Gender Equality Plan

Gender Equality Plan

Gender Equality Vision and Policy

Howest University of Applied Sciences is an atypical, creative, innovative and enterprising institution of higher learning. It is an open and pluralistic school, with respect for diversity. Howest inspires its employees and students to integrate its core values (serve - empower - care) into their personal and professional lives. 

Howest aims to develop the unique talents of each student. This implies that students are seen and accepted as they are. Based on the perception of its core values, Howest places the well-being of the student at the centre, paying special attention to individual needs. For its employees, Howest fosters a climate in which they are given space and trust to take initiative. Howest takes care of the well-being of its employees and gives them every opportunity to continue developing their competences and talents.

Howest believes in the power of sustainable and open campuses to inspire. They are the vibrant habitats for the learning community of students, staff and partners. They offer a place where everyone can be themselves.

Howest realises its mission with an open view of the world. When making policy choices, Howest responds flexibly to the changing needs of society and the talent of its staff. As an organisation, Howest sets the example and encourages its staff, students and partners to reflect on the impact of their choices. Convinced of the importance of enthusiastic and committed ambassadors, Howest selects its Board of Directors and the members of its advisory boards with care. 

Gender equality is a fundamental value of the European Union and is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Howest explicitly recognises the importance that the European Union and the UN attach to gender equality in general and to gender equality in research and innovation in particular.

This translates into the following commitments: 

  • The gender equality plan is a public document published on the Howest website
  • Howest makes resources available to develop and carry out actions in the field of gender equality and to continuously follow up the implementation within the organisation. For this purpose, a Howest Gender Equality Steering Group was established.
  • Howest collects and monitors data in the area of gender equality. This information is reported annually to the administration and to the relevant consultative bodies, such as the consultative committee for institutions of higher education and the student council. The findings are used to set goals and define actions.
  • Howest employs an ethical code within the organisation in which respectful treatment in every encounter with others without distinction of gender is one of the rules.
  • Howest is co-author of the VHLORA Charter on Gender Equality and will sign it as soon as it is published.

Steering committee for gender equality

Within Howest, there is an active steering committee to monitor gender equality. This steering committee keeps track of the following matters:

  • Editing and updating the gender equality plan
  • Internal communications regarding gender equality
  • Monitoring gender equality 
  • Policy advice concerning gender equality 
  • Reporting activities, trends and advice to the management committee
  • Substantive support with actions concerning gender equality

The Howest Gender Equality Steering Committee is composed of representatives from the study programmes, student services and general services. A staff member from personnel and the HR department chairs the steering committee. Additionally, other members of staff and external parties can be invited depending on the theme of the agenda. 

Themes about gender equality

Gender equality in terms of work-life balance and organisational culture

Howest sets the example in maintaining and strengthening the well-being of its staff and students. As a conscientious employer in higher education, we facilitate employees and students in making healthy choices. By doing so, we help increase physical, mental and social wellbeing through a holistic approach, allowing our Howest community to work, research, teach, study, etc. with enthusiasm.

Howest pays particular attention to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Each Howest campus offers a wide range of flexible learning, working and meeting spaces tailored to its users. Connectivity and interaction, accessibility and ample opportunity for networking create real and virtual living environments that complement each other. Howest campuses facilitate and enhance learning and working, encourage exchange and collaboration, and show respect for the symbiosis between studying, working and leisure.

Gender balance in the leadership and organisational structure

Howest has incorporated safeguards for gender balance into the following governing bodies by way of the Howest Organisational Regulations, approved by the Board of Directors on 8 July 2013 and amended on 25 November 2014 and on 20 June 2016:

  • Board of Directors:
    The objective is that at least one-third of the members of the governing body must be of the same gender. From the second term of office after the conversion of the institution by operation of law (2017-2021), the intention is that both genders should be equally represented. (Art.10§5). This is also provided for the staff section (art.11) and the student section (art.12).
  • Executive Committee:
    In the configuration of the executive committee, the managing director is assumed to be gender neutral. Both genders are equally represented among the other four board members (art. 48).
  • Student Services Council
    The Student Services Council strives for diversity in its composition. A maximum of two thirds of its members may be of the same gender (art. 89).

