Gender – meaning and background

The FFG has considered gender mainstreaming for many years. As early as 2004, the FEMtech programme started evaluating gender aspects in the selection process and research content. In 2009, gender criteria were introduced in the evaluation of project proposals submitted to the General Programme. From 2011 onwards, they were also implemented in other funding formats. Following the budget law reform (Federal Budget Act (BHG) 2013), gender budgeting was also enshrined in Austrian law.

Why is gender mainstreaming important for research funding?

Gender mainstreaming as a strategy to promote equal opportunities helps to ...

Raise quality:

  • This depends upon attracting the 'best minds' to research and development, irrespective of gender.
  • It has been shown that raising the quality of research and development outcomes is linked to increased team diversity. In addition to gender and gender identity, factors such as age, education, professional experience, social and regional background, nationality, religion and worldview, as well as physical and mental abilities all play a role.

Create equal opportunities:

There should be as many women as men in research and development. Currently, women make up more than 50% of students, but they still hold fewer positions of responsibility in the science sector and are underrepresented in research and innovation overall. The number of women in research decreases as career paths progress ('leaky pipeline'). Further information can be found in:


How can gender equality be achieved in research?

As early as 2003, the European Commission stated that equality in research can be most effectively achieved via two pathways:

  • Gender dimension in research content (qualitative aspect – research design), and
  • Women’s participation (quantitative aspect – participation in research and decision-making).

Further information can be found in the EU strategy for gender equality in research and innovation.


What are the benefits of gender-sensitive product and process development?

The benefits for the target groups of gender-sensitive product and process development are tailor-made products and processes that accommodate the wishes and needs of all users. The risk of unsuccessful 'innovations' decreases because focusing on target groups at an early stage results in products and services that are truly relevant in practice. Furthermore, companies can create new markets and expand existing ones.


Terms related to gender and research funding


Gender refers to social sex, i.e., sexual characteristics that describe a person in society and culture, as opposed to their purely biological sex. Gender encompasses societal, social, and cultural gender roles that are learned and therefore changeable. Both biological and social sex have an enormous influence on an individual’s life and on how society functions. Gender (as social as well as biological sex) is thus a fundamental aspect of research and science. Considering gender perspectives in research projects has important implications for scientific findings and can avoid bias effects.

Gender Mainstreaming

Gender mainstreaming is the strategy for promoting equal opportunities for women and men and was adopted by the European Union in 1997 in the Treaty of Amsterdam. Austria has ratified this treaty and undertaken to implement appropriate measures. The binding political declaration of intent to promote gender mainstreaming in all policy areas was first enshrined by a decision of the Council of Ministers on 11 July 2000. 

Gender mainstreaming is a strategy for achieving equality for all genders and consequently overlaps to a certain degree with the advancement of women. However, while the latter focuses mainly on women and strives to compensate for the structural disadvantages they face, gender mainstreaming represents a different approach to achieve similar goals. 
Further information can be found on the website of the Interministerial Working Group on Gender Mainstreaming / Budgeting.

Advancement of women

The advancement of women is intended to increase opportunities for women in male-dominated professions and in higher-ranking positions and to prevent their underrepresentation. The aim is to achieve an equal proportion of women and men at all hierarchical levels and to reduce existing discrimination against women in the professional world. Temporary preferential treatment of women is not considered discrimination against men where women are equally qualified. 

Further information on the advancement of women is available at

Gender budgeting

Gender budgeting is the financial implementation of the gender mainstreaming strategy. It involves considering the gender perspective when designing public budgets. In 2009, gender budgeting was enshrined in a budget law reform.

Gender in budget law and outcome goals

As early as 1998, gender equality was incorporated in Austria’s Federal Constitution. In 2013, equality between women and men was enshrined as part of the budget law reform and included in the system of outcome-oriented policy making. This system consists of two interlinked instruments: outcome-oriented policy making and outcome-oriented impact assessment. Both instruments place a strong focus on equality between women and men. Outcome-oriented policy making is closely linked with the annual budget proposal: as part of the annual planning, a maximum of five outcome goals must be defined for each chapter, one of which must be a gender equality goal. A set of defined key figures allows the achievement to be measured. At the end of the budget year, these indicators are used to determine whether the objective has been reached, in order to learn from the findings. Using this approach, the actual degree of gender equality within the respective ministries and governing bodies can be rationally controlled at the chapter level, while also initiating a permanent learning process, ensuring legitimacy, and creating transparency.

On outcome monitoring:
Link to outcome-oriented policy making:  


Gender Equality Plan

All Horizon Europe calls with deadlines in 2022 and onwards require applicants to have a Gender Equality Plan in place as an eligibility criterion for participation. According to the EC Guidance (page 6) and the Horizon Europe General Annex, this requirement applies to organisations from EU Member States and Associated Countries belonging to the following categories of legal entities (detailed definitions can be found in the LEAR Guidance Document, from page 5): 

  • Public bodies, such as research funding bodies, national ministries or other public authorities, including public for-profit organisations; 
  • Higher education establishments, public and private;
  • Research organisations, public and private.

The Horizon Europe General Annex includes exceptions for other categories of legal entities, such as private for-profit organisations, including SMEs, non-governmental or civil society organisations.

According to the General Annexes of Horizon Europe 2021-2022, a Gender Equality Plan (in short, GEP) must meet four mandatory process-related requirements or 'building blocks" to comply with the eligibility criterion. 
The mandatory requirements for a GEP are as follows:

  • Public document: The GEP must be a formal document signed by the top management and actively communicated within the institution. It should demonstrate a commitment to gender equality, set clear goals and detailed actions and measures to achieve them.
  • Dedicated resources: Resources for the development, implementation and monitoring of a GEP may include the funding for positions such as gender equality officers or gender equality teams as well as reserved time for academic, management and administrative staff to work on gender equality.
  • Data collection and monitoring: GEPs must be evidence-based and based on basic sex/gender disaggregated data collected across all categories of personnel. This data should inform the GEP’s objectives and targets, indicators, and ongoing evaluation of progress.
  • Training and capacity building: The measures may include the development of gender competence, tackling unconscious gender biases of staff, managers and decision-makers, establishing working groups on specific topics and raising awareness through workshops and communication activities.

In addition to these mandatory process-related requirements, there are also five recommended content-related (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

Further information on Gender Equality Plans for Horizon Europe projects:

Applicants may receive funding for the development of a Gender Equality Plan as part of a FEMtech Career project.

Gender-sensitive language

Language plays a central role in efforts to achieve equality. Language creates reality: our perceptions are influenced by language; our norms and values are reflected in language; and without language no communication and social interaction is possible. Thus language has an important role to play, and it is important that it does not discriminate, but instead represents all genders. Language makes an active contribution to equality because it shapes the consciousness of speakers and writers. This is also important at the level of research projects. Whether for teamwork or when developing products and services: the target group for which things are being designed must be specified to be able to actively address their needs.

Principles for gender-sensitive writing and speaking are:

  • 'Assumed inclusion' doesn't work. Genders must be specifically named, or the formulation should be neutral.
  • There are more than two genders (in 2018, the Constitutional Court found that there are also alternative gender identities in addition to 'female' and 'male').
  • Remain factually correct and understandable.
  • The text should reflect its function.
  • The text should be adapted to the target group.

Please find more information on gender-sensitive communication at the website of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).

Additional Information