Advanced Strategic Platform for Inclusive Research Environments (ASPIRE): a tool for change
Keywords:Equality, Diversity, Inclusion, culture change, web-based platform
In recent years, organisations have been striving to adopt a proactive approach towards reducing discrimination and enhancing inclusion. Research performing organisations, in particular, have made substantial investments and adopted a number of policies, programmes and interventions to combat gender inequality. Despite the progress achieved, gender equality in research and higher education institutions deems to be particularly difficult to attain, with the same challenges remaining prevalent for decades.
Among the contributors to the perpetuation of gender inequality in academia, is the inability of gender equality initiatives to challenge gendered norms. Partly because the focus of such initiatives remains on normative constructions of gender, and their implementation is based on the assumption of culture change through instrumental drivers. Consequently, as long as success and impact of equality initiatives remains solely associated with the introduction of new policies, rather than the transformation of entrenched behavioural and culturally-prescribed norms, significant, continuous and integrated change is unlikely to occur. To address these issues, the Advanced Strategic Platform for Inclusive Research Environments (ASPIRE) offers an innovative and evidence-based framework aimed at accelerating meaningful change in attitude and behaviour towards diversity and facilitating inclusive research environments. ASPIRE encourages the focus of enquiry to expand from the (re)production of inequalities and adoption of solutions that centre on improving staff statistics and performance metrics, to long-term interactive processes of change that can generate structural and embedded impact on organisational culture. ASPIRE provides a dynamic web-based platform for implementation, adoption and sustained Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) practice. It goes beyond the current EDI approaches by taking a holistic and intersectional perspective, that does not only address issues of gender, but accounts for other personal characteristics that contribute to unique experiences of discrimination. It appropriately guides and measures the implementation of EDI initiatives across institutions, linking such measurement with indicators of change in attitudes and culture, and providing recommendations for future and further action.
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