Brussels, 03 April 2002
The European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) has issued a position paper calling for action to ensure equal treatment of men and women in life sciences research.
The paper was endorsed by the EMBO Council following a meeting on 'The glass ceiling for women in the life sciences' held by the organisation in June 2001.
The paper highlights the under-representation of women in senior positions in the life sciences, stating that 'although there are at least as many women as men among undergraduate students, the proportion of women diminishes as one scales the career ladder.'
Research cannot afford this loss of talent, EMBO warns, as 'the life sciences are expanding rapidly and the demand for well-trained scientists is increasing at a time when the number of students studying science is decreasing.'
The pressures of combining work and family can also curb women's careers, says EMBO, as 'childbearing coincides with the period when most young scientists are establishing an independent position, and time away from the laboratory makes it more difficult to remain competitive.' In addition, women lack role models of senior women scientists, which, combined with a lack of workplace support, may make them 'hesitant to apply for research grants or senior positions.'
The document highlights discrimination of an overt kind, such as the dominance of men at conferences and in senior posts as well as more subtle means, such as lower salaries, which may stand in the path of women scientists.
It recommends collecting and monitoring information on employment, salaries, budgets, grants and laboratory space and establishing goals for increasing the number of qualified women in senior positions. It proposes offering support for scientists pursuing a research career whilst bringing up a family, promoting family-friendly policies such as childcare and flexible employment arrangements and raising awareness of the importance of female representation at conferences and courses.
It adds that mentoring programmes should be supported and women should be encouraged to apply for large, competitive research grants and assume senior positions in science.
EMBO is establishing a Restart fellowship programme for scientists who resume their research career after a break for childcare. The first deadline for applications is 15 August 2002.
For further information about EMBO and the Restart fellowship programme, please consult the following web address: http://www.embo.org