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Towards gender equality in marine sciences – new means and tested approaches

The EU project Baltic Gender, coordinated by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, has supported and guided change in its eight partner institutions in the Baltic Sea region since 2016 with the aim of reducing gender inequalities. “The results of Baltic Gender come indeed timely in view of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)”, says Professor Katja Matthes, the coordinator of Baltic Gender and the newly designated scientific director of GEOMAR. “The measures and initiatives put into place by Baltic Gender support the transformation of Marine Sciences, which is traditionally a male-dominated field with a significant lack of women in leadership and decision-making positions”, adds Prof. Matthes. 

Baltic Gender supported structural changes in the partner institutions towards more gender equality. “We have published a brochure on structural changes in marine sciences. This brochure includes 13 best practices of measures and activities, which support equal chances, transparent processes and fair cooperation”, says Dr. Iris Werner, the equal opportunity officer at the Kiel University whose team produced the brochure. Baltic Gender also helped to implement one of the first Gender Equality Plans in higher education in Estonia and Lithuania. “Baltic Gender gave the impetus to initiate structural changes at the level of the marine research departments, which are now finding their way into the strategy of the entire university”, say Dr. Viktorija Vaitkevičienė, the chairwomen of the board of Marine Research Institute of the Klaipeda University. Besides, the project reinforced initiatives such as an international mentoring program, workshops and training sessions on topics such as leadership as well as data collection on gender-sensitive indicators. 

“The foremost innovation of Baltic Gender is a new methodology, GenderWave, that examines how the gender perspective can be integrated into the content of marine research”, explains Prof. Matthes. “GenderWave includes a list of questions, elaborated with introductory texts and examples, that can be used by marine researchers while designing their projects. It will be transformed into a digital application to be published in August 2020 and fills a gap for a requirement increasingly prioritized by funding bodies.” explains Helena Valve who is a Senior Researcher at the Finnish Environment Institute and led the development of this new methodology.

On the 18th of June, 2020, Baltic Gender held its final conference as a webinar. More than 250 participants attended the final conference from all over Europe and the rest of the world. Four outcomes were presented, including the brochure on structural changes, the GenderWave methodology, gender-sensitive teaching practices and an initiative for the prevention of sexualized violence on sea-going expeditions. The impulse presentations were followed by a moderated discussion. “These outcomes from our project can be implemented in other marine institutions and even beyond. The presentations as well as the links to the products are available from the project page”, concludes Prof. Matthes. 

“Baltic Gender will end in August 2020, but we believe that the momentum gained in project will continue to make an impact”, says Prof. Matthes. “In the Baltic Gender consortium, we have several ideas of how to sustain this network and implement the results we achieved towards more gender equality in Marine Sciences.” Baltic Gender project webpage Baltic Gender Final Conference Baltic Gender Results