Dr Marion Boland
Head of Research Policy, Science Foundation Ireland
Excellence in research can only be attained where there is balance and diversity in leadership and decision-making.
As an organisation, we support many talented women researchers across our higher education sector, who lead teams and projects aimed at discovering new insights and providing solutions to challenges we face as a society.
Reflecting on progress achieved
Over the past number of years, we have been making progress in attaining this balance in its portfolio of grants. In 2021, 28% of SFI grant holders were women, a figure more closely aligned with the available applicant pool of researchers compared with previous years, and 40% of SFI research team members were women. While progress has been made we recognise that there is more to do.
We have introduced and piloted new gender initiatives. For example, the Frontiers for the Future Programme has a number of measures to increase women research leaders. This includes inclusive language; widening of eligibility criteria to allow a more diverse applicant pool, including applicants with a non-linear career history; and, priority being given in the review process to lead applicants who are women where applications receive the same final score in the ranking process.
SFI’s Strategy ‘Shaping Our Future 2025’ has set an ambitious target of attaining at least 35% women by 2025 as research leaders to ensure a more equal, diverse and inclusive research ecosystem, and to reflect the diversity of Ireland’s Higher Education Institutions.
We are currently developing a new equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, which moves away from a sole focus on gender.
Shifting focus of strategy
To ensure we achieve this target, we are currently developing a new equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, which moves away from a sole focus on gender, to encompass the broader range of intersectional issues in keeping with the changing societal and academic landscape.
This new strategy will ensure equality, diversity and inclusion are embedded in our organisational structures and portfolio of grants through specific actions and targets for the Foundation and will be developed in consultation with a broad range of stakeholders. It will support our goal of ensuring that SFI’s investment reflects the input of researchers that are representative of society, and thus the outputs are relevant to society.
We recognise the critical importance of having women as research leaders to ensure a more equal, diverse and inclusive research ecosystem which reflects the diversity of talent across our society, the higher education system and STEM sector. Working in collaboration with those in the sector we hope to make significant improvements over the coming years.