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
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!
"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