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    Write work-life-balance related issues you would like to tackle in your organisation. Be as detailed as possible

    “In my organisation most of part-time workers are women and this contributes to their difficulty in reaching higher career positions”
    “During the pandemic the teleworking was not regulated and most of the female employees with care responsibilities lived in a very stressful environment due to the fact that the expectations towards their job was unchanged, and no measures were taken to solve this common issue”

    Maiya Li

    I agree with the second issue provided as an example above. Indeed, due to the pandemic, many female employees were overloaded with their work tasks and increased housework/childcare at the same time, while they had almost no personal time and space. Thus, such stressful environment lead them to all types of anxiety, depression and so on.

    The second thing I would like to mention is that during state lockdown a level of domestic violence and abuse raised dramatically in many countries, including my home country – Kazakhstan. Unfortunately, it is still quite a serious issue which should be addressed at all levels, and therefore, I feel like we need more support and an overall institutional approach to tackle this problem.

    Itibar Aydemir Uslu

    As a researcher at the beginning of my career, I strongly felt the overwhelming gendered impacts of the pandemic. Traditional gender roles still stand, even if some of us may feel “lucky” not to experience their devastating effects. This period has made it harder to conduct research as a woman and be supervised by women scholars who have “responsibilities” for their families, elderlies etc. However, it is a fact that the level of the struggle you faced depended on the social class you belong to, your race, family structure and so on. Also, as Maiya mentions above, domestic violence, gender-based violence and abuse are deeply rooted problems we need to think about thoroughly for the solution. We certainly need institutional and political adjustments to tackle the intersecting gender inequalities to ensure equity.

    Katre Andreson

    It is true that domestic violence statistics have gone up. I am not sure how it can be fixed as most of the domestic abuse happens behind closed doors and is never reported. Even if reported it is very hard to find evidents. Usually, the police does not even handle these problems and say that it is between married couple to solve their problems. I think there is little that can be done except raise awareness.

    Monika Lesiak-Manka

    You need to know your own needs. Only you yourself can decide what kind of balance is right for you. Only then – after you’ve determined what needs to change – can you talk to your boss about it. It is imperative that you respect your own rules. If you have decided that you will leave work at 5 p.m. sharp – and that’s what will give you the right balance – you should do exactly that. Remember, you are doing it for yourself! You must learn to manage your time. Many people feel overworked because they forget how to manage their time properly. Don’t try to do several things at once – focus on one task, do it well and then move on to the next task. Learn to say no. Refusing without guilt is not easy, but it pays huge dividends. It’s best to simply say “no”, briefly explaining your reasons for refusing and, if necessary, offer something else you can or would prefer to do. Develop your passions. Although it is at work that you spend the most time, you should also be able to “switch off”. That’s why it’s a good idea to develop passions.

    Karina Barantseva

    In my institution, which is a technical university, one of the problems is a hidden bias, connected with professional orientation. Sometimes the bias is not even hidden, as, for example, the repetition of a joke that “a woman-engineer has a lot in common with a Guinea-pig: she is neither a Guinea, nor a pig”. But in the majority of cases the bias is really hidden. A general overview will give an impression of a good balance: the number of men and women among students, the teaching staff, including its different levels (assistant lecturers, associate professors, full professors) and among different levels of the administrative hierarchy is practically equal. But if to check it comparing different Faculties / Departments – we shall see a visible distortion. At the mechanical engineering, ICT, physics, chemistry men dominate, and at the food and biotechnology, textile technology or management departments – women. Moreover, inside these Faculties and Departments there are also distortions: positions at departments and working groups dealing with more innovative, market-oriented or cutting-edge activities are occupied by men, and in more traditional specializations there is a domination of women.
    Taking into consideration, that they all have the same life-work balance, work conditions, recruitment rules and career development opportunities, I could make a conclusion that the problem has its roots in some intersectional issues, as, for example, a traditional catholic approach to the place of a woman in the society (“a woman has to cook, sew, spin, weave, and manage home and family”). Taking into consideration that the state promotes this idea in all the possible ways, I even do not know how is it possible to cane the situation at the institutional level.
    One more problem revealed during the COVID-19 restrictions. It appeared tat many women treat their necessity to be at work as the only excuse not to be constantly involved in household activities and childcare. Staying at home, they had a lot of problems to conduct their online work, for they were supposed to be all the time involved either in cooking or in taking care of their children. And the thing that puzzled me the most was their attitude to this problem – they did not try to change the situation inside their families, but just tried to go to their working places as quickly as possible – to escape from the burden of double work at home: professional and family care – at a time.

