France redresses the gender balance in science

March 22, 2002

Brussels, 21 March 2002

Conscious that research is losing out because of various barriers restricting the number of women becoming involved in science, the French Ministry for research has launched a new 'women and science' initiative, which aims to promote equality in science and technology.

During 2002, the French Ministry of research will spend over 335,000 euro, followed by similar amounts in the next two years, on the initiative, which includes awareness raising activities, the appointment of women in positions of responsibility, the rebalancing of deliberative and consultative authorities and recommendations to universities and research organisations.

Without abandoning the principle of excellence, in 2000 and 2001 the Ministry of research favoured female candidates and several women were named as new directors of research organisations. The proportion of women in key positions rose and is now approaching 40 per cent, the figure advocated by the EU.

France recognises that the 40 per cent target set by the EU for the percentage of women in administrative councils, scientific councils, technical committees and enterprise committees is still a long way off, with the current figure resting at 10 per cent. Regarding elected representatives, a charter will shortly be discussed with organisations from the world of research, suggesting that more than one third of candidates for election are women.

The ministry has also launched a young researchers initiative, which seeks to identify the best young researchers and accelerate their acquirement of responsibility and autonomy within established teams. Slightly older women who may be behind their male colleagues due to maternity leave may also take part in this initiative.

A convention for the promotion of equality in the education system was also signed in February by the Ministers for employment and solidarity, national education, research and technology, agriculture and fisheries and school education, and the Secretary of State for women's rights and professional training.

The Ministry for research supports a number of organisations working in the field of women and science, and has also created the Irène Joliot-Curie prize, presented to associations which work to develop a scientific and technical culture, particularly among the young. In this, the prize's first year, the award went to three organisations: 'femmes et mathémateques, 'permis de jouer' and 'graine de chimiste'.

Separately, the first international conference on women in physics, held recently in Paris, concluded that more female decision-makers and family friendly working practices are among the measures needed to encourage more women to enter into careers in physics. Over 300 physicists unanimously approved eight recommendations aimed at schools, universities, industry, government and funding councils, to enable women to contribute more effectively to physics.

Conference participants recommended that funding bodies are more flexible when allocating research grants, lifting age restrictions on certain grants so as not to disadvantage women who take time out to have children. Scientific societies were also called upon to identify women working in physics and publicise them as role models

For further information, please consult the following web address: parite/default.htm

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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