GEP – Gender Equality Plan

Preliminary remarks with regard to the interpretation of this GEP

This Gender Equality Plan (hereinafter “GEP”) of the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB) is based upon a generic document adopted at the level of the Belgian Science Policy Office (hereinafter “BELSPO”).

The adaptations which have been made to the generic document are intended to bring the expectations expressed by the European Commission as close as possible to the specific nature and operation of the ROB.

The ROB is committed, through this GEP, to contributing to the best of its ability to achieve formal and/or substantive equality between men and women, through an effort made at two levels: internally at the level of the Institute, and externally through collaboration and reinforced exchanges with BELSPO and the other Federal Scientific Institutions (FSIs).

Therefore, some of the actions included in this GEP will, depending upon their nature and scope, be taken on more by the ROB, internally, or by BELSPO and the Gender Mainstreaming network, externally.
This GEP was adopted by the ROB on 17/10/2022 and will be re-evaluated annually.


In accordance with the provisions of the European Commission’s Horizon Europe Programme, BELSPO and the 10 Federal Scientific Institutions (FSIs) which fall under the Federal Science Policy recognise the need for a Gender Equality Plan (GEP). They also note that the GEP is an eligibility criterion for any participation in the Horizon Europe programme.

The Royal Observatory of Belgium, represented by its Director General, supports this Gender Equality Plan and is committed to its further implementation.

The latter takes the framework established by the European Commission and develops the four mandatory requirements (“building blocks”) for a GEP, as well as the 5 recommended policy areas.
It is based upon the work started during the previous legislature by the Gender Mainstreaming network, which is made up of representatives of BELSPO and the 10 FSIs, and is in line with a series of commitments made by these same actor

1. Dissemination and commitment

The gender dimension as articulated in this GEP is consistent with the policy commitments as stated, among others:

  • in the Gender Mainstreaming Law dated 12 January 2007, and in the Royal Decree dated 26 January 2010, issued in application of the law,
  • in the federal government agreement of 2019,
  • in the 2 November 2020 policy statement of the Secretary of State for Science Policy, Thomas Dermine (House Doc 55 1610/016),
  • in the 30 November 2021 policy memorandum from the Secretary of State for Science Policy,
  • in the Federal Gender Mainstreaming Plan adopted by the Council of Ministers on 11 June 2021,
  • in the 2016-2018 Belgian Science Policy Office Administration Contract,
  • in the proposed 2022-2024 Administration Contract.

The Institute’s Gender Equality Plan is public and can be viewed on its website.

Action 1.1. On the ROB website, creation of a section dedicated to equal opportunities, in which the present GEP and Gender Mainstreaming are presented (with cross-referencing).

Deadline: end of 2022.

Action 1.2. In order to promote a better dissemination of the GEP, it will be shared in an internal mailing with all the ROB staff, and then, at the completion of each step, in its implementation.

Recurrence: end of 2022 and following changes or advance.

2. Having dedicated structures

Since the adoption of the law dated 12 January 2007 and its implementing decree, the administration has been legally obliged to integrate the gender dimension into its structures and actions.
At BELSPO, a general Gender Mainstreaming (GM) coordinator took office in June 2016. This coordinator is the legal point of reference for all matters relating to gender equality/gender diversity.
Within the FSIs and BELSPO, contact persons were appointed in September 2016. The result is a BELSPO-FSI network, responsible for gender mainstreaming, competent in diversity issues and to whom the follow-up of the GEP can be entrusted.

Action 2.1. Having at least one person in the BELSPO Gender & Diversity contact persons network in order to follow up on the Gender Equality Plan within BELSPO and the FSIs.

Timeline: by end 2022.

Action 2.2. Disseminate the name(s) of the ROB representative(s) in the network so that each ROB staff member knows whom to contact.

Timeline: once Action 2.1. is complete


3. Data collection and monitoring

Gender-specific personnel data is available to BELSPO’s P&O departments and the FSIs. They are the object of constant attention. This monitoring is performed at the global level as well as by qualification and by function level. As a federal administration, BELSPO and the FSIs are bound by the language laws, which take
precedence (as “public policy”). But our aim is also for a distribution of posts where the best respect for gender is also pursued.

