Gender equality plan: "A genuine culture of equality is being established".

The University of Montpellier's new gender equality plan was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors on March 13. It provides for the deployment of thirty new actions, in addition to the forty already carried out under the previous plan. Agnès Fichard-Carroll, vice-president for training and university life and head of the women's and men's equality mission, and Laure Parmentier, head of the quality of life at work department at the Campus Life Division (see Rouages: "Working for strong causes"), take stock of the situation and look to the future. Working for strong causes ").

Before announcing the broad outlines of the new gender equality plan for the University of Montpellier, what is your assessment of the 2021-2022 plan (read: Pour une plus grande culture de l'égalité entre les femmes et les hommes)? ?

AFC: This first plan, because it was the first, comprised seven axes and forty actions. All of them have been carried out - with the exception of one, which we felt was ultimately unwise - so the balance sheet is very positive, and a genuine culture of equality is being established, which we must continue to disseminate.

What were the flagship actions deployed during this period?

LP: There have been many, starting with the deployment of a procedure for reporting any act of violence, discrimination, moral or sexual harassment, sexist behaviour, etc. A hotline has been set up and a guide specifically for victims and/or witnesses of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is now available on the University's website. A hotline has been set up and a guide specifically for victims and/or witnesses of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is now available on the University website.

Has this unit been called in?

AFC: Yes, we have received around ten reports from VSS, thanks to our extensive communication drive, and three referrals have been made to the disciplinary section. However, these reports relate to a wide variety of situations, some of which do not fall within the University's remit, but we have nevertheless been able to help these people in their efforts. Others have made reports without wishing to go any further.

How can you help?  

LP: These people simply wanted things to stop. I can cite the case of sexist "jokes", which are not jokes but sexist acts. The role of the listening unit was to reframe the perpetrators, to help them understand why this behavior no longer had a place in the establishment. Afterwards, either the person understands or they don't, but they have to stop.

Does this mainly concern relations between agents?

LP: Of these ten situations, two were between staff members, three between lecturers and students, four were between male and female students, and one was between a student and an outsider. Two disciplinary measures were taken, one case was referred to the public prosecutor, two cases were reframed and one case is still pending.

The Oser! program, designed to help women break through break through glass ceilings. Is it working well?

LP: Oser! existed even before the gender equality plan, as it celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. In all, 140 women have been trained at the university. Initially, the program was aimed at female teacher-researchers and researchers, but three years ago it was opened up to Biats women in supervisory positions. We are now planning to open it up to doctoral students and/or Biats staff. New leaders have been trained internally: Séverine Boulon, who is a teacher-researcher, and myself. But the objectives of this training program have remained the same: to enable women to take a better approach to their careers, to feel more confident, to create a network, and to know how to promote themselves and communicate.

Work has also been carried out with the HR department?

AFC: Yes, we have worked together to secure the career paths of pregnant women before and after maternity leave, and we have put an end to the prorating of their bonuses. We also offer support for men leaving or returning from parental leave. As regards recruitment juries, we have produced a brochure entitled "Recruiting without discrimination", designed to promote good recruitment practices. ... There really has been a lot going on! The introduction of equality training and awareness-raising initiatives for new arrivals.

Is that what you mean by the gender report that was presented to the Board at the same time as the new plan?

AFC : Yes, you can find this report on the University intranet. The figures we announce there come mainly from the single social report (RSU). They put into perspective the evolution of equality between women and men within the University between 2018 and 2021. It is on the basis of this report that we have drawn up the actions of the new equality plan.

So let's talk about this new plan. It has six axes instead of seven. Why did you remove the axis concerning students?

LP: This theme hasn't really disappeared, it's been taken out of the equality plan because it's now part of the student life master plan. It includes all actions concerning equality and the fight against discrimination at student level.

There are 30 proposed actions in these six areas. A little less than the previous one?

LP: It may seem like less, but in reality there are actions that include several of them, and some of them are quite ambitious in terms of time, workload and expected results, so our objectives continue to expand.

What actions can you already announce?

AFC: One of our flagship actions will be to take part in the Acadiscri survey conducted by a group of researchers in several French universities. The survey will cover not just gender equality, but all 25 criteria of discrimination defined by law: gender, age, actual or assumed sexual orientation, physical appearance, etc. The aim is to obtain quantitative indicators to assess the situation.

The plan mentions a brochure on gender diversity. What will it contain?

LP: This brochure will show the percentage and success of girls in the various fields of study. Some fields of study are still very gendered - this was the subject of the "Flou.e" exhibition presented as part of "Donner des Elles à l'UM" - but we want to show that women who enroll in fields of study that are considered "masculine" succeed and even do very well. 

Is there a communication component as well?

LP: Yes, we must continue to educate the university community on the issue of gender stereotypes, especially those in charge of communications who may still sometimes use them without being aware of it. To help them, we have produced a guide to inclusive writing, which has just been widely distributed. Last but not least, one of the major actions of this plan will be the creation of a toolbox for UFRs, schools, institutes and research structures.

What's in the toolbox?

LP: We're still thinking about it, but we're going to put together some "turnkey" resources for awareness-raising initiatives: the equality plan, legal texts, the parity report, and perhaps the possibility of accessing books or replays... Still on the subject of awareness-raising, we're going to offer flash training sessions, lasting an hour or half an hour, on SGBV and reporting mechanisms for staff. Something very short that will reach a lot of people.

Are there any directions that have changed since the last plan, anything that shouldn't be redone?

AFC: No, the idea is to maintain this momentum and make our actions sustainable. The gender balance sheet, for example, will be regularly updated to monitor changes within the University. We're going to continue with our awareness-raising initiatives, and continue to promote the balance between professional and personal life, as we've done with the creation of day-care centers. We will continue to promote equal access for men and women to positions of responsibility, and continue to combat discrimination and acts of violence...

Overall, how is the deployment of these initiatives at the University being received?

AFC: All these actions were voted on unanimously! This is a central theme in today's society, and the University is a reflection of society. It's here that the generations of tomorrow are trained, and even if the professional equality plan isn't primarily aimed at students, it does have an impact on them. When we work to ensure that women break through glass ceilings, we create new identification models for the students of our University.