Industrial leaders want to make the most out of women scientific talents

February 1, 2002

Brussels, 31 January 2002

Women in Industrial Research (WIR)

So far, women and science activities have concentrated mainly on the public research sector. In order to develop effective strategies to ensure the full participation of women in industrial research the European Commission's Research DG established a High Level STRATA-ETAN Expert Group: Women in Research in the Private Sector, on January 22, 2002. (This is action n° 26 of the new Science and Society Action Plan.)

Industrial research plays a leading role for research, innovation and development: more than two third of all research in Europe is undertaken by industry. Using the full potential of women is a key to the realisation of the European Research Area (ERA).

In most European countries, the proportion of graduate women below 30 years of age has overtaken that of men. But in European research, women are still underrepresented, especially in senior positions. In the public sector - universities and research institutes - the proportion of female researchers varies between about one quarter and one third; at the top level of full professorships it is only one in nine. In industrial research the situation seems to be even worse.

In order to meet the challenges - European Research must adapt changes and fully use the high potential of women and men - the Research DG has established a high-level expert group. This will promote scientific excellence and competitiveness.

The group will provide strategic guidance to the Commission, the Member States, and industry by outlining options for supporting measures, new co-operation schemes, and their connection to existing network structures and on-going activities, and by discussing the impacts and benefits of the different options suggested with respect to the European goals of sustainable development, economic competitiveness, and European identity.

Without making the most of all human potential, Europe's lag in economic and innovative competitiveness, especially compared to the US, can not be reduced. Up to now, however, little research has been done on the participation and role of women in European industrial research.

During the last decade, some industries have implemented specific strategies to raise their attractiveness for high potential female researchers and engineers. Their success stories for changing working culture, recruitment and career development, and addressing gender diversity as a business issue, can contribute to the modernisation of the research culture in the European Research Area.

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