Brussels, 30 Mar 2005
The European Commission has drafted a staff working document outlining the main challenges that must be addressed in order to increase gender equality in science.
In addition to increasing the numbers of women pursuing a career in science, technology and innovation, empowering women in the decision-making process; finding a way to reconcile professional and private life; making evaluation practice more gender-neutral; and strengthening gender research are highlighted as the major challenges.
The latest data show that while the gender gap at the top of the academic career ladder is beginning to close, it is doing so very slowly. Although the total number of women full professors in Europe increased by 23 per cent between 1999 and 2002, they continue to make up only 14 per cent of all full professors, compared to 13 per cent three years previously. Only in Latvia, Portugal and Finland are 20 per cent or more of full professors women.
Small improvements have been observed in the number of women graduates (56 per cent in 1999 to 58 per cent now); doctorate degrees received by women (39 per cent to 41 per cent over the same period); and the proportion of women graduating with a degree in engineering, manufacturing or construction (21 per cent in 1998, 25 per cent in 2002).
The paper runs through a raft of EU level initiatives aimed at addressing these challenges and others, and also assesses progress at Member State level. Most countries do have policies to promote gender equality in science, but provisions vary greatly between Member States.
'In terms of the participation of women in science, the objectives now need to be more narrowly focused, to concentrate essentially on certain disciplines or fields (engineering, entrepreneurship, innovation and technology) or levels (senior and decision-making positions),' states the Commission paper.
The Commission therefore suggests that a number of issues are prioritised. These include boosting the number of women in leading positions through the adoption of quantitative and qualitative targets at European, national and institutional level. 'The proportion of women in leading positions should increase to at least 25 per cent by 2010, states the Commission, and women should make up 33 per cent of new recruits by the same year.
The paper also proposes strengthening gender research and gender issues in research by creating a dedicated budget within the EU's research programmes for the gender dimension, and by launching an award for excellence in gender research.
Measures to enhance the role of women in engineering and innovation are also outlined, along with ideas for reconciling professional and private lives, improving gender monitoring in the Member States and making the monitoring of the EU's research framework programmes more efficient. The latter concern should be addressed through technical improvements to the gender database, the introduction of regular progress reports, and the introduction of 'gender-budgeting'. To access the report, please visit: http:///europa.eu.int/comm/research/scien ce-society/pdf/documents_women_sec_en.pd f