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.
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.
The Commission's first Women and Science conference, in 1998, highlighted the gender gap in research. Shortly thereafter, in 1999, an Action plan on women and science was launched. The Helsinki Group on women and science was also set up in 1999 with a view to developing synergies between European and national policies and providing a framework for pooling national policy experiences and exchanging good practice. The Commission's 2001 Science and Society action plan further developed the approach of the 1999 action plan and outlined a series of measures, namely Actions 24-27, targeted specifically at "producing gender equality in science".
What is the EU doing ?
The EU aims to strike a better gender balance in science through:
a) Actions 24-27 presented in the Science and Society action plan:
- Establishing a European platform of women scientists and organisations committed to gender equality in scientific research.
- Monitoring progress towards gender equality in European research with a set of gender indicators.
- Mobilising women scientists in the private sector by identifying career patterns and examples of best practice.
- Promoting gender equality in science in the wider Europe.
b) Framework Programmes (FPs): The aim is to get at least 40% representation of women in the EU's Framework Programmes (FPs). Contractors of Networks of Excellence and Integrated Projects in the FP6 are required to prepare an action plan for the promotion of gender equality within their project and later to report on it. The Commission has published a reference guide on how to implement the Gender Action Plan (GAP).
c) European Charter for Researchers & Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers: These proposals, announced in March 2005, call on employers to provide flexible working conditions which allow both male and female researchers to combine family and work, children and career and the necessary financial and administrative provisions governing such arrangements. The employers are also encouraged to aim for "a representative gender balance at all levels of staff, including at supervisory and managerial level".
d) Women in industrial research (WIR): An EU expert group 'Women in Science and Technology - the business perspective' was launched on 16 February 2005 in the context of the WIR initiative to analyse the promotion of women in science and technology from a business perspective. The results were published in May 2006.
e) European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS): European Platform of Women Scientists was launched in March 2005 with start-up funding from the Commission. The Platform aims to bring together networks of women scientists and organisations committed to gender equality in scientific research.
f) Women scientists in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic Stats (Enwise): The Enwise expert group was launched in October 2002 to examine the situation of women scientists in Central and Eastern European countries and in the Baltic States. The report was published in January 2004.
g) Statistics to benchmark policies and progress: An EU programme of statistical work was initiated in 2001, when a group of statistical correspondents was created as a subgroup of the Helsinki Group on Women and Science. The group has published, among other things, the
She Figures 2003
She Figures 2006
h) European funded research projects:
- Supporting women scientists in central Europe
- Statistically profiling Europe’s women scientists
- Increasing opportunities for women scientists in the wider Europe
- Pushing for equality and excellence in science
- Connecting women scientists at European level
- Measuring progress towards gender equality
- A woman's place is in… industrial research and development
Situation in EU-25
According to a recent Eurostat report (February 2006), there is a particularly high percentage of female researchers in the Baltic countries - 53% in Latvia and 48% in Lithuania. Bulgaria (47%), Portugal (44%) and Slovakia (41%) are also at the top of this ranking, in which France (28%) and Germany (19%) score below the EU average.
In around two-thirds of the member states, the largest proportion of female researchers is found in the government sector and around one-third of the EU-25 report the highest proportion of women in the higher education sector. In no country is the highest proportion of female researchers found in the business sector.
European Parliament resolution on the role of women in industry (January 2008) "regrets the low proportion of women in the advanced technology sector". The house therefore stresses the importance of educational and training programmes in science and technology, to "guarantee the quality and diversification of training opportunities for women and the promotion of scientific and technological studies for girls".
It also calls on the member states and the Commission to develop and implement strategies to address discrepancies in the work environment and the career development of women working in science and technology. Furthermore, it recommends
The European Life Scientist Organisation (ELSO) has recently opened a new database of expert women in the molecular life sciences to improve the visibility of European women researchers in this field. "Our objective is to promote gender equality in Europe, by improving the visibility of women accomplished in their fields, from senior postdocs to senior independent scientists," said Karla Neugebauer from ELSO.
Nancy Bakowski, executive director of the US Association for Women in Science (AWIS) said, "The people are out there, but they're a little harder to find, so you really have to push the recruiters or whoever you're using to look beyond their typical pool."
"In addition to pushing institutions to better meet women's needs, it's important to educate women themselves about what they can do to get ahead," the President of AWIS, Elizabeth Ivey, said to The Scientist, a US science magazine. She also thinks that women should publish earlier and more often: "Women researchers don't tend to publish their results until they are very near the end of their project, whereas male researchers will publish intermediate results all along the way, so they build maybe three articles on a project where women tend to have only one," she continued.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) applies women- and family-friendly practices such as child-care scholarships and reduced time appointments for faculty members with family demands. "What we're trying to do is provide the flexibility that allows people to take care of their family issues at critical junctures so they don't have these awful choices of doing one or the other," the first female president of MIT, Susan Hockfield, said to The Scientist. The number of women in MIT has risen from 10% in 1990 to 18% in 2004.
