Part 3. Solutions and Best Practices

Numerous organizations have supported institutional transformation aimed at removing structural barriers to gender equality. These solutions and best practices apply to Institutional Transformation.

  • 1. Governments have catalyzed institutional change through programs such as the U. S. National Science Foundation's ADVANCE program, the European Commission's Women and Gender in Research programs, and the Austrian Science Fund's Gender Mainstreaming program.
  • 2. Academic Institutions have worked to remove gender bias from hiring and promotion, advance women in leadership, accommodate dual-career academic couples, and facilitate work/life balance.
  • 3. Industry and Private Sector Corporations have programs aimed at improving the representation of women in upper management.

1. Governments


U. S. National Science Foundation ADVANCE Program

  • The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has supported institutional transformation through its Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers (ADVANCE) program. Between 2001 and 2011, NSF's ADVANCE provided $138M in funding to support ADVANCE projects at 56 institutions of higher education and STEM-related not-for-profit organizations in 34 states and Puerto Rico. Institutions have used ADVANCE grants to challenge gender bias and have made substantial, quantifiable progress in advancing equality between women and men.

European Commission's Women and Gender in Research Programs

  • The publication Stocktaking: 10 Years of "Women in Science" Policy summarizes three main objectives (Marchetti et al., 2010):
    • 1. Deepen knowledge on the situation of women in science
    • 2. Increase women’s participation in science, engineering, and technology.
    • 3. Mainstream gender in all programs and policies, and specifically in research.
  • Women and Gender in Research at DG Research & Innovation has been responsible for the implementation of multiple initiatives in three consecutive research Framework Programmes. Between 2002 and 2010, the Science in Society Programme invested €36.7M in projects on gender in science.
  • Examples of influential projects funded under the EC's Framework Programme 7(FP7) include:

    • Gendered Innovations in Science, Medicine, Engineering, and Environment integrates sex and gender methods into research.
    • See website at:
    • Structural Change in Research Institutions provides key steps for creating gender equality in universities and research centers.
    • European Commission. (2011). Structural Change in Research Institutions: Enhancing Excellence, Gender Equality, and Efficiency in Research and Innovation. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
    • genSET targets gender inequalities and biases in five key areas: scientific knowledge-making, research processes, recruitment and retention, assessment of research productivity, and measurement of scientific excellence. The genSET Consensus Report is innovative in multiple respects. First, it examines gender at the knowledge level. Second, it supports interdisciplinary dialogue between gender experts and people in "gatekeeping" positions such as university leadership, journal editors, and funding directors.
    • Buitendijk, S., Revuleta, C., Corda, D., Flodström, A., Holdcroft, A., Hunter, J., James, A., Jensen, H., Kitchen, N., Schraudner, M., Sjørup, K., Rice, C., Rønneberg, H., & Tarrach, R. (2010). Recommendations for Action on the Gender Dimension in Science. London: Portia.
    • GENDERA (2010-2012) strives to increase the representation of women in European research organizations. This project provides a Good Practices Database and Recommendations.
    • See website at:
    • Euraxess Portal is a web-based information tool to support the recruitment and mobility of women researchers across Europe. Created in 2008, the portal allows users to contact a network of more than 200 centres located in 35 European countries.
    • See website at:
    • European Union Charter for Researchers supports openess in the labor market for S&E professionals —including open posting of jobs, transparent evaluation criteria, etc.

    • European Commission Directorate-General for Research. (2005). The European Charter for Researchers: The Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. Brussels: EC.

Athena SWAN Charter Programme

  • The Athena SWAN Charter for Women and Science is a national recognition scheme for UK universities and their SET departments launched in 2005. To become members, institutions are required to subscribe to a set of principles and submit an action plan for promoting the advancement of the careers of women working in SET.

