Supporting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

This section of the website gives a brief overview of some of the Irish Research Council’s activities in relation to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, particularly gender equality:


    1. GENDER-NET Plus (2017 – 2023)
    2. Funding Organisations for Gender Equality (FORGEN) (2018 – 2022)
    3. GENDERACTIONplus (2022 – present)

IRC Gender Strategy Review 2022

The IRC was the first research agency in Ireland to publish a Gender Strategy in 2013. The Strategy had two aims:

    1. To support gender equality in research careers across all disciplines.
    2. To support the integration of the sex/gender dimension in research content.

The IRC aims to provide equal outcomes so that Ireland can attract and retain the most talented, creative and innovative researchers. Since 2013, the IRC has embedded four main actions relating to gender equality. These are:

    1. Gender-proofing of assessment processes for evaluation so as to mitigate any gender bias in the assessment of excellence, whether conscious or unconscious.
    2. Integration of the sex/gender dimension in research proposals, requiring applicants to indicate if there is such a dimension to their proposed research and how it will be addressed in the conduct of the research.
    3. Collaboration with other Irish research funding agencies, including making Athena SWAN accreditation a requirement of funding.
    4.  Involvement in the European programmes GENDER-NET and GENDER-NET Plus, in the case of the latter co-funding seven transnational research projects focusing on gender equality across a range of disciplines

In June 2020, the IRC commissioned Ortus Economic Research and Loughborough University to carry out a review of the IRC Gender Strategy and Action Plan and assess the impact of these gender-related policies and practices to date.

The Review found that the measures introduced by the IRC as part of the strategy, such as ‘gender blinding’ research proposals, are believed by IRC stakeholders to have contributed to ameliorating disparities in success rates for women. The Review concluded that IRC data on applications indicates that it is successfully providing access to funding for both women and men.

The report nonetheless identified continuing challenges, particularly the fact that gender parity in awards does not prevail across the career lifecycle, as the proportion of applications from women starts to decline as early as postdoctoral research stage. Although there is no evidence of any disparity in success rates, relatively lower applications from women result in a lower share of awards at the more advanced career stages.

The report acknowledged the IRC’s continued commitment to tackling issues related to carer’s leave and responsibilities, the need for flexibility in delivery of award commitments, and adapting to the often non-linear nature of research careers, especially for women—all of which are believed to drive inequality in research contexts.


IRC Gender Strategy Review 2022

Gender-NET and Gender-NET Plus

Gender Net Plus logo

One of the IRC’s actions under its Gender Strategy was to be involved in GENDER-NET Plus, a consortium of 16 committed organisations from 13 countries which aims to promote the integration of sex and gender analysis into research. GENDER-NET Plus pursues the set of priorities identified by GENDER-NET, which finished in 2016.

The GENDER-NET Plus consortium aims to strengthen transnational collaborations between research programme owners and managers, and provide support to the promotion of gender equality through institutional change. In particular, it contributes to knowledge creation in relation to promoting gender equality in research performing and funding organisations by producing comparative analytical reports on various topics.

GENDER-NET Plus ERA-NET Co-fund was launched in September 2017 to advance progress to achieving gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research and innovation within the European Research Area (ERA). The 16 project partners have implemented a joint co-funded call for research integrating a gender dimension in addressing urgent societal challenges. 13 research projects in health & medicine, social sciences and humanities are co-funded in the frame of the GENDER-NET Plus project. The IRC contributes funding to Ireland-based researchers on 7 of these projects.
Below is a list of the 7 projects receiving funding by the IRC, with 2 of the projects also co-funded by the Health Research Board (in Ireland):

  1. G-DEFINER: Gender Difference in side effects of immunotherapy: a possible clue to optimize cancer treatment (Professor John Crown: Dublin City University). Co-funded by HRB.
  2. GENRE: Overcoming the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Gender Divide: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (Professor Maura McAdam: Dublin City University)
  3. MASCAGE: Gendering Age: Representations of Masculinities and Ageing in Contemporary European Literatures and Cinemas (Dr Anthony Tracy: University of Galway)
  4. GBV-MIG: Violence against women migrants and refugees: Analysing causes and effective policy response (Professor Niamh Reilly: University of Galway)
  5. GENPATH: A life course perspective on the GENdered PATHways of exclusion from social relations in later life, and its consequences for health and wellbeing (Professor Kieran Walsh: University of Galway)
  6. PositivMas: Masculinities and violence against women among young people: Identifying discourses and developing strategies for change using a mixed method approach (Dr Claire Edwards: University College Cork)
  7. iKASCADE: Identifying Key Prescribing CASCADes in the Elderly: A Transnational Initiative on Drug Safety (Professor Denis O’Mahony: University College Cork). Cofunded by HRB.

