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:
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.