Austrian Science Fund (FWF) Gender Mainstreaming

  • In 2005, the FWF funded a unit for gender issues and began implementing structural changes in recognition that "measures should offer equal opportunities for men and women within FWF programs." These changes include increasing networking opportunities for women during both university-level education and formal employment and establishing a balance of women and men scientists in decision-making positions (for example, on grant review boards). FWF has also revised grant guidelines such that "allowance is made for time spent raising children" when boards evaluate applicants. In order to monitor progress, the FWF has begun collecting detailed statistics on women's and men's participation rates in different disciplines, success rates in applying for grants, etc.
  • FWF Der Wissenschaftsfonds. (2011). Gender Mainstreaming: Objectives and Requirements.
  • FWF Der Wissenschaftsfonds. (2011). General Principles of the Decision-Making Procedure.

Austrian fFORTE Initiative

  • The fFORTE initiative was launched in February 2002 and is a coordinated effort of several government ministries in Austria to increase the number of women in scientific and technology professions. fFORTE school (BMUKK) funds girl students interested in attending technical schools and provides teachers new impetus for gender-sensitive teaching. FEMtech (BMVIT) makes research-intensive companies more accessible to women and expands their career prospects. fFORTE academic (BMWF) supports excellent women scientists throughout all stages of their scientific careers. w-fFORTE (BMWA) facilitates contacts between highly qualified experts and scientists in companies and strengthens the economic and application-oriented research.

German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG)

  • In 2007, the DFG established a set of research-oriented standards on gender equality. To qualify for funding, institutions must implement these standards.
  • DFG. Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality.

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO)

  • Since 1997, the NWO has implemented a number of institutional changes to increase women’s participation in the sciences, such as abolishing age limits for funding opportunities, extending time-limits for pregnancy or parental leave, and creating targets for the representation of women on boards and committees. It also introduced a new policy in relation to its Innovational Research Incentives Scheme that requires equal success rates for women and men applicants over a set time period. In addition, three special targeted funding programs have been introduced to support women in scientific research. The ASPASIA program aims to provide incentives for the promotion of more women to senior university positions. MEERVOUD is designed to enable women post-doctoral researchers to obtain positions as university lecturers. ATHENA targets talented women researchers within the Division for Chemical Sciences.
  • NWO. Why Science Needs More Women

United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) Reentry Grant Supplements

  • The NIH has recognized that "in basic, behavioral, and clinical science research [...] among the reasons for the low representation of women may be the fact that women bear a majority of the responsibilities surrounding child and family care." NIH has helped to correct this bias by offering grant supplements to facilitate reentry of scientists who have taken time off to care for a child or parent. Further, NIH continues to support research on effective interventions to address gender bias.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH). (1999). NIH Guide: Supplements to Promote Reentry into Biomedical and Behavioral Research Careers. Washington, D.C.: Government Publishing Office (GPO).

Swedish and Norwegian Innovation and Gender Projects

    Innovation Norway, the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, and the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA) have collaborated to promote best practices for increasing innovation in the Nordic region through gender equality. These include:
  • ● Networking and mentorship programs to improve recruitment, retention, and advancement of women. These are especially important in industries with few women (such as steel manufacturing).
  • ● Using the Balanced Scorecard system to make gender diversity a part of strategic planning.
  • ● Establishing monitoring procedures for measuring progress towards gender equality goals.
  • ● Applied gender research, in which gender experts collaborate with engineers in designing products.
  • Danilda, I., & Thorslund, J. (Eds.) (2011). Innovation and Gender. Västerås: Edita Västra Aros AB.

Swedish Centres of Gender Excellence

  • In 2006, the Swedish Research Council funded Centres of Gender Excellence. Three centres—at the universities of Uppsala, Umeå, and Linköping-Örebrö—received SEK 27M each over a five-year period.


2. Academic Institutions


Diversity Training

  • Gender diversity can improve companies' performance.

    • Companies with women in top management and on executive boards may outperformed other companies. Gender-diverse teams may also be more creative and productive than gender-homogenous teams. But diversity must also be managed: the benefits of gender diversity are reaped only by companies that make diversity part of the corporate culture.
    • Barker, L., Mancha, C., Ashcraft, C. (2014). What is the Impact of Gender Diversity on Technology Business Performance? Research Summary. National Center for Women & Information Technology, 1-7.
    • Some diversity intervention programs show reduction in implicit and explicit bias, but others can worsen bias.

