She Figures 2003: key data on women and science

October 29, 2003

Brussels, 28 October 2003

The Commission has just released " She Figures 2003" , a unique compilation of key data, which presents the latest figures on the participation of women in scientific education and employment. The number of women researchers in universities and businesses across Europe is on the increase. Yet there are signs that government research institutes in some countries are losing researchers, both men and women. Despite accounting for 40% of today's Ph.D. graduates in Europe, women represent only 15% of researchers in enterprises, and one third of the researchers in government and higher education research institutions. And, in six Member States, less than one person in ten of the top layer of academic staff is a woman.

"More women in research, better careers for women researchers": this is the call of European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. "During recent events on "Women in industrial research" in Berlin and Brussels, this call was heard and endorsed by the CEOs of top European companies. They signed a commitment to boost the number of women researchers in their companies, and make the most of their talent. Now we have to move ahead and foster change in other sectors. Women researchers are too valuable a resource to be wasted. We cannot afford to lose out on this pool of intellectual potential, and we must not stifle diversity in research. Cloned ideas in the lab and in scientific boards only lead to sterile solutions."

"She Figures 2003" is a handy reference tool that will enable policy-makers to review the latest European and national trends for both highly qualified women and men. It presents descriptive statistics and indicators for EU Member States and Associated Countries as well as explanatory texts and methodological notes. As such, the document signals a new era in the availability of sex-disaggregated data on human resources in the European Research Area.

Only 15% women in Business Enterprise Sector

She Figures 2003 finds overall healthy growth rates in the numbers of researchers in the Higher Education sector in nearly all Member States and Candidate Countries, and among industrial researchers in Portugal, Spain, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Cyprus, Norway and Hungary between 1998-2001. However, government research institutions and industry lost research staff, both women and men, in about half of the Associated countries during the same period.

The percentage of research posts held by women is half as high in the Business Enterprise Sector (15%) as in the Higher Education Sector (34%) or Government Research institutions (31%). Between 1999 and 2000, the average percentage of women researchers for the EU-15 increased slightly by 2 percentage points in the Higher Education Sector (from 32% to 34%).

Why are women so under-represented?

Level of qualification can no longer be regarded as an excuse for the under-representation of women as researchers. However, the statistics presented in She Figures 2003 suggest that appropriately qualified women may be less likely than their male counterparts to opt for research posts in R&D, and are more likely to prefer technical occupations.

Since today's graduates are tomorrow's scientists, She Figures 2003 examines the graduate statistics for 2001 and has discovered that the EU-15 average for women graduates from doctoral / Ph.D. education has just reached 40%. In all of the Associated countries except Hungary, the Czech Republic and Norway, more than 40% of graduates from these advanced programmes are women.

Low women:men ratio in academia

In six out of the 14 Member States presented in She Figures 2003, there is still less than one woman for every ten men in the top echelons of academia. From 1999-2000, there was a slight overall increase from 11.6% to 13.2% women in the top grades of University staff, but in Austria and the Netherlands only 6% of senior academic staff are women. Just 3% of the top layer of academic staff in engineering sciences in Portugal ("Professor Catedrático") are women and this figure is as low as 1.7% in Austria. Men are overall three times more likely than women to reach the most senior levels. Only 6.4% of women academics reach these top grades in the EU, whereas the same recognition is reserved for as many as 18.8% of men.

Women also appear to be blocked from membership of scientific boards. In eight out of 15 Member States and in nine out of 11 Associated Countries, less than 25% of the members of scientific boards are women. These figures are as low as 6.6% in Luxembourg, 10.3% in Belgium and 11.8% in Austria. This calls for an urgent review of recruitment strategies and appointment procedures. The lack of women in senior, decision-making positions in science means that their individual and collective opinions are less likely to be voiced and heard in the crucially important "science and society" dialogue.

Political will figures

She Figures 2003 marks the beginning of a comprehensive collection of sex-disaggregated data on women in science. All the countries involved in this activity will continue monitoring these indicators in the future, in order to measure the rapid change occurring in the gender dynamics of the European Research Area.

Bringing together this data in a co-ordinated way is the result of a specific effort on the part of the Statistical Correspondents of the Helsinki Group on Women and Science.

The full report can be found at:




Percentage of researchers who are women by sector in EU Member States, HC, 2000 (1)

Percentage of researchers who are women by sector in Associated Countries, HC, 2000 (1)

DN: IP/03/1468 Date: 28/10/2003

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