1. Oct. 2015

“Female cancer” can also endanger men. The seemingly paradoxical statement  is not only true but also summarizes one of the areas of a significant European project LIBRA focused on gender balance in science and research, in which CEITEC Brno is involved  together with twelve European institutions. It focuses not only on how to ensure equal opportunities to male and female scientists, but also on how to take into account gender in the experiments themselves.

The long-term aim of the project LIBRA is to remove barriers and biases discriminating mainly women (but not only them) and increase the involvement of women in science and their participation in leading positions by means of direct support. “We are looking for ways of how to bring  and develop talented male and female scientists in CEITEC, and ease the barriers that comes with the balance of career and family life. We believe that a correctly set system of  gender equality support will help us become a global institute,” says Markus Dettenhofer, the Executive Director of CEITEC, which is one of the first institutes of its kind in the Czech Republic to be dealing with equal opportunities in the long run.

Three out of the four key activities of the project LIBRA are also set into these areas: hiring male and female scientists, career development and harmony of family and professional life. “LIBRA is another step forward for us in this direction. CEITEC has been dealing specifically with the gender question for a long time. For example several years ago it started directly supporting mothers on maternity leave. We are supporting part-time jobs so that they don´t lose touch with the scientific environment while looking after their children,” explains Eliška Pudová, project manager of CEITEC. As a scientific environment is very specific, the activities taken by CEITEC in this area are also specific. The measures that CEITEC is implementing also continue to show more and more barriers which women, and often also men have, when working in a scientific institute. “We want bring out the best in  our scientists and staff, and if they happen to have a small child, our system of support has to be set in such a way so that it is not an obstacle,” adds Markus Dettenhofer. 

Very interesting results can be also expected in the fourth area of the project, which is focused on gender dimension in research projects in compliance with new priorities of the European Commission. Lately it has been shown that sex and gender are two potential critical factors in the case of research methods. Although the results of experiments can significantly vary based on sex, this aspect has been rather neglected or overlooked so far. The research of HPV infection (Human Papilloma Virus) and the development of a vaccine by the European Institute of Oncology can serve as a specific example. As the virus causes, among others, cervical cancer, very often we speak only about “female cancer” and the prevention has been focused on women only. The same virus is no less dangerous for men, with whom an increase in head and throat carcinoma connected with the HPV virus has been recorded lately. Therefore the vaccination programme should focus not only on female but also male population. As the final result, based on considering the aspect of sex/gender, scientific knowledge improves its quality, scientific results are more precise and finance is saved considerably which is important.   

At the beginning of the project LIBRA, which starts this October, the status quo of all partners will be assessed (statistics based on sex, active policy and activities relevant for the project). Based on this, Gender Equality Plans will be made and will be implemented in the course of the project combined with key activities.