The BALANSE initiative was passed over when the Norwegian Government presented its national budget proposal on 6 October.
“Due to a tight budget, funding to follow up the initiative was not available at this time,” says Minister of Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland.
Anders Hanneborg, Executive Director of the Division for Science at the Research Council, says that they don’t have all the details on the proposed national budget, but they have noted that the BALANSE project is not mentioned specifically.
“We can probably assume that we won’t get a separate initiative on gender balance like we had hoped,” says Hanneborg.
No separate initiative
The BALANSE pre-project was launched this year at the initiative of the Research Council. The funding plan for the BALANSE initiative budgeted a total of NOK 20 million in 2012, which included NOK 10 million from the Ministry of Education and Research, NOK 5 million from the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, and NOK 5 million from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The programme period was set from 2012 up to and including 2018. The Government has not followed this up in its budget proposal.
“The Research Council had wanted to establish a separate initiative for these efforts, but we see that the Government has not prioritized in the way we had hoped. Now the question is what we can accomplish without a separate initiative,” he says.
Integrate the efforts to promote gender balance?
According to Hanneborg, there are several ways that the Research Council can work to promote gender balance in senior positions and research management.
“We can continue our efforts even though we won’t have a separate initiative at this time. The challenge now is how we can follow up some of the objectives of the BALANSE initiative through the Research Council’s funding instruments,” he believes.
“This is bad news,” says Gerd Bjørhovde, chair of the Committee for Gender Balance in Research (KIF).
The Research Council’s initiative on gender balance was a response to something the committee had been seeking for several years.
“The committee used to think that the Research Council was too passive in its efforts to promote gender balance and gender equality, both in terms of the institution itself and within the projects. But this changed for the better a couple of years ago,” she says.
The Research Council’s programmes have lacked a gender balance perspective. However, thanks to the Research Council’s initiative on Gender Balance in Senior Positions and Research Management (BALANSE), the KIF Committee has gone from being an external catalyst to an integrated partner in the institution’s efforts to increase the proportion of women in top-level positions.
What about next year’s budget proposal?
While it’s regrettable that the Government did not prioritize funding for a separate BALANSE initiative, the chair of the KIF Committee believes that the Research Council can still choose to make a concerted effort in this area.
“I’m pleased that Hanneborg won’t take no for an answer, and says instead that the Research Council must give priority to gender balance regardless,” Bjørhovde emphasizes.
“The KIF Committee will continue to support the initiative, and we need to have BALANSE as a concept. The Research Council must not give up even though this time the Government didn’t prioritize the initiative. Maybe the Government will keep some good measures on the backburner, which they can fund in next year’s budget proposal when it’s an election year,” she wonders.
Translated by Connie Stultz.
The Research Council’s initiative on Gender Balance in Senior Positions and Research Management (BALANSE) launched its own webpages in March 2011.