Women & Science


Europe desperately needs more researchers to achieve scientific and technological excellence and to reach the Lisbon goal of becoming the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy. As women are currently under-represented in the field of scientific research, the Commission is promoting measures specifically aimed at encouraging women to take part in European research.

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Since the Lisbon declaration in March 2000, heads of state and governments across Europe have been stressing the need to increase the number of people entering science and technology careers. Indeed, in terms of human resources, it is estimated that an extra half a million researchers (or 1.2 million research-related personnel) are needed to meet the Lisbon goals and the Barcelona target of increasing investment in research to 3% of GDP. The aim is to reach, in Europe, the minimum level of eight researchers per thousand in the workforce

Currently, women represent the majority (56%) of graduates in higher education in Europe but account for only 25% of graduates in engineering. The proportion of women in research also shrinks the higher you look in the career hierarchy, especially in careers in industry, and only 14% of all full professors in Europe are women. 

Reasons for this imbalance are multiple. Certain fields are considered to be men's property and, therefore, gender bias affects judgements on scientific excellence. Industries and academia are also reluctant to hire women because they are not seen as flexible enough. Employers also fear that women may choose to give up their careers and start a family instead.