    • This article summarizes measures to reduce both implicit and explicit biases.
    • Moss-Racusin, C., van der Toorn, J., Dovidio, J., Brescoll, V., Graham, M., & Handelsman, J. (2014). Scientific Diversity Interventions. Science 343 (6171), 615-616.

Hiring and Promotion Programs

  • ADVANCE at the University of Michigan (UM)

    • As part of its ADVANCE grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the University of Michigan implemented Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence (STRIDE), an innovative program designed to reduce subtle gender and race bias. This program maximizes the likelihood that a group of diverse, well-qualified candidates for faculty positions will be identified. Michigan's recruitment record since receiving ADVANCE funding is impressive: women comprised 39% of new hires in science and engineering in 2004, versus 13% in 2001. A total of eight women have been appointed department chairs in science and engineering since ADVANCE programs began.
    • Lavaque-Manty, D., & Stewart, A. (2008). A Very Scholarly Intervention: Recruiting Women Faculty in Science And Engineering. In Schiebinger, L. (Ed.), Gendered Innovations in Science and Engineering, pp. 165-181. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
    • Stewart, A., LaVaque-Manty, D., & Malley, J. (2004). Recruiting Female Faculty Members in Science and Engineering: Preliminary Evaluation of One Intervention Model. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 10, 361-375.
  • ADVANCE at the University of Washington (UW)

    • The University of Washington's ADVANCE program has produced similar changes in faculty recruitment, retention, and diversity. Important components of the UW program include "Best Practices of Search Committees" and "On-Ramps into Academia" workshops that seek to attract qualified women scientists and engineers from other employment sectors.

    ADVANCE at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)

    • As part of its ADVANCE grant, Georgia Tech developed the Awareness of Decisions in Evaluating Promotion and Tenure (ADEPT) tool, which provides case studies and activities for discussion.

    genSET at the University of Tromsø (UiT)

    • In 2010, the University of Tromsø (UiT), Norway, implemented a new gender action plan, which aims to increase the percentage of women professors from the present 23% to 30% by 2014. The plan adopts the genSET Recommendations for Action on the Gender Dimension in Science as the guiding principles for UiT's gender equality work.

    The Promotion Project at the University of Tromsø (UiT)

    • The Promotion Project supports women's advancement to full professorship. It allows women associate professors who are approaching qualification for promotion to (a) undergo a trial evaluation with no penalty, and (b) access funding which can offer buy-out from teaching duties, directly support research, etc.
    • Rice, C. (2011). The Promotion Project: Getting More Women Professors

Programs for Advancing Women's Leadership in Medical Schools

  • Flexible Careers
    • The School of Medicine at Stanford University has introduced Academic Biomedical Career Customization to allow faculty to create customized career plans. The program's "time banking" system allows faculty to earn credits that they can cash in for help at work or at home.
    • Valantine, H. & Sandborg, C., (October 2013). Changing the Culture of Academic Medicine to Eliminate the Gender Leadership Gap: 50/50 by 2020. Academic Medicine, 88 (10), 1-3.
    • Academic Biomedical Career Customization website
      Rikleen, L. (August 19, 2013). Stanford Medical School's Plan to Attract More Female Leaders. Harvard Business Review Blog Network.
  • Recruiting Strategies
    • The University of Pennsylvania increased recruitment of women physicians by including information about the University's broad goals and public health mission in job descriptions, as well as providing information about the University's family-friendly policies (such as daycare facilities and mentoring programs) in "resource packets" for both women and men applicants. This strategy tripled the representation of women in surgery over eight years.
    • Sheridan, J., Fine, E., Pribbenow, C., Handelsman, J., & Carnes, M. (2010). Searching for Excellence and Diversity: Increasing the Hiring of Women Faculty at One Academic Medical Center. Academic Medicine, 85, 999-1007.
    • Morton, M., Bristol, M., Atherton, P., Schwab, C., & Sonnad, S. (2008). Improving the Recruitment and Hiring Process for Women Faculty. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 206 (6), 1210-1218.