- March 2005: The Science in Society Forum debates "How to foster diversity, inclusiveness and equality in science".
- 2006: Eurostat figures show that only 29% of Europe's scientists and engineers were women in 2004.
- Oct. 2006: Official launch of the European Platform of Women Scientists' (EPWS) member networks.
- July 2006: Euroscience Open Foum (ESOF) 2006 dedicates a session to "Excellent science needs women".
- May 2006: 'Re-searching women in science and technology' conference.
- May 2006: 'L'Europe de la Recherche: Quels enjeux? Quelle place pour les jeunes et les femmes?' -event .
- Sep. 2006: Workshop on 'Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET): Strategies for a Global Workforce' .
- July 2007: European Platform of Women Scientists' event on women in science.
- Oct. 2007: WomenInNano workshop on "Nanomaterials and Gender Aspects in Research and Technology".
- Oct. 2007: Women in engineering and technology research conference.
- 17 Jan. 2008: The Parliament adopted a resolution on the role of women in industry.
- 7 Feb. 2008: Latest Eurostat statictics on women employed in science and technology.
- 6 March 2008: Commission conference exploring the potential for women in the ICT sector.
- 5-7 June 2008: European Platform of Women Scientists' annual conference: Women shaping science.
- 26-27 June 2008: Supporting Women in Scientific Careers conference.
- 15-18 July 2008: International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists (ICWES).
EU official documents
- Eurostat statistics in focus:Women employed in science and technology(7 February 2008) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- European Parliament:European Parliament resolution on the role of women in industry(17 January 2008) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Commission communication:Tackling the pay gap between women and men(18 July 2007) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- OECD:Workshop summary of "Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET): Strategies for a Global Workforce", Ottawa, Canada, 28-29 September 2006(21 June 2007)
- InterAcademy Council:Women for Science(June 2006)
- European Association for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (WiTEC):website
- Women in Technology International (WITI):website
- WorldWIT - Women, Insights, Technology:website
- Women in Science, Engineering & Technology Resource Network (WISEST):website
- Women in Science and Technology (WIST):website
- OECD:OECD Global Science Forum - findings:(November 2005) Activity on Declining Interest in Science Studies Among Young People - Preliminary Findings for Discussion Activity on Declining Interest in Science Studies Among Young People - Preliminary Findings for Discussion Findings and Recommendations - Session on Gender and Minorities Activity on Declining Interest in Science Studies Among Young People - Preliminary Findings for Discussion Findings and Recommendations - Session on Gender and Minorities Issues of Gender and Minorities Activity on Declining Interest in Science Studies Among Young People - Preliminary Findings for Discussion Findings and Recommendations - Session on Gender and Minorities Issues of Gender and Minorities Changes in the Enrolment Ratio of Female Students in Universities Activity on Declining Interest in Science Studies Among Young People - Preliminary Findings for Discussion Findings and Recommendations - Session on Gender and Minorities Issues of Gender and Minorities Changes in the Enrolment Ratio of Female Students in Universities Actions of the EU DG Research and in France
- INRIA - Fench national institute for research in computer science and control:Shadowing Days initiative: High school girls follow women researchers "like a shadow" at INRIA(February 2008)
- French ministry for research and higher education:Rapport sur l’égalité professionnelle entre les femmes et les hommes dans l’enseignement supérieur et la recherche(11 December 2006)
- United States - Department of Education:Secretary Spellings Delivers Remarks to the First National Summit on the Advancement of Girls in Math and Science(15 May 2006)
- CORDIS:National reports on the situation of women in science in Europe
- UK Resource Centre for Women in SET:website
- The Royal Society:Athena SWAN Charter for Women in Science
- British Council:Women in science
- British Council:Women in science, engineering and technology: the UK experience(November 2001)
- Bund-Länder-Kommission für Bildungsplanung und Forschungsförderung (BLK):Frauen in Führungspositionen in der Wissenschaft(2 February 2006)
- Bund-Länder-Kommission für Bildungsplanung und Forschungsförderung (BLK):Frauen in Führungspositionen an Hochschulen und außerhochschulischen Forschungseinrichtungen(2005)
- Germany R&D infomration service at CORDIS:Impossible without women: scientific excellence in research and development in the EU
- Finnish secretariat for EU R&D:Improving the status of women researchers
- AMONET - Portuguese Association of Women in Science:website
- Women in Technology and Science (WITS) (Ireland):website
- National Research Council (NRC) (US):Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE)
- Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (US):Data on Women in S&E(2005)
- Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (US):Presentations at: Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academe: Biological, Social, and Organizational Contributions to Science and Engineering Success(9 December 2005)
Business & Industry
- Airbus, Air Liquide, EADS, Hewlett Packard, Rolls Royce, Schlumberger, Siemens:Women in Science and Technology in the Private Sector - A Wake-up Call from CEOs(October 2003)