    Karina Barantseva

    I absolutely agree with your conclusions. I have traced all these processes in my native state, which is also pot-soviet (I am from Ukraine). And the most puzzling thing about it is that in the Soviet Union the ideology all the time proclaimed the gender equality, emancipation and protection of women from violence, including domestic violence, at the state level. It it possible to assume, that in 65 years of the soviet power these idea should have incorporated to the lifestyle and consciousness of our fellow citizens, but it appeared that it was just a set of ideologic slogans that meant nothing in real life.

    Harvey Evans

    Thank you to my colleagues for their inputs. One thing that this thread underlines is the need for context and the different political and cultural situations in different countries, which directly affect the situation in any institution.

    Gender Equality in Spain
    On the situation in Spain, having a GEP has been mandatory by state law since 2016, but this was not enforced. New legislation in 2019 and 2020 considerably reinforces the requirement and inspections and penalties for not complying are now contemplated. These laws also enshrine a requirement to produce salary tables and a complex evaluation of job positions to provide detailed information on gender pay gaps, and gender representation in hierarchies. No resources are provided (beyond guidelines and excel template tools) so it remains to be seen how this will function. RPOs are further motivated by the Horizon Europe requirements and these tools will be useful for monitoring and data collection, but they are not easy and are very time-consuming to apply. Spanish legislation says nothing about gender dimension in scientific research and in general centres here are behind on this issue. It is not included in our GEP, for example.

    Domestic Violence in Spain
    Just a note on violence, the Spanish government records acts of violence against women and keeps tally of women killed in domestic violence attacks. This means the tally is constantly reported, keeping domestic violence in the public eye.

    A Work-life Balance Issue in our Institute
    In our institution the same issues for homeworking, both during lockdown and after, regarding the pandemic apply. Our Women in Science Working Group collected data and found similar patterns on our campus (fewer papers published, grants applied for, news appearances regarding the pandemic -we do a lot of covid research- by female researchers than male counterparts.

    There are no guidelines for teleworking at the institute and each research group and support department makes up their own rules. Those doing most work from home are women and mothers, anecdotally they are stigmatized and accused of slacking while men benefit from visibility bias. A Spanish law was introduced hurriedly in 2020, but only recognizes 3 days or more working from home as teleworking. The law requires companies to supply employees who are teleworking with resources (IT equipment and compensation for power and heating bills), due to this many companies are only allowing 2 days working from home each week.

    Human Resources were blamed for our lack of guidelines but the Head of HR recently informed me that the proposal for our teleworking guidelines has been on the managing director’s desk since March 2021.

    I now suspect that this is a deliberate act of stalling, partly due to an unwillingness to have to provide resources. I suspect home-working at our institute is a highly gendered issue, so this could be construed as resistance. It is not wholly institutional resistance, as the directors are behind gender equality on paper and in many actions; it could be personal resistance. My conclusion is that this issue should be taken up by the Equality Committee, who should immediately request a working session to try to unblock this situation and obtain a statement from the managing director on the timeline for our guidelines.

    I apologize for the length of this post!


    One of the issues in many institutions is that the use of work-life balance measures is still feminized. Even though these policies are available to all staff and the legal framework promotes equal parental leave between women and men to encourage a fairer division of labour in the family, in practice, it does not materialize. Women are the primary users of reconciliation measures.

