FIX the Institutions

In the course of its restructuring in 2005, the FWF established the Staff Unit for Gender Issues which reports directly to the FWF's Management. This unit includes one academic researcher/analyst and one administrative employee (each 50%) and is responsible for the following tasks:

  • to ensure the quality of data captured and to identify links in existing data; 
  • to increase the visibility of women in science and research;
  • to enhance and expand career opportunities for women in science and research;
  • to increase the number of women among principal investigators and in the FWF's decision-making bodies. 

The FWF's national networking activities in the field of research policy were established within the framework of the genderAG working group in 2007. This multi-organisation working group includes all of the funding agencies housed in the Haus der Forschung building (ACR, CDG, FFG, FWF and JR) and promotes exchanges and discussions on measures to enhance career opportunities and to promote equal opportunities for women. On the basis of the 2008–2010, 2011–2013 and 2014–2016 action plans, a wide variety of activities have been carried out, including events, gender training seminars, etc. The genderAG is currently working on the renewal of the action plan.

In addition to networking in Austria, the FWF has also developed its network at the European level, with particularly strong ties to the DFG and SNSF in the D-A-CH region. Within the framework of the annual D-A-CH meeting, gender issues were established as an agenda item from 2007 onward. Each year, current data are exchanged and recent developments are discussed at the meeting.

Intensive internal discussions also prompted the FWF to include gender-related challenges in research funding (explicitly or implicitly) in three of the eight principles of its corporate policy.

  1. The FWF has shown its commitment to the equal treatment of women and men not only by promoting gender mainstreaming in all areas, but also by implementing specific programmes to foster career development for women.
  2. In light of the unequal distribution of women and men in current research hierarchies, equal opportunities are considered to exist when applications can be submitted without regard to the position or academic degree held by the applicant.
  3. Due to gender segregation across disciplines, this also applies to the principle of equal treatment for all scientific/research disciplines. 1

The genderAG's action plan also included measures to raise awareness both internally and externally. In 2009, these efforts resulted in a gender awareness training seminar in which all employees of the FWF as well as its decision-making bodies discussed current gender issues in internal and external processes. On the basis of its corporate policy and additional priorities agreed upon, the FWF adopted a set of standards for equal treatment(pdf, 175KB) in 2010. These standards also extend to the FWF's external work, that is, research funding and the associated processes such as committee work, the promotion of junior researchers, programme design, peer review and decision-making. In addition, processes within the organisation were also taken into consideration and defined (e.g. the FWF's HR activities). These processes include recruiting, remuneration, further training and education, work-life balance, workplace design and areas such as organisational culture. Another key aspect was the use of language, which is clearly visible on the FWF's web site and in its various documents. For this purpose, a variety of means have been employed, including the use of gender-neutral language on the FWF's web site, in its advertisements for FWF Board members, and in its rules of procedure.

In 2010, the FWF also implemented a self-reflection process based on a number of empirical studies which had analysed the organisation's decision-making processes and carried out a bibliometric analysis of FWF-funded projects. These analyses were reviewed and supplemented by the FWF as well as independent experts such as a research group at ETH Zurich and the Max Planck Society in Munich (Hans-Dieter Daniel, Rüdiger Mutz, Lutz Bornmann), a bibliometric research group at CWTS Leiden and the Institute for Research Information and Quality Assurance (IfQ). All of the findings have been published.

These studies find that women are not subject to a disadvantage in the peer review process in principle, but that they do exhibit a somewhat lower success rate due to multiple factors. On average, women applicants are three years younger than their male counterparts and account for a larger share of independent applicants; in other words, it takes them considerably longer to establish themselves firmly at Austrian research institutions. 2

In their study, Mutz et al. (2012) 3 concentrated on the FWF's peer review process and also analysed gender effects. The study clearly shows that the FWF Board's decisions are not influenced by the applicant's gender or gender combinations between applicants and reviewers. However, a "salience effect" was identified in connection with women reviewers. This means that the probability of approval declines when at least half of the reviews are prepared by women. This effect was especially prevalent in the middle range of ratings. However, the effect exhibits only very low significance, and the root cause has not yet been identified. Therefore, additional research will be conducted on these effects as soon as larger numbers of cases are available.

Within the organisation, the FWF attained a fairly balanced ratio between women and men in its decision-making bodies in 2013. The share of women on the Supervisory Board, and Executive Board is nearly 50%. The Assembly of Delegates has a share of 36% and the FWF Board 39%. The share of women staff members at the FWF is  69%, meaning that there is an above-average number of women at all levels of the organisation's hierarchy (department and division heads).