Gender equality

... or how to fit the elephant into the giraffe's house

A giraffe and an elephant liked each other and wanted to work together. But when the giraffe invited the elephant to his home, problems started. The house was designed for the giraffe, with tall ceilings and narrow doorways. When the elephant tried to get into the house he got stuck in the door. When he moved around in the house, the stairs cracked and the walls started to crumble.


"The problem is" said the giraffe, "that you are too big for my doorways. You should take Aerobic classes to get down to size. You are too heavy for my stairs; if you'd go to ballet class, I'm sure we could get you light on your feet." The elephant did not agree. He thought that the house was the problem. (Read the complete fable by R. Roosevelt Thomas jr.)

In BACCHUS, we are actively working on building a house convenient and fitting for both the giraffe and the elephant!

Gender monitoring in BACCHUS

The gender situation within the BACCHUS consortium has been evaluated on an annual basis and the overview over the entire project is presented here. In the figure the number of personnel is shown as a total headcount and accounts for all persons active in the project at any time during the project (column ALL). This includes personnel not obtaining their salaries from the project as well as all PI's, head of groups and professors. From a total of 192 persons participating in the project, a fraction of 32% was female showing a gender imbalance.
For the evaluation of the development of active personnel in the respective project years between 2013 and 2018, all participants obtaining their salaries from BACCHUS were considered, but only unpaid activities of PI's, head of groups and professors for the purpose of gaining a comparable number of active personnel throughout the project as shown in in columns 2013 to 2018. The total number of personnel has increased from a minimum of 67 at the beginning of the project in December 2013 to a maximum of 131 participants in 2015 and shows hiring in the first two years of the project. This period coincides with the most active phases of the project with the field campaigns. This required additional hiring of personnel (e.g. student assistants and technicians during campaigns) for the activities in all work packages. The female fraction increased from 28% in 2013 to a maximum of 32% towards the project end and with a total number of active personnel of 69 persons in 2018. The increase in the female fraction shows that although only to a small extent the gender actions were successful.

Separation of the categories in experienced researchers, PhD students and Other shows that researchers on the junior level (PhD students) are represented in the project as equal numbers for female and male employees. However, on the experienced researcher level, a large gap occurs with less than one third (26%) female researchers in the BACCHUS consortium. However, this number does not represent the situation at all ranks of experienced researchers. For example, on the Postdoc level 38% of the employees were female (11 out of 29 participants) and it points to the fact that the discrepancy is due to the large number of male PI's (only 21% female), head of groups and professors, which were part of BACCHUS from the beginning of the project and many of which contributed as unpaid personnel. The effect of this group becomes clear from the fraction of only 30% females in the unpaid personnel category.
On the management level (Steering Committee (SC) and work package (WP) leaders) the BACCHUS project is well balanced with a femal project coordinator.
The recruiting for the BACCHUS project shows also a good balance with a fraction of 48% female personnel, also with balanced numbers of hired males and females on the PhD (3 out of 7 female) and Postdoc (5 out of 6 female) level.

The gender actions performed during BACCHUS were successful and the status on the project level is promising for the future. However, further actions are necessary for a good gender balance in research to decrease the imbalance on the level of experienced researchers on the long term.

EU FP7 seeks to promote gender equality by:

  • Actively promoting the role of women in science - target of 40% women's participation at all levels has been set

  • Equally addressing women's and men's realities as an integral part of the research to ensure the highes level of scientifc quality: "Wherever human beings are involved in the research (as consumers, users, and patient) gender will be an issue and should be considered and addressed."

From: Toolkit: Gender in EU-funded research, 2009.

from: FP7 fact sheets

How we, in BACCHUS, tried to reduce the gender gap:

1. Avoiding gender bias in job descriptions

2. Avoiding gender bias in letters of recommendation

Further practical measures in BACCHUS towards reducing the gender gap:

  • Monitor and document gender progress at all organisational levels of the project on an annual basis,

  • Follow the EC checklist of the FP7 gender toolkit

  • One day workshop for workpackage leaders on gender equality and implicit gender biases at the Annual Meeting 2015, see also Events

  • Promotion of excellent female postdocs to repsonsible tasks

  • Avoid gender imbalance for presentations at Annual Meetings

  • Reconcile work and private life by organizing events and meetings to allow travelling on weekdays only and providing video/teleconference options for regular meetings

  • Mentoring program for women scientists in early career stages was implemented

  • Collaboration with equal opportunity offices at the universities of the consortium members

Read more on the actions and situation in BACCHUS in the Gender Action Plan, Mid-term Report on Gender Equality and Diversity and Final Report on Gender Equality and Diversity


Interesting to read ...


  • Talent at stake. Changing the culture of research - gender-sensitive leadership, Committee for Gender Balance in Research, editors: Lina M. Rustad and Annes Winsnes Rodland, Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, 2010. Available here

  • First FP7 Monitoring Report,European Commission,2009. Available here