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The development of the GEP at the European Institute of Oncology: views and perspectives

21 Jun 2017

Last May 15th the Gender Equality Plan (GEP ) team at the European Institute of Oncology (IEO) convened for one of the scheduled periodic meetings. The meeting was the occasion for discussing the state of the art of the actions as well as for sharing views and perspectives on the impact of the GEP ten months after its official launch. All team members agreed that the GEP implementation is still at an initial stage, so it is perhaps premature to identify what actions or area of interventions are going to be more effective. Nevertheless, it is now clearer in what ways the institute is going to benefit from the plan as a whole.

Susanna Chiocca, Director of the Viral Control of Cellular Pathways and Biology of Tumorigenesis Research unit, noted that, although the area that intrigues her the most is the Sex and Gender Dimension of Research, of which the IEO is responsible within the LIBRA project, all actions related to Recruitment are of the utmost importance: “At IEO there is a 50% presence of women in leading positions, this displays a positive attitude towards gender issues”, she comments, “but a specific recruitment strategy in this respect is still lacking, so I think that institutionalizing it is going to be an improvement on the already good situation. The guidelines developed within the consortium are going to be crucial, and I am personally looking forward to their implementation”.

Recruitment goes hand in hand with Career development, remarks Tiziana Bonaldi, Director of the Nuclear Proteomics and multi-layer gene expression regulation Research unit: “By reading the applications for the LIBRA Compass, I realized that many women postdocs lack self-confidence even in presence of an excellent academic profile. That’s why it is urgent to provide support on this area”. Bonaldi was recently an invited guest speaker at the BRIC Institute in Copenhagen, in the context of the LIBRA “My Life in Science” initiative, where she had the chance to speak about her science and career to a target audience of PhD students and Postdocs. She thinks that “it is key to provide women Postdocs with achievable role-models, women scientists that show that is indeed feasible to combine a successful career in science with a satisfactory personal life”, and she is confident that “My Life in Science” seminars will be a great opportunity also for PhD students and Postdocs at IEO.

A good balance between career and life pursuits is indeed a strategic area of intervention of LIBRA. In this respect, Annalisa Ariesi, administration officer at IEO, thinks that all the actions under this label within the GEP can help make a difference. She remarks, moreover, that the promotion of these actions, while being beneficial in itself, will also prove useful to increase awareness about all the opportunities already available at IEO to support the welfare of its employees: “The Institute is putting an effort to increasingly ameliorate its welfare package, all the actions that integrate and support the already existing measures are more than welcome”.

“As a scientist, the area which attracts me the most is the Sex and Gender Dimension of Research”, comments Luisa Lanfrancone, Director of the Target Identification and Validation Research unit. She remarks that all the areas are certainly fundamental in the GEP and, recognizably, in each of them there is still work to do. However, she continues, if you take the entire issue from the perspective of daily scientific practice, the Sex and Gender Dimension of Research has the potential to be transformative: “I remember when, last year, the staff survey circulated within the Institute asking scientists whether they were accounting for sex in their experiments. I think many do, but not in a systematic manner, and the survey for sure helped increasing awareness as well as triggering curiosity. As for myself, I am planning to pay careful attention to the issue and I have already discussed the topic with people in my lab”.  

IEO is specifically committed to the issue of Sex and Gender in research and the GEP team is keen to explore the issue further and provide support to the whole consortium.


To see the detail of the GEP, please visit IEO’s website at:


By Paolo Maugeri, Research Consultant and manager of LIBRA activities at IEO