Symposium on the importance of gender in research

Leiden University wants more focus on the differences between women and men in research. This time the goal is not more women researchers, but closer attention for the gender factor in scientific research. Taking sex and gender into account leads to innovation. To fail to do so is to risk the loss, not only of money but also of lives. What’s more, it is a requirement of Horizon 2020. Reason enough for a symposium on 28 March.

Gendered innovations

Incorporating sex and gender in research on heart disease has led to improved diagnoses for women.

Incorporating sex and gender in research on heart disease has led to improved diagnoses for women.

Gendered innovations – that is the title of the symposium being organised on 28 March by Leiden University to draw attention to gender in research. An inspiring example for the symposium is the eponymous project launched at Stanford University in 2009 and supported since 2011 by the European Commission. This project investigates how science can innovate and improve research by integrating sex and gender differences. And by emphasising what goes wrong when these differences are ignored in the design, execution and implementation of research. Their website offers some eye-opening examples: 

  • Once women were included in studies on water infrastructure in developing countries, the implementation gained in success.

  • When treatment guidelines for heart disease are exclusively based on male physiology, women are often wrongly diagnosed.

Women and men

It was not until 1996 that a crash test dummy of a pregnant woman was developed for impact tests.

It was not until 1996 that a crash test dummy of a pregnant woman was developed for impact tests.

Professor Londa Schiebinger is director of the Stanford project and she will be speaking at the Leiden symposium. She says: ‘By integrating the gender dimension, we create new knowledge. This is not only about focusing on women, but about using sex and gender as a source of innovative research. And this is also important for men. Osteoporosis for example, was considered for a long time to be a women’s disease, but it also affects men – which requires different research and a different approach.’

A requirement for funding

There is another good reason to integrate gender in research. It not only leads to innovation and prevents harm; it is also a new criterion for obtaining European research funds. With Horizon 2020 the European Commission is making 80 billion euros available for innovative research. In order to qualify for a European research grant, researchers have to integrate potential gender aspects in their research. Because Horizon 2020 stipulates that one of the requirements which research proposals have to meet is the integration of the gender perspective.


Professor Curt Rice, Head of the Norwegian National Committee on Gender Balance in Research, will present a specific example of how university leadership can work to enhance gendered perspectives in ongoing research projects. He will describe a new project at the University of Tromsø which rewards groups adding gendered perspectives to their projects and will report on the impact that some of these enhancements have already shown.

Blind spot

Vice-Rector Magnificus Simone Buitendijk is one of the instigators of the symposium. She is also one of the speakers, as is her colleague from Delft University of Technology, Karel Luyben. As she says: 'If we in the Netherlands want to remain leaders in research, we have to be really innovative. And this means paying more attention to possible sex and gender differences. If we don’t, we will miss out on European research funds. Because Horizon 2020 recognises that if we don't force researchers to consider the question of who their study applies to, they run the risk of developing a massive blind spot for half the population: women. How innovative and applicable can research be to the challenges posed by our world if it is primarily concerned with the problems of only half of it?’

Join in the discussion?

Do you want to join in the discussion? To be inspired and stimulated by international examples? To know what gendered innovation can mean for your own field and research? Then come to the symposium on 28 March. The symposium will take place from 13.00 to 17.00 hrs at the Campus The Hague location of Leiden University. Registration is now open! 


(21 February 2014)


12.30 hrs


Coffee and tea


13.00 hrs


Prof. dr. Simone Buitendijk
Vice-rector magnificus, Leiden University


13.20 hrs


Prof. dr. Londa Schiebinger

Professor of History of Science, Stanford University, and Director of the EU/US Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment Project


14.10 hrs


Prof. dr. Tomas Brage
Professor of Physics, Lund University


14.40 hrs


Prof. ir. Karel Luyben
Rector magnificus, Delft University of Technology


14.55 hrs


Coffee and tea


15.25 hrs


Prof. dr. Marie-José Goumans

Professor of Cardiovascular Cell Biology, Leiden University Medical Centre


15.45 hrs


Prof. dr. Curt Rice
Professor of Linguistics, University of Tromsø, and Head of the Norwegian National Committee on Gender Balance in Research


16.15 hrs


Panel discussion


17.00 hrs



See also

Last Modified: 27-03-2014