater consumption opportunities, than women. A study by Carlsson-Kanyama on single men and single women reveals that the difference in energy consumption between men and women is 20 percent.

‘The difference is particularly large when it comes to transportation. Compared to women, men are more likely to drive even if they are single.’

Many studies show that women are unable to influence contexts linked to climate change. Carlsson-Kanyama studied large energy companies and found that one-third of Swedish energy companies and practically all German counterparts lack female board members. She emphasises that there is a lot of research indicating that women are more interested in solving environmental problems than men.

‘Therefore, if we want to reduce emissions, the large energy companies are very important.’

Carlsson-Kanyama’s wish list includes gendered energy statistics, gender-adjusted transport policy and more women in energy companies.

Strong research in northern Europe

The European Institute for Gender Equality, EIGE, has authored a report on climate and gender equality. It shows statistics on the shares of women and men who are part of making decisions that concern climate change at different levels. It also shows the number of women and men who study science and engineering at the university level and therefore may be able to help reduce climate change.

Most of the very limited research on climate and gender has been conducted in the Nordic countries, according to Ioana Borza, gender equality expert at EIGE.

‘Stronger general support for gender research implies more research on the gender perspective in the area of climate change. The Nordic countries are very broad in both gender and climate research.’

Gender-blind climate research

The UN climate negotiations have largely focused on the awareness that women further south are being struck harder than men by climate change, according to the German researcher Gotelind Alber, who is engaged in the organisation Gender CC – Women for Climate Justice. It has been more difficult to gain support for the idea that women’s knowledge should be better utilised to combat climate change. Alber also feels that we must not simplify the discussion too much:

‘It’s important that the discussion doesn’t reinforce gender stereotypes. The gender analysis must reach beyond a mere division between men and women. We must also explore the origin of the differences.’

Alber pointed out that most climate research is conducted by men in the fields of science and engineering and is gender blind.

‘The research is blind to social dimensions. What the researchers are looking for is a technical super solution that will solve all problems.’

Gender-aware research is mainly found in the social sciences and humanities. It is focused on influence and vulnerability, and is often theoretical in nature. Case studies often tend to become anecdotal, says Gotelind Alber.

‘If you relate it to Horizon 2020, it illustrates the same division as found there . We need to bring research groups from different traditions together in order to bridge the knowledge gap.’

She would for example like to see more studies on the gender perspective in the field of climate change in middle- and high-income countries and in cities, and on how to gender mainstream the funding of climate measures.

A need for increased pressure

Viviane Willis-Mazzichi heads the gender sector of the European Commission. The Commission’s draft of Horizon 2020 includes gender as an overarching dimension in research. The Commission shall also work to increase the number of female recipients of research funding as well as the female participation in the allocation of research funding.

‘We’re moving in the right direction, but it’s a slow process. We need to increase the pressure when it comes to these issues.’

The EU parliamentarians Kent Johansson from the Centre Party, Marita Ulvskog from the Social Democrats and Britta Thomsen from the Danish Social Democrats attended the seminar and encouraged everybody to submit comments on Horizon 2020. They promised to keep promoting the gender perspective.

‘We must remember that there are large groups in the Parliament that don’t want to discuss gender perspectives, let alone funding of it,’ says Marita Ulvskog. ‘But we’ll keep pushing the issue and do appreciate input.’

‘It is important that we know exactly how you want to word things when we negotiate between the Parliament and the Council,’ says Kent Johansson. ‘There are discussions about budget changes within Horizon 2020. Please let us know if you have any suggestions.’

At the seminar, the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research gave a presentation on how gender as an overarching dimension can reach a real impact through the use of mandatory indicators in connection with calls for applications for and assessment and evaluation of research Projects.

Author Bosse Parbring
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