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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Cross-disciplinary projects > Women and science: Engendering European research culture
Graphic element Engendering European research culture: Views on women and science

With the Commission now undertaking a series of measures to promote research by, for and on women (see the Communication "Mobilising women to enrich European research"), and in conjunction with the conference entitled "Gender and Research" being held in Brussels on 8-9 November 2001, the Growth website is spotlighting a number of prominent women and the impact they are having on European research and industrial culture (go directly to 'Views').

Statistics tend to show that, while the representation of women in the sciences is increasing, they still trail behind men in key research sectors, especially in industry. Aside from the promotion of equal opportunities for all citizens, including both men and women, there are two specific reasons for seeking greater involvement of women in research activities in Europe. First, the benefits to be derived from tapping the enormous potential of half of the population for research and scientific achievement are too great to be squandered. Second, women, who have proven themselves to be excellent scientists, are especially suited to contributing at a time when the growing trend in research is towards policy responsive to economic and social concerns. The establishment of gender balance must be more than just an equalisation of numbers. It must also reflect this deeper cultural change.

Industrial research culture in change

The world of industrial research in Europe has seen a revolutionary shift in emphasis over the past few decades:

1970s and 80s: machine mimics muscle
Early research in a male-dominated industrial sector tends to focus on automation and robotics. Muscle power, the long-standing province of men, is gradually replaced by brainpower, as advanced machines take on tasks once reserved for the physically strong. The knowledge based society takes root. Now, only prejudice stands in the way of women contributing to the industrial process.

1980 and 90s: machine mimics brain
The knowledge-based society comes of age. Brainpower begins to be freed for more conceptual tasks as highly advanced computerised systems carry out the more straightforward planning, designing and production tasks for us. The ability to create, distribute and exploit knowledge and information seems ever more important and is now regarded as the most important factor underlying economic growth and improvements in the quality of life. The competitiveness of firms depends crucially on how well they make use of their own intangible assets, such as skills and creativity. With eyes turned to the future, the fostering of reconciliation and oneness among industry, communities and the environment, the province of women, is now at a premium, but still not fully exploited.

The 21st century and onward: machine mimics nature
Humans are now free to reflect on their place in the world. The earth is seen as our home, nurturing, giving life, and we in turn care for her. Industry and technology works in harmony with nature, not to its detriment, aiming at reproducing its paradigms. Research policy strongly reflects this orientation. Meanwhile, people have more time to spend together, with their families and friends, with opportunities shared equally by both men and women.

Rightful place

Women have long stood in first position in the consumer sector. In education, women are established leaders. Nothing could make more sense than that they should take a leading role in the innovation and production sectors. Clearly, the involvement of women in industrial research should be a key goal, not just for the advancement of women but also for the advancement of our society as a whole. The effective use of human resources includes the full participation of everyone, women and men, as well as young people and members of racial and ethnic minorities. More and more, today's production strategies place the citizen at the centre, as a consumer driving demand, as an investor, and as a worker providing a human resource. As representatives of more than 50% of the world's population, women should be represented strongly at all of these levels.

Views on women and science

In the following section, a few women and men who have a lot to say about the past, present and future of European research express their views. Just click on the titles for the full texts.

Ezio Andreta Ezio Andreta: A woman's approach - enthusiasm, originality, freshness
"We should always remember that we must first put our own houses in order before criticising others."
Marie-Isabelle Baraton Marie-Isabelle Baraton: confronting sexism in science
"If you were to ask my male colleagues they would never recognize that my being a woman has ever influenced their judgment."
Esther Barrutia Esther Barrutia: Growing up in an industrial setting
"The Basque region where I grew up is very industrialised."
Esther Barrutia Jacqueline Beckers-Lecomte: Do we want to fight?
"No, life would not have been easier if I had been a man."
John Cleuren John Cleuren: Multidisciplinary research and a higher participation of women
" Being responsible for industrial research related to human and organisational aspects for nearly six years, I have seen a number of projects that are conducted by multidisciplinary research teams."
Maria Teresa Amaral Collaço Maria Teresa Amaral Collašo: Breaking down societal barriers
"Life is definitely easier for women in industry nowadays than when I started out on my career."
Ann Deschildre Ann Deschildre: putting your best foot forward
"Getting off to a good start in your career is very important."
Alfonso Gonzalez Finat Alfonso Gonzalez Finat: Women and transport
"Transport is a sector which aims to serve all citizens - men and women alike."
Maria Founti Maria Founti: Building on success
"Strong academic credentials were an essential foundation for me as a young woman embarking on a career in science."
Huguette Laval Huguette Laval: Early scientific start in the European Commission
"Realising that I was the first woman to be recruited as a scientific officer within the RTD Directorate-General came as quite a shock to me!"
Chris Luebkeman Chris Luebkeman: Confronting sustainable change
“The area of sustainability - a key component of the Growth programme - demands individuals that are capable, very multi-tasking and sensitive to subtle impressions.”
Jack Metthey Jack Metthey: Excellence knows no gender
"When talking about excellence in science, we cannot make any distinction with regard to gender."
Rosa Nomen Rosa Nomen: Understanding, acceptance and change
"Life in science and industry requires a lot of dedication and it isn't always easy to combine that with the responsibilities of home and family."
Luisa Prista Luisa Prista: replacing 'I' with 'we'
"When I was appointed to the task of Head of Unit I had a variety of feelings: reward, enormous enthusiasm, but mainly responsibility not only as a manager but also as a female European citizen."
Naseem Theilgaard Naseem Theilgaard: leading the way in advanced biotechnologies
"We are more and more present in classrooms and laboratories, and at high-level meetings and conferences, but there is still, undoubtedly, a 'glass ceiling', a level above which very few women advance."
Maaike van Roij Maaike van Roij: Combining science and society
"I cannot think of a single negative experience during my career that could be attributed to my being a woman."
Industrial research culture in change
Rightful place
Views on women and science
Women and science downloads

Women and science

Brochure (PDF file - 139Kb)
Poster 1 (PDF file - 133Kb)
Poster 2 (PDF file - 125Kb)


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