Family-Friendly Policies

  • These policies help faculty to locate resources for household and family needs. Parental, family, and medical leave policies are included in this “suite” of benefits. Family-friendly policies often fall under general work-life programs at universities. Many family-friendly policies are relevant to private-sector and public-sector employment generally, but some are specific to academia, including "Stop the Tenure Clock" (STC) policies (see below), which allow faculty to extend their probationary periods and postpone tenure reviews to account for major life events, such as the birth or adoption of a child.
  • The U.S. NSF has introduced a new policy allowing grant recipients to defer grant-funded work for as long as a year due to childbirth or adoption. Provisions allowing for care of elderly parents are also included. This policy applies equally to women and men, but is aimed specifically at increasing the retention of women.
  • Stanford University Faculty Development and Diversity Office. Personal and Family Resources.

  • University of California (UC) Faculty Family Friendly Edge. Existing Elements of the Family Friendly Package for UC Ladder-Rank Faculty.

    University of California (UC) Creating a Family Friendly Department: Chairs and Deans (Toolkit)

  • Princeton University Office of the Dean of Faculty. Family-Friendly Policies and Programs for Princeton Faculty.

  • Mason, M. (2012). What is the Next Step for Female Scientists? Chronicle of Higher Education, February 13.

Dual-Career Academic Couples

  • Policies for couple hiring can significantly improve a university's hiring competitiveness. Such policies are particularly important for recruiting and retaining women faculty in science and engineering fields, as women professors are more likely than men professors to have academic partners—and less likely to accept employment offers if their partners are not accommodated.
  • Leicht-Scholten, C., Breuer, E., Callies, N., & Wolffram, A. (Eds.) (2011). Going Diverse: Innovative Answers to Future Challenges. Opladen: Budrich UniPress.

  • Funk, J., Gramespacher, E., & Rothäusler, I. (Eds.) (2010). Dual Career Couples in Theorie und Praxis. Opladen: Barbara Budrich Verlag.

  • Schiebinger, L., Henderson, A., & Gilmartin, S. (2008). Dual-Career Academic Couples: What Universities Need to Know. Stanford: Clayman Institute for Gender Research.

Grants, Loans, and Subsidies

  • The delivery of funds can retain women in scientific careers. Funds can be used for a variety of purposes, such as helping women get “back on track” after significant life events, covering costs for traveling to research sites and professional opportunities such as conferences, and providing funding for new research projects. The University of Wisconsin used part of its ADVANCE grant to establish a Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI) Life-Cycle Research Grant Program that support women scientists at critical junctures in their professional careers when their research productivity would be affected by personal life events, such as illness, childcare, and pregnancy.

Re-Entry Fellowships

  • Re-entry fellowships allow qualified women scientists to return to high-quality scientific research after taking time off to have children. For instance, in the U.K., The Wellcome Trust offers Career Re-Entry Fellowships to enable women to resume their scientific research careers on full or part-time bases. The U.K. Daphne Jackson Trust also provides re-entry fellowships.

Targets and Quotas

  • In several European countries, targets and quotas set goals that promote gender equality within academic institutions and increase the number of women selected for academic positions. For instance, the 1995 Finnish Act on Equality between Women and Men requires Research Councils to make every effort to ensure that well-qualified women occupy at least forty percent of research positions. It is explicitly required that preference be given to the underrepresented sex when the applicants are equally competent. In 2006, the percentage of women members in Research Councils at the Academy of Finland was forty-seven percent—the highest in Europe.
  • Academy of Finland. Equality.

Gender Budgeting

  • The process of gender budgeting evaluates, from an equal opportunities perspective, the plans and budget of a university to ensure fair and effective use of resources. For instance, the University of Oslo has established a committee to look at the distribution of funds between women and men staff in selected faculties.
  • European Commission. (2008) Mapping the Maze: Getting More Women to the Top in Research. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Data Collection

  • Documenting gender discrimination provides data to demonstrate the systematic character of the problem. For instance, the University of Wisconsin-Madison ADVANCE program, developed workshop to enhance the climate (or collegiality) of departments. This allowed department chairs to identify specific gender issues in their units.

