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07 Mar 2022

Science granting councils: Leading the way in gender and inclusivity

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

A regional consortium of experts with a unique approach to change is working with science granting councils (SGCs) in Sub-Saharan Africa to strengthen their capacity to advance gender and inclusivity in the region’s science, technology and innovation sector (STI) – with anticipated benefits for broader society. 

Led by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) of South Africa in partnership with Gender at Work, and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), the Gender and Inclusivity Project aims to address the fact that despite enabling global, regional and national policy and legislative frameworks, only 30% of researchers in the region are women; female representation in science academies ranges from 4-13%; and data to monitor attainment of gender-related Sustainable Development Goals are frequently non-existent.

According to Dr Ingrid Lynch, Senior Research Specialist in the HSRC’s Human and Social Capabilities programme and co-principal investigator of the project, addressing gender disparities in STI can have a positive impact on society. 

“There has been growing awareness that addressing gender disparities in STI is not only a question of rights and justice, but helps to produce more inclusive teams in organisations, higher quality research, and greater relevance and impact of research and innovation – with obvious benefits for society more broadly,” says Lynch. 

Through its focus on SGCs, the project acknowledges the pivotal role of these bodies in national innovation systems. “Councils take part in setting and monitoring national research agendas and are well-placed to stimulate research designs and content responsive to gender inequality through funding projects informed by a gender transformative lens,” Lynch says. 

Intended to facilitate sustained structural change, the project advocates for the mainstreaming of an intersectional transformative approach, one that extends diversity beyond gender to include inequalities related to age, race, class, (dis)ability and sexuality, and others. A unique peer-learning methodology – Gender Action Learning – is underpinned by a customised, participatory process that responds to councils’ own change agendas, builds partnerships and encourages ownership over the change process. This methodology, developed by Gender at Work, will see participating SGC members, under guidance from consortium members, leading change projects in their institutions, the outcomes of which will be shared to promote wider uptake of gender and inclusivity issues. 

“In this way, learning is more likely to be embedded and lead to sustained shifts at both individual and systemic levels,” emphasises Michal Friedman from Gender at Work.

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)