Ensuring gender equality in recruitment and professional development  

Howest chooses its employees with care as they are a critical success factor for Howest. Howest has passionate employees who identify with the school’s mission and vision. They share and promote the values of Howest. They inspire and empower each other and their students. They think and act in a professional and practice-oriented context.

Recruitment of employees takes place through a selection procedure based on internal regulations. In the composition of the selection committees, both genders are always represented.

Howest provides its employees every opportunity to continue developing their skills and talents. This implies that employees, based on their own intrinsic motivation and in response to the needs of the school, can take control of their career, allowing them to maximize their development, both professionally and personally. 

Howest respects all people in the process of recruitment and professional development without discrimination based on origin, gender, ethnicity, marital status, physical characteristics, religion or philosophical beliefs.

Gender equality in teaching and research

Within the context of teaching:

  • Howest actively pursues inclusiveness in its academic administration and strives for everyone to recognise themselves in the academic and examination regulations. For this reason, texts concerning these regulations will be written in a gender-neutral way.
  • The Student Services Office conducts periodic awareness campaigns for students such as mental health week, week against sexual harassment and transgression.
  • Howest pursues its mission with an open view of the world and incorporates this in its academic programs and activities. Examples can already be identified within the Bachelor of Applied Psychology, concerning gender and diversity (English taught semester Psychological Dimensions of Gender and Diversity), and are being further developed. Within other programmes, students are also being challenged to take a closer look at general themes of diversity and inclusion and to place them within their own context. (E.g. TedTalk by communication management students about body positivity, gender, ethnicity, physical and mental disability, sexual orientation and religion).

Within the context of research at Howest, careful consideration is already being given to gender equality and balance:

  • We promote and participate in funding programmes that contribute to Flemish, Belgian and European policies concerning gender equality and equal opportunities (e.g. King Baudouin Foundation vzw, Erasmus+, Horizon Europe, etc.).
  • Howest conducts its own research on gender, diversity and inclusion in general. For instance, there is research on promoting social inclusion of young people in general and girls specifically through physical activity (IncluPAS and Urban Meiden), research is being done on improving initiatives supporting vulnerable families (Tope Sterk), and there is research being conducted on developing equal opportunities education (Kleine kinderen, grote kansen), to name but a few examples. The theme of gender (in)equality is often highlighted in the choice of bachelor's theses.
  • We ensure that if individuals are the subject of research in a project, gender is included, where relevant, as a variable to be studied. This can be achieved, for example, by gender-balanced sampling and by designing or choosing research methods that allow for the analysis of potentially relevant gender differences in the collected data.
  • We take into account gender and diversity in the dissemination and communication of information concerning activities both at project and Howest-wide levels.
  • We promote professionalisation/training on gender equality in research for researchers and research coordinators, for instance through the Input/Output training programme of VLHORA and, where appropriate, the UGent Association.
  • When preparing proposals for EU calls, researchers are reminded of the importance of the importance of gender and diversity in their research, teaching and within their team.

Policies regarding gender equality in the context of psycho-social wellbeing and transgressive behaviour

Students can always contact the ombudsperson or the psycho-social counselling team from Student Services (Stuvo).

Within Howest, there is a staff support point (STaP) where every staff member can contact both confidential counsellors and the prevention advisor. There is also an outline of potential work related psycho-social risks and a description of the potential measures to be taken in each case.  

Howest has a designated contact point for transgressive behavior that everyone (students, staff members and third parties) has access to in regard to questions about or report of any form of transgressive behavior. This contact point is there to detect problems as soon as possible, provide initial support and - if desired – to refer individuals to the appropriate next step within or outside Howest.

Monitoring gender equality

The following will be updated annually.

Gender balance within the organizational structure 

  • Board of Directors
  • Executive Committee 
  • Management Committee
  • Negotiating Committee for institutions of higher education
  • Student Council 
  • Student Services Council

Gender balance within the management framework

  • Directors
  • Middle management (training managers, coordinators, heads of department)

Gender balance within the various personnel statutes

  • Teaching staff
  • Administrative and technical staff 

Gender balance within the student population

  • Gender balance within the study programs
  • Gender balance within the student statutes

Actions and training

Actions and training organised around the theme of gender (equality) will be kept up to date by the steering committee with an accessible overview on the intranet, so that employees can easily access and review the material.