Promotion of Research and Teaching on Gender Issues

  • Establishing gender studies programs builds awareness about gender issues and triggers organizational change. For instance, the University of Torino set up an inter-departmental research unit to integrate gender research and results into the university curriculum.
  • Holzinger, F., & Schmidmayer, J. (2010). GENDERA Synthesis Report Good Practices on Gender Equality in R&D Organizations. Vienna: Centre for Economic and Innovation Research.


  • Organizations need to engage in long-term planning to increase gender equality in science and technology. In 2007, the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, or DFG) required all university grant applications to be accompanied by a gender equality plan.
  • DFG's Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality

Childcare Services

  • The "Science Goes Family" program at the University of Konstanz in Germany provides a variety of supports that addresses the needs of both working mothers and fathers in scientific research. These include access to quality childcare, emergency childcare, and care at conferences.
  • Holzinger, F., & Schmidmayer, J. (2010). GENDERA Synthesis Report Good Practices on Gender Equality in R&D Organizations. Vienna: Centre for Economic and Innovation Research.


3. Industry and Private Sector Corporations


Career Customization

  • Industry solutions to recruitment and retention issues have shifted from blanket “flextime” provisions to more integrated, sustainable strategies collectively referred to as “mass career customization.” In a customized career framework, women and men employees can adjust their careers along four dimensions: Pace of work, workload, location/travel requirements, and leadership level. This strategy can increase productivity and employee loyalty while reducing turnover and associated costs.
  • Benko, C., & Weisberg, A. (2007). Mass Career Customization: Aligning the Workplace with Today’s Nontraditional Workforce. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

  • Desvaux, G., Devillard-Hoellinger, S., & Baumgarten, P. (2007). Women Matter: Gender Diversity, a Corporate Performance Driver. New York: McKinsey and Company.

Transparent and Performance-Focused Appraisal Systems

  • Companies can promote gender equality by evaluating employee performance according to transparent, standardized criteria. This strategy is especially effective for increasing women's representation in leadership positions.
  • Desvaux, G., Devillard, S., & Sancier-Sultan, S. (2010). Women Matter 3: Women Leaders, a Competitive Edge During and After the Crisis. New York: McKinsey and Company.

Monitoring and Accountability

  • Accountability policies, which hold senior managers responsible for promoting gender equality, are effective when coupled with clear monitoring guidelines that establish specific indicators of diversity. For instance, the Spanish CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas) introduced a regulation requiring that all institutes and research centres produce an annual report that provides data on the proportion of women and men in all career paths and at all career levels.
  • Spanish Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas.

  • Desvaux, G., Devillard, S., & Sancier-Sultan, S. (2010). Women Matter 4: Women at the Top of Corporations: Making It Happen. New York: McKinsey and Company.

  • Dobbin, F., Kalev, A., & Kelly, E. (2007). Diversity Management in Corporate America. Contexts, 6 (4), 21-27.

Mentoring and Role Models

  • Both formal and informal mentoring, combined with other interventions, can be effective in advancing women's careers in the private sector; this also applies to academia. Experimental studies show that mentoring is most effective when high-level managers are visibly committed to reducing gender and other forms of bias, and when countering such bias is an integral value in corporate culture. In implementing mentoring programs, organizations must take care that such programs do not disproportionately increase women mentors' workloads.
  • Paludi, M., Martin, J., Stern, T., & DeFour, D. (2010). Promises and Pitfalls of Mentoring Women in Business and Academia. In Rayburn, C., Austria, A., Denmark, F., & Reuder, M. (Eds.), A Handbook for Women Mentors: Transcending Barriers of Stereotype, Race, and Ethnicity, pp. 79-108. Santa Barbara: Praeger.

  • Egan, T., & Song, Z. (2008). Are Facilitated Mentoring Programs Beneficial? A Randomized Experimental Field Study. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72 (3), 351-362.

