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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Cross-disciplinary projects > Women and science: Engendering European research culture > Jack Metthey
Graphic element Jack Metthey: Excellence knows no gender
Jack Metthey

Acting Director of the EC Research Directorate H, Jack Metthey is charged with recognising, evaluating and judging scientific and technological achievement on a daily basis. When it comes to gender, however, he's passionately indifferent.

"When talking about excellence in science, we cannot make any distinction with regard to gender," says Metthey. "Both men and women can be excellent or mediocre. Therefore I can see no scientific justification for the low participation of women in research activities. On the contrary, I feel that there are dimensions in research that have, up to now, been underestimated, areas where women could have contributed positively given their different perspectives and ways of understanding. A mathematical equation is exactly the same for everybody, but when it comes to the use and application of this equation, gender differences might well have a role to play."

"Women are a source of enrichment for science - as for many other aspects of life - because of their specific sensitivity to a wider range of technology-related issues: social construction and acceptance, ethical considerations, etc. It is my personal experience that the presence of women at meetings and in other professional settings creates a different atmosphere. Men appear more cautious in expressing their views. They seem to think twice before speaking! Perhaps it is an effect of different communication patterns and body language.

"As representatives of a public institution, we have a clear responsibility in fostering the full exploitation of this great potential, a potential which has so far been under-used. The mainstreaming actions implemented by the Commission are surely taking us in this direction and are helping to increase awareness of the problem.

Breaking new ground in male-dominated fields

"My responsibility covers what one could call two extremes of the Growth Programme.
On one side we have the 'New perspectives in aeronautics' key action, a very male-dominated, hard-tech area of the Programme where the selection of woman experts requires an extra effort to reach a minimum balance. At the other end of the spectrum there is the 'Measurements and testing' generic activity, whose specific content offers a much larger opportunity to scientists coming from sectors traditionally more open to women, like chemistry or biology.

"In this respect, the trend towards a more trans-disciplinary approach in all activities would seem to open up a number of new opportunities for woman researchers. But we don't have to wait for gender balance before we take further measures. Again, looking at the aeronautics sector as an example, we can already start to take into consideration gender issues related to the users of its principle research result - the modern aircraft. Environmental impact and the reduction of nuisances to airport neighbours are vital considerations for today's aeronautics research. At the end of the day, technology is at the service of the population, and more than the half of it is feminine!

Positive targets

"In the Directorate we have set the unambiguous goal of increasing women's participation. Women will be preferred when renewing members of the External Advisory Group, and a positive approach towards woman candidates is being taken in the recruitment of Programme Officers. I believe indeed that the presence of women in such positions gives everybody more confidence. Hopefully, we can reach a situation where gender balance will no longer be a problem."

Research DG - Directorate H
Square de Meêus, 8 (2/119)
Tel. (02) 296 88 70

Breaking new ground in male-dominated fields
Positive targets

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