Go back

Austrian funder releases guide on providing safety for diversity

Image: Just dance, via Shutterstock

National science fund offers practical advice on handling discrimination and harassment in workplaces

The Austrian Science Fund, FWF, has released guidelines on fostering a diverse research culture that include practical advice on handling discrimination and harassment.

As the national public funder of basic research in all disciplines, the FWF reminded research institutions on 9 April that they have a legal obligation to implement diversity measures when they receive an award from it.

Its guidelines include definitions of discrimination and examples of harassment, and offer encouragement for victims and witnesses of such treatment to come forward.

Discrimination is defined by the FWF as worse treatment of a person due to their gender, ethnicity, age, disability, religion or sexual orientation. It differentiates between direct and indirect discrimination, saying the latter is when a general rule harms a specific group.

“Discrimination takes many forms, including sexual harassment, gender-based violence, unequal pay and promotion opportunities, and exclusion from decision-making positions,” the guidelines say.

Gender-based discrimination and harassment

Discrimination disproportionately affects women in Austria, the guidelines say—especially women with intersecting identities such as disability. More than one in four women in Austria have been sexually harassed at work, according to studies cited in the guidelines.

They say that harassment erodes trust in institutions; can create isolation as well as economic, physical and psychological harm; and can result in people quitting research.

The guidelines define and provide examples of sexual harassment and underscore that it is illegal in Austria. They explain how to provide a written testimony having been affected by, or witnessed, such harassment.

Examples of sexual harassment offered include “a professor books a double room while attending a conference with [their] assistant, citing reduced costs” and “an examiner takes advantage of an exam situation to make ambiguous allusions or induce physical proximity to the student”.

Besides legal obligations, the FWF said that welcoming environments are more conducive to innovation and creativity, as well as to recruiting and retaining underrepresented talent, leading to greater excellence in research.