Although in the European Union women have generally attained high levels of education, traditional choices in the subjects studied remain a major problem and women are underrepresented in science and technology. This has to do with gender stereotypes affecting choices on education, employment and career progress and with gender inequalities in the distribution of power and access to resources.This underrepresentation has been well documented since the mid 1990s at European and international level and it is detrimental to our economies and societies.
Beyond the quantitative deficit, the idea that bringing in a gender dimension in research content improves the quality of the research was also introduced in European research programs in the late nineties.
One of the main EU achievements of last 10 years has been a mapping of policy and data on women in science in 34 European countries both in the public and in the private sector
Despite considerable efforts by the EU to promote a gender sensitive research agenda in the last 10 years, this sector is still characterised by a significant pay gap1, by a loss of qualified women as they advance in their careers (leaky pipeline) and by a deficit of women in decision making senior positions This is even more paradoxical as the proportion of female PhD graduates has now almost reached parity with men. The EU believes in the importance of supporting the adaptation of institutions and their structures to individual needs and skills rather than the opposite
Some data clearly demonstrate an important waste of resources and talents.
In Europe 59% of science graduates are women (all Member States and all disciplines considered) but their number decrease progressively along the scientific careers path and currently only 18% of women scientists reach professorial level in academia.
Only 13% of the Heads of Research Institutions in Europe are women, showing an unbalanced representation of women and men in decision-making positions.
Despite the high number of female graduates in scientific studies, the proportion of female researchers in Europe only reaches 30%, and this figure lowers to 19% in private sector research.
The inclusion of gender issues in research is a resource to create new knowledge and stimulate innovation and growth
Externally, in 2010 the EU approved an Action Plan for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which gives special emphasis to the promotion of concrete measures in the areas of training and education.
Allow me to ask a few questions to the panellists.
How can public research funding institutions set good examples in promoting gender equality and ensuring gender balance in expert groups and evaluation exercises ?
Which urgent actions should be targeted to ensure the modernisation of the human resources management in research institutions?
How could we encourage and support girls and women to embrace educational programmes and careers in the areas of science, mathematics and technology, including ICT ?
Which role do the media play in raising awareness (and combating stereotypes and gender discrimination) of the public at large and research communities in particular on the role that women as well as men can play in science and of the importance of integrating a gender dimension in research?
1 Remuneration of Researcher in the Public and Private sectors. Final Report. April 2007