CERN plays role in Geneva Gender Champions initiative


One year ago, an idea was launched to pool the collective efforts of women and men working in Geneva’s international community to tackle the obstacles standing in the way of gender equality.

An initiative of the United Nations, the Geneva Gender Champions initiative invited ambassadors and leaders of international organisations and NGOs to pick up the challenge, and CERN was among the first to sign up.

One year on, the initiative has spread beyond Geneva to the UN in New York, and it goes under the name of International Gender Champions. The initiative’s recently published first Annual Report makes for very refreshing reading: it shows that with effort, effective changes can be made.

The main pledge of the Geneva Gender Champions initiative was to achieve gender balance on the many expert panels that are hosted in Geneva each year, but the brief soon went further. Each participating organisation was asked to make two commitments specific to their own organisations. Some 122 leaders and ambassadors from across the spectrum of international Geneva committed to making over 300 tangible actions to advance gender equality in their organisations, and these have already made a difference.

For the first year of the initiative, CERN’s commitments were to ensure that women be represented among CERN personnel welcoming high-level visitors to the Laboratory, and to develop actions to encourage girls to take science and technology subjects at school. Both of those objectives have now been incorporated into CERN’s work, and for the second year of the initiative, our Champion, Director-General Fabiola Gianotti, has committed to improving gender diversity in CERN’s public image by adjusting the gender balance of photos and graphics used on the website, ensuring more female speakers at events hosted at the Globe, and including slides on diversity in presentations to high-level visitors.

Furthermore, as the initiative matures, impact groups are being set up by the Geneva Gender Champions to cover the five thematic areas of representation, change management, trade, health, and science and innovation. The role of these groups is to identify areas where there are gender blind spots or opportunities, and to develop at least three strategic objectives leading to gender balance. CERN will be taking a leading role in the science and innovation group.

After just one year, the Geneva Gender Champions initiative has clearly shown that if the will is there, change can happen. Its overarching aim is to make international Geneva a leader in gender equality. As a leader in science and technology, it’s only natural for CERN to take its place in the vanguard of this important new movement.