By decision of the Secretary of State for Science Policy, within the framework of the federal Gender Mainstreaming plan, BELSPO and the FSIs will be asked to publish an annual report with regard to the social responsibility of the organisation, as well as a report on gender and diversity.

Action 3.1. Collect and analyse anonymised data of the ROB staff, broken down according to gender. Taking into account the limitations imposed by the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and with prior identification of the latter1, disseminate these analyses at various levels and update them regularly2. Deadline: first release by the end of 2022.

Recurrence: annually

Action 3.2. Identify possible gender imbalances in the staff structure, determine their origin and, if possible, suggest ways to correct them.

Recurrence: annually.

Action 3.3. At the ROB level, disseminate the analyses performed by BELSPO (MERI) of gender-specific R&D data related to FSIs.

Recurrence: annually.

1 Gender-specific data can indeed be collected and analysed at the level of the ROB, but their breakdown may in some cases have the effect of making certain staff members uniquely recognisable.
2 Please see the summary table in the annex. This table shows the different data which can be collected, analysed and disseminated (1st column), and the scale at which they could be disseminated (1st row). This table will be updated on a regular basis, as will be the plan for the GEP.

4. Awareness and training activities

Gender awareness is an essential dimension for understanding and correcting discrimination, stereotypes and other prejudices which can plague the working environment. Since its creation, the Gender Mainstreaming network has organised several events in order to raise awareness among all BELSPO staff and the 10 FSIs.  raining days for contact persons, meetings with resource persons (such as the Midis de l’Egalité), cultural events, calls for projects, etc. The main thing is to encourage interaction and exchanges between participants in a benevolent and mixed environment.

Within this concept of exchange and interaction, the use of dedicated spaces, oriented towards well-being and more relaxed, can allow people to speak freely and to organise themselves around related themes during dedicated breaks.

Cross-cutting objectives related to this subject will be included in the evaluation of staff with decision-making functions (these objectives are included in the administration contract).

Action 4.1. Offer ROB staff the opportunity to participate in GM Network events or organise events, either general or targeted to certain categories of staff or themes, in order to reinforce a decompartmentalised vision, free of clichés and stereotypes.

Recurrence: annually.

Action 4.2. Provide training with regard to discrimination, prevention and gender issues to ROB staff (including staff in decision-making positions). Deadline: annually

Action 4.3. Disseminate the webinars and tools developed by the EURAXESS portal to ROB staff members with regard to careers and gender.

Recurrence: ongoing

5. Work/life balance & organisational culture

Data concerning part-time work, parental leave, teleworking, etc., and more generally with regard to working time arrangements, is available to the BELSPO P&O department and to the FSIs. This data is monitored on a regular basis.

As administrations, BELSPO and FSIs are bound by a legal framework. This legal basis forms the basis for the action of BELSPO and the FSIs in the area of staff working hours.

At the Royal Observatory of Belgium, the staff benefits from a number of measures which remain within the legal framework and which allow flexibility in working hours and teleworking and increase the well-being of the staff. Adjustments to the internal regulations are regularly made in this respect.

Action 5.1. Collect and analyse suggestions from ROB staff regarding possible work arrangements and staff well-being.

Recurrence: annually.

Action 5.2. Identify possible measures for flexibility and increasing the well-being of workers and suggest ways to implement them through changes to the internal regulations.

Recurrence: annually.

6. Gender balance in management and decision making

As for the previous point, it is a question of respecting the legal framework. BELSPO and the 10 FSIs have a very “horizontal” hierarchical structure. As a whole, this structure tends to respect a gender balance in decision-making positions. Likewise, in the composition of committees, gender balance remains a concern.

Action 6.1. Identify imbalances in gender representation in decision-making positions, determine their origin and suggest ways to correct them.

Deadline: continuously.

7. Gender equality in recruitment and career progression

As with the previous two points, BELSPO, as a federal administration, and the FSIs are bound by a legal framework.

Part of the ROB staff is selected through SELOR, which is itself required to adhere to the expectations regarding gender and inequality. For personnel selected outside the SELOR procedure, the Royal Observatory of Belgium ensures that gender balance is respected in the selection commissions. It also ensures that all genders are included in job postings.

