Action plans for equality and diversity

(Illustration: iStockphoto)

All public institutions in Norway are obliged to promote gender equality and diversity through active, targeted and planned work. They must also give a yearly account of their efforts. In addition, EU is introducing a new policy making Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) an eligibility criterion for funding.

On this site we first present the national policy instruments on how universities, university colleges and research institutes are expected to work with gender equality. We then present the European Commission's Horizon Europe criteria for Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) and lastly we list the Norwegian higher education institutions' action plans.

National policy instruments for equality

European Union's criteria for gender equality plans (GEPs)

Overview of action plans at Norwegian higher education institutions

National policy instruments for equality

Norway has several national policy instruments for gender equality and diversity in research and higher education.

Norwegian laws:

  • The activity and reporting duty in the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act (section 24 and 26) requires all public employers and all private employers with more than 50 employees to make active, targeted and systematic efforts to ensure gender equality.
  • The Act relating to universities and university colleges contains a gender equality section (section 6-2) that restates some of the contents of the activity and reporting duty.

More in Laws and regulations

More policy instruments and tools in Norway:

  • One of six current priorities of the European Research Area (ERA) is gender equality and the inclusion of gender dimension in research. This imposes a duty on the Norwegian research sector.
  • The Research Council of Norway has a policy for gender balance and gender perspectives in research. It also has a Programme on Gender Balance in Senior Positions and Research Management (BALANSE), which supports research institutions in their effort to improve gender balance in Norwegian research.
  • Annual letters of allocation from the Ministry of Education and Research to the higher education sector state that the ministry expects institutions to work actively to promote equal career opportunities for women and men in Norwegian academia and to facilitate greater diversity.
  • Since 2004, the Ministry of Education and Research has had a dedicated Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (KIF), which supports and issues recommendations on measures that can help to mainstream gender equality and diversity efforts in university and university college institutions and research institutes, thereby increasing diversity among staff and in the research itself.

Why is equality important? Check out arguments to promote gender equality and ethnic diversity in academia

The activity duty and the duty to issue a statement

All Norwegian employers are obliged to work actively, targeted and systematically to promote equality and prevent discrimination in the workplace. From 2020, the activity duty legislation was expanded and made more comprehensive.

For instance, the activity duty shall now include a gender pay gap review every two years and the institutions are obliged to map the use of involuntary part-time work based on gender.

The activity duty
A four-step working method was introduced as a tool to improve the activity duty. All public sector employers and private sector employers of a certain size (50+ employees) must comply with this method. This includes most of the universities, university colleges and research institutes in Norway.

The four-step working method consists of the following steps:
A) investigate whether there is a risk of discrimination or other barriers to equality including by reviewing pay conditions by reference to gender and the use of involuntary part-time work every two years,
B) analyse the causes of identified risks,
C) implement measures suited to counteract discrimination and promote greater equality and diversity in the undertaking, and
D) evaluate the results of efforts made pursuant to a) to c).

The duty to issue a statement
All the institutions who have to comply with the four-step working method (activity duty) must issue a statement on the institutions’ status in two parts:

  1. The actual status of gender equality at the institutions.
  2. The work they have done on the activity duty.

The statement on equality and anti-discrimination must be a public document.

Read more at the equality and anti-discrimination ombud

EU's criteria for gender equality plans

With Horizon Europe, the European Commission reaffirms its commitment to gender equality in research and innovation. The legal base sets gender equality as a crosscutting priority and introduces strengthened provisions.

There are three main levels at which gender equality is considered in Horizon Europe:

  • Public bodies, research organisations and higher education establishments will be required to have a gender equality plan (GEP) in place to be eligible for funding.
  • The integration of the gender dimension into research and innovation content becomes a requirement by default across the whole programme.
  • Particular attention will be paid to ensure gender balance in evaluation panels and in other relevant advisory bodies, such as boards and expert groups.

Read: Horizon Europe Guidance on Gender Equality Plans
Read more: Gender equality: a strengthened commitment in Horizon Europe

GEP eligibility criterion

When will the criterion be enforced?