NGOs and Think-Tanks
- European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS):A Roadmap for equality between women and men 2006-2010: its implementation thus far with a special focus on women in science and research(27 November 2007)
- European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS):EPWS Position Paper on the ERA Consultation(16 August 2007)
- European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS) press release:50 years of Equal Opportunities between Men and Women. Facts, Figures and Solutions for the Under-representation of Women in Science(6 July 2007)
- European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS)
- European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS):EPWS Position Paper FP7 Rules for Participation(27 April 2006)
- European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS):EPWS Position Paper FP7 2007-2013(27 April 2006)
- EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF):Fishing from a bigger pool: excellent science needs women?(26 April 2006)
- Junior Achievement-Young Enterprise (JA-YE):JA-YE programme encourages new generation of female entrepreneurs
- Belgian Women in Science (BeWise)
- Junior Achievement-Young Enterprise (JA-YE):JA-YE programme encourages new generation of female entrepreneurs
- Harvard University - the Office of the President:Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers' remarks at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce(14 January 2006) ; Harvard University President to Resign
- European Life Scientist Organization (ELSO):Women in Science [ELSO Database of Expert Women in the Molecular Life Sciences]
- The Royal Society:Charter for Women in Science
- European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO):EMBO Women in Science
- European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO):Working together to achieve equal representation of men and women in the life sciences(December 2001)
- Frauen in Forschung und Technologie (fFORTE):website
- Center of excellence (CEWS):website
- Association for women in science (AWIS):website [publications]
- Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS):Mission pour la place des femmes au CNRS
- Association Femmes et Sciences:website
- Eurydice - the information network on education in Europe:Key Data on Education in Europe 2005
- Daphne Jackson Trust - returning engineers and scientists to work after career breaks:website
- The Scientist:Help women stay in science - A female scientist gives her top 10 list of tips for her male colleagues -- what are yours?(27 September 2007)
- The Scientist:Gender gap narrows in medical journals
- CORDIS News:Report tells academies to do more to involve women in science
- The Scientist:Female scientists on the big screen
- The Wall Street Journal Online:He, Once a She, Offers Own View On Science Spat
- The Scientist:Women on the Rise
- The Scientist:Women, Science, and Academia: A Three-Point Plan
- The Scientist:Women scientists in Europe
- The Scientist:Women make inroads in Canada
- Science and Development Network:Academies urged to do more for women scientists
- Eurostat - Statistics in focus:Measuring gender differences among Europe’s knowledge workers(21 August 2006) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Commission:Women in Science and Technology – the business perspective(May 2006)
- Commission:She figures 2006: Women and Science - Statistics and Indicators(April 2006)
- Commission:New platform to bring together the voices of women scientists across Europe(14 March 2006)
- Eurostat:Statistics in focus: R&D personnel(27 February 2006)
- Commission staff working document:Women and Science: Excellence and Innovation - Gender Equality in Science(11 March 2005) [Annex]
- Commission:Science and Society Forum(March 2005) Session 4: Fostering diversity, inclusiveness and equality in science
- High Level Group on Increasing Human Resources for Science and Technology in Europe:Europe needs more scientists(December 2004)
- Eurostat: Statistics in focus - Science and technology:Women, science and technology: Measuring recent progress towards gender equality(June 2004)
- Commission:Report on equality between women and men(19 February 2004)
- Commission:Waste of talents: turning private struggles into a public issue - Women and Science in the Enwise countries(January 2004)
- Commission:She figures: Women and Science - Statistics and Indicators(October 2003)
- Commission:VADEMECUM - Gender Mainstreaming in the 6th Framework Programme - Reference Guide for Scientific Officers/Project Officers(March 2003)
- Women in Industrial Research (WIR):A wake up call for European Industry(2003)
- Helsinki Group on women and scienceNational Policies on Women and Science in Europe(2002)
- Commission:Women in Industrial Research (WIR) [documents and publications]
- Council resolution:Science and Society and Women in Science(26 June 2001) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Commission staff working paper:Women and Science: the gender dimension as a leverage for reforming science(15 May 2001) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Commission:Women & Science - Statistics and Indicators
- Commission:Women and Science Statistics
- Commission:Enwise - Gender equality in a wider Europe
- Commission communication:Mobilising women to enrich European research(17 February 1999) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Commission:Women and Science [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Commission:Networks of Women Scientists
- Commission:Directory of Networks of Women Scientists(2003)
- CORDIS:Women and science
- CORDIS:Women and science