Science and Society in Europe - Women and Science pages have been updated

September 4, 2003

Brussels, 03 Sep 2003

Women and Science

In most European countries, the numbers of female graduates are proportionately higher than those of male graduates. However, the scientific labour market remains male-dominated. Women face obstacles to their scientific work simply because they are women, and as a result, are under-represented in the sciences and in the decision-making bodies concerned with scientific issues. Achieving equal and full participation of women in all scientific disciplines and at all levels will enhance diversity, and promote further progress and excellence in European science. Achieving such a real and lasting change will go beyond women currently working in science, or aspiring to work in science, to help create a more inclusive European scientific research area, for the benefit of the economy and society as a whole.

Mainstreaming Gender and Collecting Statistics in FP6

To contribute to the promotion of women in scientific research, the European Commission is undertaking measures to ensure gender mainstreaming in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), from 2002 to 2006. The Commission will monitor any progress made in the participation levels of women scientists in FP6. To this effect, statistical data on gender distribution will be gathered and will thus provide improved breakdowns and interpretation based on gender.

The Helsinki Group on Women and Science

The role of the Helsinki Group on Women and Science is to exchange views, experiences and best practice on measures and policies devised and implemented at local, regional, national and European level, encouraging the participation of women in scientific careers and research. The group first met in Helsinki in 1999, hence its name, and consists of civil servants and gender experts from the 15 EU Member States and 17 countries associated to the Framework Programme.

Women and Science Networks

Networking is an essential tool for empowering women scientists in Europe. In 1999, the Women and Science Unit produced a comprehensive directory of networks of women scientists across Europe entitled the "Network Guide". This directory is updated regularly, with the latest version becoming available in 2003. A study is also being carried out to provide recommendations for establishing a European Platform of Women Scientists.

Sex-disaggregated Statistics and Indicators on Women Scientists

To monitor the collective career progress of women scientists, up-to-date statistics and indicators are crucial for informing us whether or not the situation is improving, and how it differs across scientific disciplines and countries. These statistics will provide valuable information for the policy debate and help to identify the most critical areas of concern. Each Helsinki Group country has nominated a statistical correspondent, who reports the results of various national surveys to the European Commission. These statistics are mostly drawn from national research and development (R&D) surveys, but also include data on the gender composition of scientific boards and the applicants for – and beneficiaries of – research funding.

Women in Industrial Research (WIR)

Industry carries out over two thirds of all European scientific research. The Women in Industrial Research Expert Group has been established to provide advice to the Commission, European Member States and industry on how to put gender equality into practice by supporting female research scientists working in industry. It also acts as an information source for women working in the private sector, helping make the voice of this group heard. A recent report by the WIR Expert Group underlines the fact that the under-representation of women within industrial research is even more severe (15% women) than in the public sector (30%). Employers in the private sector thus need to be encouraged to reap the financial benefits of recruiting and retaining women in their organisations.

Promoting Gender Equality in Science in a Wider Europe

The conditions and status of women participating in science in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Baltic States has yet to be assessed in any great detail. Therefore, the Commission has set up the ENWISE Expert Group (Enlarge "Women In Science" to East) to carry out an evaluation of the current situation and to provide women scientists within these countries with support and tools for approaching policy makers, thus promoting gender equality in the broader context of accession.

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