Working Group on Gender and Diversity

Women and men are equally able to perform excellent frontier research. This is the view of ERC Scientific Council. Each process within the ERC - from creating awareness about the ERC to signing of grant agreements – is designed to give equal opportunities to men and women. To monitor gender balance in ERC calls, in 2008, the ERC set up a dedicated working group. 

In 2021, the Scientific Council decided to extend the scope of the working group to cover diversity in addition to gender equality. This is intended to ensure that the ERC promotes diversity and prevents any form of discrimination in its structures and operations, in line with Article 21 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

Meetings and decisions

The Scientific Council may set up new Working Groups and discontinue existing ones in response to changing requirements. The Standing Committees and Working Groups meet normally several times per year in conjunction with Scientific Council plenary meetings or ERC Board meetings and can also work electronically. They report periodically on their work and conclusions to the plenary of the Scientific Council. Decisions taken by Committees and Working Groups must be confirmed by the Scientific Council to be formally adopted.


ERC Gender Equality Plan


The Working Group on Gender and Diversity drafted the ERC Gender Equality Plan 2021-20272014-2020 and 2007-2013, endorsed by the ERC Scientific Council.

Main objectives of the ERC Scientific Council Gender Equality Plan: 

  •  raising awareness about the ERC gender policy among potential applicants;
  •  working towards improving gender balance among ERC candidates and within ERC-funded research teams;
  •  identifying and removing any potential gender bias in the ERC evaluation procedures;
  •  embedding gender awareness within all levels of the ERC processes  - while keeping focus on excellence;
  •  striving for gender balance among the ERC peer reviewers and other relevant ERC bodies.



Activities on the working group

The Working Group has commissioned two studies:

  •  Gender aspects in career structures and career paths
  •  ERC proposal submission, peer review and gender mainstreaming

The Working Group organised three events in 2013, 2020, and 2023:


Measures and practices to improve gender balance

  • The ERC has introduced a measure about parental leave whereby female applicants' eligibility window is extended by 18 months per child. For example, if a female scientists has one child, and she obtained her PhD 8 years earlier, she can still apply for a Starting Grant grant (8 - 1.5 year of parental leave = 6.5 year of professional experience after PhD)
  • Female ERC grantees are also often asked to explain their ERC experience and to showcase their ERC-funded research, to promote female participation in the ERC and encourage more women to apply for ERC calls by creating female role-models.
  • The model grant agreement (see article 33) also binds the ERC beneficiary to promote gender equality. Beneficiaries should aim, to the extent possible, for a gender balance at all levels of personnel, including at supervisory and managerial level.
  • Gender actions and gender data on applicants and grantees


  • Gender statistics (data as from June 2022) 
  • The lower share of women in the ERC calls mirrors the overall situation in science in Europe
  •  From 2007 – 2016, around 26% of all ERC applicants and 23% of all ERC grantees were women (see statistics)
  •  In the 2014 ERC Consolidator Grant call, the overall success rate of women was for the first time higher than men  


ERC Executive Agency secretariat: Severina Shopova, Unit for Support to the Scientific Council

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Tackling gender bias in research institutes

In a constant strive to improve Gender Equality in the ERC evaluation process, the ERC Scientific Council has decided to raise further awareness on potential bias that can occur during evaluations. Therefore, the ERC Scientific Council encourages evaluators to watch a video developed by the Catalan Research Centres Institute (CERCA) on unconscious bias in recruitment processes.

The CERCA has been closely involved in increasing women’s role in the system. Including the creation of a Diversity Commission to discuss and propose tools and measures to remove bias and obstacles, preventing waste of highly qualified human capital, along with an equality plan to provide a model for research centres. While evaluators might not always be aware of potential bias, several scientific studies (see below for references) show bias in evaluations, which is particularly detrimental to women and which leads them to see evaluation as something hostile. To tackle some of the potential biases in the recruitment and evaluation process, the CERCA diversity commission made a video highlighting how evaluations of scientists by their peers could be affected by unconscious bias of the evaluators.

Each year around 1200 high profile ERC Panel Members are evaluating research proposals in the various ERC calls. These experts also have important roles in their respective host institutions and scientific communities. The ERC Scientific Council believes that by working hand in hand with these important actors, they might have an impact beyond the ERC evaluation process.



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  • Ahlqvist V. Andersson J, Söderqvist L & Tumpane J (2015). A gender neutral process? A qualitative study of the evaluation of research grant applications 2014. Stockholm: Swedish Research Council.
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