Brussels, 07 June 2002
The Lisbon goal of making the European Union the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010 is dependent on the strength of science, and science's strength can only be improved by ensuring that women play a greater role in it, according to Rainer Gerold of the European Commission.
Mr Gerold, Director of the Commission's science and society directorate, was speaking at the Spanish Presidency event on ' Women and science', held in Madrid on 5 June. He said that everyone, especially men, needed to address the lack of women in science, to encourage them more and make them feel appreciated and to ensure that they stay in the system.
'Science cannot remain in the exclusive domain of a scientific elite,' he said.
Both quantitative and qualitative areas need focus, according to Mr Gerold. Quantitative measures include ensuring that the low number of women choosing science is increased and importantly that they stay in the area. There is a 'leaky tube' situation at present, where many women abandon research at some point, leading to those skills being lost to the scientific community.
Qualitatively, ensuring that women feel more comfortable in a scientific environment is important. 'If it was just a question of numbers, the few female scientists would be treated the same as men and that way more women would want to join,' said Mr Gerold. One particular area where women suffer is a lack of encouragement and motivation in a scientific context. Increasing the number of women in science would also make science more relevant to society, Mr Gerold added.
The Commission's Science and society action plan has established four elements to deal with the problems relating to women and science. It has established a European platform for women in science which links existing networks, drawn up statistics relating to gender equality in science, supported mobility of women in the private sector and promoted gender equality in the candidate countries.
'[But] my principal concern is that we will not make progress unless everyone contributes,' said Mr Gerold. 'Men in particular must understand that a greater participation of women in science is a necessity which is in their in interests.'