    In this sense, women are the ones who most often have part-time contracts, flexible working hours, or gaps in their careers due to maternity or care leave. Therefore, they have more possibilities to be at a disadvantage compared to men regarding the progression in their careers and reconciliation measures could end up hindering their professional development.

    One of the reasons that the pandemic has been affecting more women than men in regards to the reconciliation of work and private life, as colleagues explained before, is the traditional gender roles and stereotypes towards caregiving and the sexual division of labour. Women are dealing with care responsibilities, their workload, and sometimes with administrative work in their institutions, which is mostly unpaid. In fact, that is another important issue: women usually assume most of the voluntary work, as being part of commissions, events, etc., spending a considerable number of unpaid hours that could be used for their own research. This matter negatively affects promotion opportunities in their professional careers and contributes to increasing the glass ceiling.

    As gender stereotypes and traditional roles play a crucial role in the feminization of reconciliation of work and private life, it is key to develop actions that raise awareness about how work-life balance involves everyone and is beneficial for all genders, understanding that care work should be a shared responsibility.


    I agree with what my colleagues said above.

    The issue of “academic housekeeping” raised above seems to me very important, because it makes work-life balance even more difficult. On one side, it takes off time for family commitments; and on the other one for research work.

    Participation in “administrative” tasks should be more equally distributed among academic staff, to avoid the above trap.

    Moreover, the issue of part-time segregation should be seriously taken into account. I believe that a change in decision-makers/hierarchy behaviour could help a lot to promote a more equal work-life balance.


    I think sometimes small things do matter. Possibility to leave work mid-day for few hours is sometimes crucial and gives a chance to work from office and yet to be able to deal with outside-of-work issues. Also possibility to take half of the day “day off” would be helpful. In my work place there is much greater understanding for “mothers” to have flexible working hours or possibility to take few hours off work and that creates problem for “fathers” or people with no children. Equal rules in that matter would not only solve problem of balance in work place and seeing “mothers” as lower-level employees, it would also help to allow equal level in housework for families.


    We still lack comparable data on domestic violence in EU countries. However, you can find some information on policies, surveys, research results etc. on the WWP European Network website:
    Besides raising the awareness, we can (and should!) improve education system on the 1st and 2nd level, especially for girls: when they are empowered, they will eliminate potential agressors from their life.


    I work in a technical university and meet lots of women here, but most of them are members of administration and not research staff. Asked about their life, Polish research workers say that it is extremely difficult for them to come back to the Academia after their maternity leave, especially after the second child. First problem I see is that there is a huge gap between the end of maternity leave and the moment when a child starts his/her education: we lack of places in kindergardens. And when mothers want to come back to their work, they need to pay a nanny or ’employ’ grand-parents. Moreover, when they take part-time work or do their tasks in flexible hours, they are not easily accepted by their professional environment. So, they are expected to PROOVE (!) that they are good enough for their position. And then, work-life balance is extremely difficult to attain.


    Actually, in my university the working times and home office were rather flexible during the pandemic so far. Partly, those without kinds took over more work. Administrative tasks are shared depending on tasks, time, and preferences. At least at my current professor, I don’t see an issue in contrast to former bosses. What I noticed so far is that it pretty much depends on the boss and the colleagues.

    Carlotta Rizzo

    Workers of every gender, especially parents and caregivers, have a hard time juggling work and home responsibilities (COVID-19 pandemic life only added more strain ). But there are generations of societal pressures and expectations that make work-life balance a unique challenge for people who identify as women. Working women face various challenges regarding work‐family balance due to societal, cultural, family, and gender norms. These challenges have become more difficult since the emergence of COVID‐19 worldwide. Flexibility and homeworking, family and spousal support, and organisational support as key driving forces for women’s work‐life balance during the COVID‐19.

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