However, the Royal Observatory of Belgium is also sensitive to the fact that this balance cannot be imposed upon the same individuals and compromise their own balance and work.

Action 7.1. Monitor the composition of ROB’s recruitment and promotion panels in order to identify gender imbalances and propose corrective measures which do not penalise the careers of staff whose gender is in the minority.

Deadline: ongoing.

8. Integration of the gender dimension in the content of the research

The gender dimension is explicitly present in BELSPO’s multi-annual programmes such as BRAIN-be 2.0, as well as in the programmes of the European Commission. This ranges from strict parity on advisory committees to gender mainstreaming in proposals and evaluation. In addition, specific attention was paid to the composition of expert panels.

With respect to other multi-year programmes such as the ROB doctoral students, the Royal Observatory of Belgium has also integrated the gender dimension as explained in Section 7.

Within the framework of scientific collaboration, the Royal Observatory of Belgium also pays attention to the gender dimension and the staff does not hesitate to take an active role in this sense.

Action 8.1. Ensure that the members of the various ROB juries are gender sensitive.

Deadline: ongoing.

Action 8.2. Encourage staff to take an active role in gender mainstreaming in scientific collaborations.

Deadline: ongoing.

9. Measures taken against gender-based harassment

All federal agencies and institutions are required to comply with a legal framework which addresses harassment (as defined by the Welfare Act) in all its forms, regardless of who the victim or perpetrator is. BELSPO and the FSIs have appointed trustworthy people. They have undergone prior training, as well as a mandatory annual refresher course.

The trusted persons, the training courses and the retraining courses are monitored (via the Prevention Advisor) by EMPREVA, the central unit of the joint internal service for prevention and protection at work of the Belgian Federal Public Administration. The actions of EMPREVA go beyond harassment and consider the well-being of the worker in a global manner.

All the work carried out in the field of psycho-social risks (including harassment) is subject to a double reporting, on the one hand by the Internal Service for Prevention and Protection at Work and on the other hand by the External Service for Prevention and Protection at Work (Cohezio). Annual reports are available. They contain
general statistics with regard to trusted person care.

In addition to EMPREVA and Cohezio, who are privileged partners, it is possible to benefit from the participation of associations specialised in this area in order to organise events or to orchestrate a prevention campaign.

Action 9.1. Within the ROB, place signs with essential information in high-traffic areas in order to maintain awareness.

Deadline: ongoing.

Action 9.2. Take advantage of specific occasions (for example, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) in order to raise awareness of this issue among ROB staff.

Recurrence: annually.

Action 9.3. Ensure that when communications are made about harassment in general, gender harassment is included.

Recurrence: ongoing.

Action 9.4. Communicate essential information about all forms of harassment through mailings in order to maintain awareness.

Recurrence: annually.

Annex 1 – Summary Table of ROB Gender Data Collection, Analysis and Publication

This table shows the different data which can be collected, analysed and disseminated (1st column), and the scale at which they could be disseminated (1st row). This table will be updated on a regular basis, as will be the plan for the GEP.

Taking into account the obligations imposed by the GDPR, some data sets will be too detailed to share, as they make the staff members involved too easily recognisable. It is not impossible that, after an analysis of the compliance with the GDPR, the distribution of certain data sets will ultimately be prohibited. Boxes marked in blue indicate that a compliance analysis has yet to be performed.

Distribution of staff
M / F
Accessible and
can be 
analysed at
the ROB level?
Access for
access for
Access for BELSPO Access for the public
upon request
Free access to
the public
… within the ROB yes yes yes  yes  yes  yes
… by service yes yes yes  yes  yes  yes
… by current hierarchical level
(A 1 2 3, B, C, D )
yes yes TBD  TBD  TBD  TBD
… by hierarchical level at the
time of entry into service
yes yes TBD  TBD  TBD  TBD
… move to the higher
level/grade (statutory) from
yes yes TBD  TBD  TBD  TBD
… per hourly rate (FTE) yes yes TBD  TBD  TBD  TBD
… by parental leave;
telecommuting ratio
yes yes TBD  TBD  TBD  TBD
… by length of career at RO yes yes TBD  TBD  TBD  TBD
… who have taken training in
gender mainstreaming and
gender equality
yes yes TBD  TBD  TBD  TBD