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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research themes > Cross-disciplinary themes > Gender and research in the spotlight in Brussels
Graphic element Women and science: Gender and research conference summary
    23-11-2001
 

Nearly 600 participants from Europe and around the world converged on Brussels on 8-9 November 2001 for the European Commission's 'Gender and research' conference. Highlights included the presentation of the first results of the Helsinki Group. The Growth Programme presented a different, future-oriented approach to gender analysis at a multimedia stand.

Full house
Full house

In June 2000 The European Commission launched a gender impact assessment exercise aimed at determining whether, and how, gender issues have been taken into account, and providing recommendations for better integration of the gender dimension in future research. The exercise comprised seven studies carried out independently and focusing on seven thematic programmes within FP5, including 'Quality of life and management of living resources', 'User-friendly information society', 'Energy, environment and sustainable development - Energy sub-programme', 'Energy, environment and sustainable development - Environment and sustainable development sub-programme' 'Confirming the international role of Community research', 'Promotion of innovation and encouraging the participation of SMEs', and 'Improving the human research potential and the socio-economic knowledge base'.

According to Teresa Rees, Professor at the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University in Wales, who explained the Helsinki Group's findings, "There is considerable diversity among countries in terms of the scientific infrastructure and the climate for women pursuing scientific careers. But there are also some common factors, such as lack of gender balance in the higher echelons of scientific policy decision making."

The Growth Programme chose not to carry out the gender impact assessment, as it was already all too clear what the results would show. "We knew what we were going to find," explains Luisa Prista , Head of the 'Materials' Unit in the Commission's Directorate G. "The Growth Programme is concerned specifically with industrial research and we have known for a long time that women are very under-represented in this area. Therefore, rather than spending a lot of time on the not-so-glorious past, which we all know about, we decided to focus on the future."

Growth's specific presence
 

Focussing on the Growth's special character and on the new FP, an impressive display in the exhibit hall highlighted the Programme's determined commitment to gender issues, featuring images and interviews with important players in the gender and research field.

According to Jack Metthey , Acting Director of EC Research Directorate H, "We wanted to highlight the specificities of the Growth Programme, which is an industrial programme. Industry and production have been changing over the last decades. From mass production we have turned towards customer-oriented, and now society-oriented products. The emergence of new production/consumption paradigms has influenced the way industry is organised. We have followed these changes, first under Brite-Euram and then under Growth. The next FP (2002-2006) will reflect a broader scope and will thus offer greater opportunities for the participation of women in research. It has now been confirmed that women tend to be more interested in a multidisciplinary technological approach in which social and ethic concerns are also taken into due consideration. Now, at this conference, we are establishing a 'Women in Growth' working group which will contribute to enlarging the discussion and helping us in the definition of guidelines for the near future." The main aim of this working group will be to make both the content of the specific programme and its implementation instruments more amenable to gender-balance.

 
High-level representatives
 
Laurette Onkelinx
Laurette Onkelinx

The conference brought together key ministerial speakers, including Research Commissioner, Philippe Busquin ; Françoise Dupuis, the Belgian Minister for higher education and scientific research; and similarly placed Spanish, Luxemburgish, French, Czech, Austrian, British, Greek, Swedish, Moroccan and South African representatives. Also speaking was the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, Laurette Onkelinx . "Our first priority should be the collection of basic, clear and reliable statistics," she told a packed house at the opening session. "Once we've established where we are in real terms, we can begin the work of making science and scientific careers girl- and woman-friendly."

Unable to attend the morning session, Commissioner Busquin made his first appearance at a press lunch where he paid tribute to the high level of excellence represented at the conference. Looking around the table, he said, "For today at least, the lady researchers outnumber the men, but we need to see more women like you at more meetings and more conferences. The new Framework Programme is going to take us in that direction." Indeed, the Helsinki Group's report underlined some specific features of the new Framework Programme (2002-2006) offering additional opportunities for women in European research.

 
Moving forward
 

During the two-day event, each of the individual gender-impact assessment studies were presented and discussed in parallel sessions. Time was also set aside for policy issues such as benchmarking, understanding and addressing male bias, and reaching out to schools and the community at large. Finally, Research Director-General Achilleas Mitsos brought everyone back together for a rousing closing session featuring yet another stellar cast. In his summation, Mitsos announced a number of new initiatives aimed at supporting women in science. "Those who aren't moving forwards are moving backwards," he declared. Calling for the use of indicators, policy analysis, research on methodology and the philosophy of science to understand the underlying causes of gender imbalance, he said, "There is still so very much that remains to be done, but I think we've established that it is well worth the effort!"

   
  For more on the 'Gender and research' conference and for a selection of views on women and science, see the article, 'Women and science: Engendering European research culture'.
 
Growth's specific presence
High-level representatives
Moving forward
   

Key data

Promoting the participation of women in industrial research is a key issue for the Growth Programme.

     

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