genderSTE is the first targeted network of researchers and policy makers to be funded by the European Commission and run through the COST programme (TA2021). The network, gender, science, technology and the environment has working groups to address gender equality through structural changes in research in science and technology, in institutions and content and in a gendered innovations taskforce. A third working group, Urban Europe is tasked with developing knowledge and resources in the environmental sphere, with working groups on Cities, Energy and Climate Change and Transport. Professor Roberts is leading the sub-panel on Cities.

Working Group 3(i) Cities and Gender

The population of the planet is rapidly urbanising. Cities provide a crucible for economic growth, creativity and innovation. Yet the processes of urbanisation are uneven and while mega-cities are forming in the global south rapidly, some cities in Europe are in decline. Europe’s urban centres face a continuation of the economic crisis that started in 2008. In response to this, Horizon 2020, the EU’s framework for research and development has set sustainable development as an overarching objective. Two of its ‘grand challenges’ are of particular relevance for WG3 cities: inclusive, innovative and secure societies and health, demographic change and well-being. Horizon 2020 will aid JPI Urban Europe in its objective to coordinate research that supports social cohesion and integration.

A shift towards full gender equality is fundamental for social cohesion and inclusion. Within certain member states progress has been made within research, policy and practice in the field of planning and urban design; there are many inspiring examples. But there are concerns that such research and practice has not been widely disseminated and that progress may be stalled in the face of other priorities, such as the demands with international migration for equalities between different minorities or, equally pressing, trade-offs with environmental sustainability.

There is also a need for further development in research and policy. Basic statistics are lacking. For example the right to move through public space freely is not shared evenly between males and females. The United Nations has alerted the world to a ‘pandemic of violence against women’. While statistics are available at country level for domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, no comparable statistics are available for sexual harassment in public spaces. Another example of new challenges to be faced is presented by Europe’s ageing population. Here older women are in the majority and issues of gender equality need to be addressed within spatial planning. While the practices of spatial planning have made some progress with regard to recognising the need to reconcile waged work with the unpaid activities of care and social reproduction, translating these moves into land-use planning at a wider spatial scale still lags behind.

The specific tasks of WG3 (Cities) will be carried out in two phases. The first (November  2012-November 2014) will be to assess the status of sex and gender issues with regard to research in urban development in each of the participating member states for this COST action. This will be facilitated by:

  • Meetings of experts on gender and policy making in the fields of urban planning and design and urban development;
  • Short term Scientific Missions
  • Meetings with decision makers on European research in the field of urban development.

The second phase (November 2014-November 2016) will be a focussed on dissemination. This will include:

  • Presentations at major conferences for researchers and policy makers in urban development;
  • Organising, with the other two sub-groups of WG3, a major international conference on Gender and Sustainable Development.


Chair of Network: Prof Ines Sanchez de Madariaga
Co-ordinator WG3: Urban Europe Prof Javier Ruiz
Leader WG3 Sub: Panel: Cities - Prof Marion Roberts