For calls with deadlines in 2022 and beyond, once a project proposal is selected for funding following evaluations, consortium partners concerned by the eligibility criterion will have until Grant Agreement signature to confirm they have a GEP in place.
Regarding countries, the requirement concerns organisations from EU Member States and associated Countries.

Non-associated third countries are not concerned.

A consortium partner having declared they do not have a GEP cannot participate in a Horizon Europe project. If the beneficiary has a key role in the grant agreement, a beneficiary termination could trigger that the entire project may have to be terminated.

Which organisations are concerned by the GEP eligibility criterion?

Three categories of legal entities used in EU programmes are concerned by this requirement:

  • public bodies, including e.g. ministries, research funding organisations, municipalities, as well as public-for-profit organisations such as certain museums
  • research organisations (both public and private)
  • higher education establishments (both public and private)

How to comply a GEP?

To comply with the eligibility criterion, a GEP must meet four mandatory process-related requirements or ‘building blocks’.

Mandatory requirements for a GEP:

  1. Be a public document.
  2. Have dedicated resources.
  3. Include arrangements for data collection and monitoring.
  4. Be supported by training and capacity-building.

In addition to these mandatory process-related requirements, the European Commission recommend five thematic areas for content.

Five recommended thematic areas:

  • work-life balance and organisational culture
  • gender balance in leadership and decision-making
  • gender equality in recruitment and career progression
  • integration of the gender dimension into research and teaching content
  • measures against gender-based violence including sexual harassment

Read more: European Commission: Gender equality in research and innovation

What are the differences between the Norwegian requirements and the EU GEP criterion?

How does the GEP eligibility criterion fit in with the national requirements in Norway – such as the activity duty and the duty to issue a statement in the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act? Are the Norwegian requirements for gender equality in accordance with EUs GEP requirements?

Some questions and answers:

What if the mandatory requirements are fulfilled in another type of official document, or action plans for equality and diversity?

If the four mandatory requirements (building blocks) for the GEP are met through another strategic document, such as a development plan or an inclusion or diversity strategy, it can indeed be considered as an equivalent. 

In the latter case, we would then recommend that this information be gathered in a specific summary document which would be accessible on the organisations’ public website.

Does the GEP need to be in English?

No, the GEP can be in the national language(s) used in the organization.

What are the modalities for a legal entity to declare it has a GEP?

A self-declaration will be requested at proposal stage. It will take the form of an online questionnaire listing the four mandatory process-related GEP requirements (building blocks) as well as the five recommended thematic areas.
The questionnaire should be filled by the legal entity’s authorised representative (LEAR), only once, in principle, for the duration of the Framework Programme, unless the status of the legal entity changes.

Read more: Gender Equality Plans (GEPs): Frequently Asked Questions

Overview of action plans

33 accredited universities and university colleges were member institutions in Universities Norway (UHR) in October 2020.
Measures for gender equality and as well as diversity among students and employees are two of the areas of discrimination in the institutions' actions plans. All over, gender equality is the area with the main focus for most institutions.

Some of the Norwegian universities and university colleges have translated their action plans for gender equality and diversity into English. We present them here.

Universities

Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)
Action plan: Equality, diversity and inclusion at NMBU 2018-2021

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Gender equality at NTNU
Policy for Gender Equality and Diversity 2018-2021

University of Agder
Equality, Inclusion and Diversity - Plan of action for UiA 2021-2024

University of Bergen
Gender Equality Action Plan
Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan

University of Oslo
Gender equality initiatives
Action Plan for diversity, equality and inclusion 2021-2024

University Colleges

NHH Norwegian School of Economics
Action plan for improved gender equality in Academic Positions

VID Specialized University
Gender Equality and Diversity Action Plan 2019 - 2021

BI Norwegian Business School
Diversity and Equality at BI – action plan 2020–2022

The complete list of GEPs in Norwegian HEIs can be found here

See also action plans to combat sexual harassment

Facts

According to the Norwegian Gender Equality Act all enterprises that are subject to a statutory duty are obliged to give an annual account of the actual state of affairs regarding gender equality in the enterprise. An account shall also be given of measures that have been implemented as well as planned measures in order to promote gender equality and to prevent differential treatment of men and women.

This law pertains to all public research and higher education institutions in Norway.