The GENDER-NET Plus Final Dissemination Conference took place on the 13th and 14th February 2023. Dr Gráinne Walshe, Irish Research Council Assistant Director: Partnerships and Impact, spoke in the panel discussion that closed the event.

For more information on GENDER-NET Plus activities, including reports, projects, and events, please visit the website.

FORGEN - Funding Organisations for Gender


Funding Organisations for Gender Equality (FORGEN) was a Community of Practice (CoP) committed to the goal of monitoring and improving the implementation of gender equality in Research & Innovation Funding Organisations throughout the European Research Area, bringing together gender equality practitioners in Research & Innovation Funding to promote knowledge sharing. FORGEN was active between 2019 and 2022. The IRC was among 18 national research funding agencies involved in the FORGEN CoP.

As part of the ACT on Gender project, FORGEN shared knowledge and experience of implementing gender equality measures in research funding organisations. ACT on Gender is a Horizon 2020 initiative seeking to advance gender equality at universities, research centres and research funding organisations by fostering collaboration between institutions with significant experience in the implementation of gender equality plans with those with less experience. It aims at addressing common needs and improving assessment on gender equality in higher education and research and innovation with respect to three fields: (i) gender balance in career progression; (ii) gender balance in decision-making positions; and (iii) integrating the gender dimension into research content and teaching. One of ACT’s key roles is the establishment of a network of Communities of Practice, like FORGEN.

The four main areas of focus identified at the 1st ACT International Synergy Conference (2019) workshop were:

  1. Bias in the evaluation process
  2. Gender / sex dimension in research content
  3. Influencing leadership/culture (sustainability)
  4.  Intersectionality (cross-cutting in all the above areas)

These themes were carried into the Community of Practice as distinct sub-working groups. The IRC was an active member of workshops and working groups established within the CoP to produce reports on these key issues. Published reports arising from FORGEN CoP activities are available here and below.


Report: Using Narrative CVs: Process Optimization and Bias Mitigation

Report: Sex and Gender Dimension Workshop with Prof Londa Schiebinger

Guide to Gender Equality for Research & Innovation Funding Agencies: Data Collection and Impact Monitoring


Gender Action Plus logo

GENDERACTIONplus stands for: Gender Equality Network to Develop ERA Communities To coordinate Inclusive and sustainable policy implementatiON. The GENDERACTIONplus project builds on the Horizon 2020 project GENDERACTION implemented from 2017 to 2021, the work of the Standing Working Group on Gender in Research and Innovation (SWG GRI) and the work of the FORGEN Community of Practice of RFOs developed in the ACT project implemented 2018 to 2021.

GENDERACTIONplus is a consortium comprising 26 beneficiaries and 14 associated partners from 21 countries, 18 national authorities or institutions supporting them, 19 research funding organisations or institutions supporting them including the IRC, and 3 expert organisations.

GENDERACTIONplus objectives:

  1. Develop strategic policy advice on existing and emerging policy solutions in the five key thematic areas in the two Communities of Practice.
  2. Enhance the policymaking process through engaging with stakeholders, CSOs and citizens, as relevant, in the five key areas.
  3. Build capacities, competence and expertise for gender equality and mainstreaming in R&I among the policy and Research funding Organisation Communities of Practice members, with special attention to countries with a less comprehensive policy.
  4. Create impact through communication, dissemination and exploitation, including National Impact Plans and an EU Impact plan.

To organise this work, two Communities of Practice were established: one consisting of representatives of Research Funding Organisations, under which the Irish Research Council is a work package leader on the theme of gender bias in evaluation processes, and a second comprising national authorities, focused on gender . The CoPs work to translate the recommendations of the reports into policy that is useful at a pragmatic level and to feed back into the CoPs on the plausibility of recommendations and outputs from an implementation standpoint.

For more information, see the GENDERACTIONplus website.



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