Commission report reveals discrimination against women scientists in Europe

June 6, 2002

Brussels, 5 June 2002

If you are a woman, you have less chances of becoming a scientist, and if you do, your career will be slower than that of your male colleagues, according to a report published by the European Commission.

The report, presented today at a seminar organised by the Commission and the Spanish EU Presidency in Madrid, looks for the first time at the situation of women scientists across 30 European countries(1). The survey, carried out by the 'Helsinki expert Group on Women and Science', shows scientific evidence that gender-segregation is a feature of scientific careers in all the countries surveyed.

There is considerable waste of women's skills and knowledge as a result of the 'leaky pipeline', whereby women drop out of scientific careers in disproportionate numbers at every level. Broadly, women now constitute the majority of undergraduates. Although they remain a minority in some scientific areas and in engineering, they are the majority in medical and biological sciences. The nearer the top of the academic hierarchy, the lower the proportion of women. Overall women are just a tiny minority in top scientific jobs.

EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said: "The evidence demonstrates unquestionably that women scientists are under-represented in key scientific and research positions. This issue has to be addressed if we are to improve the position and role of women in scientific research. We strongly encourage women to participate in the European Research Area."

The European Commission adopted a Communication in February 1999 setting out an action plan to promote gender equality in science: Women and science - Mobilising women to enrich European Research(2). It also commissioned a European Technology Assessment Network (ETAN)(3) report on women and science in the EU.

In 1999, the Council of Research Ministers adopted a Resolution on women and science inviting EU Member States to engage in dialogue, benchmarking national policies and performances in this area and exchanging best practice.

Many Member State and associated countries have launched affirmative action programmes to support participation of women in science. Actions range from the support to local empowerment initiatives to including gender equality into other policies.

The report provides for the first time an overview of all measures and policies devised and implemented at local, regional, national and European level to encourage the participation of women in scientific careers and research. It will contribute to promote further debate, dissemination and exchange of information in this field.

The seminar will present the actions undertaken by the European Union and promote a debate about the actual situation of women in research (public and private), as well as about further initiatives and forthcoming projects, such as the platform for networks of women scientists.

The full report is available on http://www.cordis.lu/improving/women/he lsinki.htm

(1) These include the 15 EU Member States and Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

(2) http://www.cordis.lu/improving/women/do cuments.htm

(3) To be found at the same internet address

Brigitte Degen
Women and Science Unit
Research DG
European Commission
Tel: +32 2 295 6775
Fax: +32 2 2099 3746
E-mail: brigitte.degen@cec.eu.int

DN: IP/02/823 Date: 05/06/2002

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