“We made remarkable strides!”
- ©Régine Serra / Sciences Po
After three years of service, Régine Serra leaves the Gender Equality Office and the sexual harassment monitoring unit. She joins the Center for History at Sciences Po and becomes its Secretary General. As Gender Equality Officer, Régine Serra worked with all Sciences Po communities: students, teachers, researchers and administrative staff. She shares her story.
How did Sciences Po’s Gender Equality Office came to be?
Sciences Po’s Gender Equality Office builds on a long-standing commitment to these issues. First, PRESAGE programme [Sciences Po’s gender studies programme] was created in 2010. This teaching and research programme allowed the institution to work on a scientific base on the topic, therefore increasing awareness amongst all Sciences Po communities, students, employees, researchers. It made it possible to apply to a European research programme called Effective Gender Equality in Research and the Academia (EGERA).
Thanks to this European programme, Sciences Po was able to assess how much remained to be done in the field of gender equality.
Over the same period, the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the (then) Minister of Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, called on the higher education institutions to establish Gender Equality Offices.
So it was a perfect matching, between the already well established PRESAGE programme, the European research programme EGERA that explored Sciences Po’s gender equality challenges, and a national context which necessitated the creation of a Gender Equality Office. This led to the creation of Sciences Po’s Gender Equality Office in 2014, directly reporting to the General Secretariat.
Why did you decide to become Sciences Po’s Gender Equality Officer?
I had already worked a lot on the role of women in society when I was a student in Japan in the 90s. I had observed quite a few things. I lived in a Japanese young women’s dormitory. We were two Western women; at that time Japanese universities were not yet opened to “gaijin”, foreigners… So I had this very powerful experience for more than a year. I spent a lot of time observing and thinking about the place of women in this context.
Then I had the opportunity to work on this issue in my position, here, at Sciences Po, as Academic Advisor of the Governing the Large Metropolis Master. The question of the place of women in the urban space was arising.
And in the meantime I was carefully following what Hélène Kloeckner did, she was Sciences Po’s Gender Equality Officer since 2014. I sometimes engaged in a dialogue with her on the needs and improvements in terms of gender equality at Sciences Po. And when she left the Gender Equality Office, I quite naturally said to myself there was an interesting mission, a transversal project, a student project, a social project. A political project, too.
I found in my role as Equality Officer the opportunity to continue working with all Sciences Po communities for the common good and to remain faithful to my convictions. A good matching, here again...
Three years later, what has been accomplished?
Well… I am slightly saddened to leave the Gender Equality Office. I wish I had more time to bring the “students who are also parents” question to a conclusion, but it touches upon several problematic administrative issues… But overall, I think we made remarkable strides! And collectively: I sense that we made this question our own at Sciences Po. And even if a tiny minority is not yet convinced of gender inequalities, at least everybody is reflecting and many people implement solutions. In the end, I was very fortunate to have experienced so little resistance during these three years!
I also benefited greatly from extraordinary national and international contexts: #MeToo and the debates surrounding this movement gave high visibility to the Gender Equality Office. It gave me the opportunity to be more assertive, to work collectively, collaboratively.
I spent three incredible years working on equality between women and men and on sexual and gender violence.
Sciences Po obtained a “Gender Equality in the Workplace” label. Employees are those primarily affected, but this label also requires implementing measures for students and teachers. It is the recognition of what we have undertaken in recent years and ensures long-term commitment, it is important.
What have been some of the key-moments of your three years’ service?
Without any doubt, the sexual harassment monitoring unit moments were the highest points. I am thinking in particular of the first young man I received, his personal story was very moving, we continue to support him today.
Another moment, very different and joyous: Sciences Mômes. We initiated this day with the former Sciences Po Secretary General, Charline Avenel. For the first time, a flock of children came here, within our walls ; I was really touching to see all these kids wandering in Sciences Po, what we had organized to give a sense and meaning to this day taking shape, and also the inquisitive eyes of Sciences Po students that suddenly discovered that such academic assistant was a mom, that such professor was a dad, and that, actually, all these “Sciences Po people” had lives outside of work...
And another moment, finally, an intellectual one: the philosophical dialogue between Frédéric Gros and Geneviève Fraisse on consent. Taking time to reflect on the notion of consent, accepting not to define it clearly, was an important moment. It showed how the Gender Equality Office can work closely together with research on these issues. Sciences Po has shown the way on these matters in the French university landscape and must continue, we know there’s still a long road ahead!