  • De Vries, J., Webb, C., & Eveline, J. (2006). Mentoring for Gender Equality and Organisational Change. Employee Relations, 28 (6), 573-587.

Database of Women Scientists

Global Standard for Gender Equality

  • In 2011, a global label and certification system was launched for companies implementing gender equality policies and practices. The assessment methodology has been developed by a Swiss Foundation –the Gender Equality Project – in partnership with the World Economic Forum and a core group of multinational corporations. Five areas of assessment are: (1) Equal pay for equivalent work; (2) Recruitment and promotion; (3) Training and mentoring; (4) Worklife balance; (5) Company culture.

Gender Equality Principles (GEP) Initiative

  • This groundbreaking program assists companies around the world in building more productive workplaces by implementing Gender Equality Principles. The GEP Initiative provides companies with standards, tools and resources that can be used to improve gender equality, from factory floor to boardroom. It addresses the following: Employment and compensation; Work-life balance and career development; Health, safety, and freedom from violence; Management and governance; Business, supply chain, and marketing practices; Civic and community engagement; Transparency and accountability. The initiative was launched by the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women in cooperation with the Calvert Group and Verité.


  • Awards can highlight the merits and successes of women scientists. For instance, in 2001, the Ministry of Research and Higher Education in France issued the Irene Joliot-Curie Prize for women in research and technology. It features four categories: Women and Entrepreneurship, Young Woman Scientist, Woman Scientist of the Year, and Mentorship. The selection procedures promote a larger presence of women in leadership positions by engaging major universities in France as well companies in many high-tech industries.
  • Prix Irène Joliot-Curie Édition 2011: Dossier de Candidature et Règlement.


  • To retain high productivity, employers increasingly provide benefits to support housework.
  • Schiebinger, L. & Gilmartin, S. (2010). Housework is an Academic Issue. Academe, Jan/Feb. 2010, 39-44.


  • To advance women in leadership, senior management needs to make gender equality a business priority. This includes integrating gender awareness into company processes and systems. To achieve gender equality in leadership, senior management needs to be committed to the process, set goals, and lead by example.

  • Vinkenburg, C., Van Engen, M., Eagly, A., & Johannesen-Schmidt, M. (2011). An Exploration of Stereotypical Beliefs about Leadership Styles: Is Transformational Leadership a Route to Women's Promotion? The Leadership Quarterly, 22 (1), 10-21.

  • Wittenberg-Cox, A. (2010). How Women Mean Business: A Step by Step Guide to Profiting from Gender Balanced Business. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

  • Desvaux, G., Devillard, S., & Sancier-Sultan, S. (2010). Women Matter 2010—Women at the Top of Corporations: Making it Happen. New York: McKinsey and Company.

  • Desvaux, G., Devillard, S. (2008). Women Matter 2—Female Leadership, a Competitive Edge for the Future. New York: McKinsey and Company.

Works Cited and Further Resources:

Cacace, M. (2009). PRAGES: Guidelines for Gender Equality Programmes in Science. Italy: Via Pasubio.

Castaño, C., Müller, J., Gonzalez, A., & Palmen, R. (2010). Meta-Analysis of Gender and Science Research Topic Report: Policy towards Gender Equity in Science and Research. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Danilda, I., & Thorslund, J. (Eds). (2011). Innovation and Gender. Stockholm: Vinnova.

European Commission. (2009). The Gender Challenge in Research Funding: Assessing the European National Scenes. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

European Commission. (2008). Benchmarking Policy Measures for Gender Quality in the Sciences. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Marchetti, M. & Raudma, T. (Eds). (2010). Stocktaking: 10 Years of "Women in Science" Policy by the European Commission, 1999-2009. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Miles, K., & Niethammer, C. (2009). Embedding Gender in Sustainability Reporting: A Practitioner's Guide. Washington, D.C.: International Finance Corporation (IFC) Publishing.

National Academy of Sciences. (2009). Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

National Academy of Sciences. (2006). Recruit and Advance: Women Students and Faculty in Science and Engineering. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.



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