All SET – UK resource centre for women in sciences
Over a year has passed since the ‘Gago report’ delivered its stark findings to the European Commission on the anticipated paucity of researchers in the sciences, engineering and technology (SET) in coming years. Encouraging more women to get involved in research and inspiring young people to enter SET careers are seen as ways to overcome this. Headlines reports on the progress being made and on a UK initiative which answers the Gago call for greater vigour in Member States.
The Group called on European governments to take a more active role in promoting scientific careers and in helping scientists develop their skills. The group found that the yearly increase in researcher numbers of 2.1% is insufficient to compete with the USA and Japan and to reach the EU’s Lisbon Strategy objectives – to become the world’s leading knowledge-based economy by 2010.
|Finding the right formula to encourage more women into the European SET workforce.|
Through its ‘Women and science’ initiatives, the European Commission has worked to get women more involved, not only in the sciences, but also in engineering and technology based careers. This is important both to gain greater equality in the workplace and also to overcome the shortage of qualified research professionals reported by EU-appointed experts in April 2004.
Some progress is being made but the evidence still points to a gender imbalance in the labs of Europe. This, according to the high-level group charged with the task of surveying the status and needs of human resources for science and technology in Europe, is a “serious shortcoming”. The Gago Group, so named because it was headed by Jose Mariano Gago, Portugal’s former science minister, issued a wake-up call to European governments and leaders.
According to the report, the Nordic countries rise above the rest in their efforts to increase innovation and create more science, engineering and technology jobs. The Gago group estimated that Europe would need around 500 000 more researchers to meet the Lisbon goals. One solution put forward was for SET jobseekers to look for posts outside academia. Another was to create the means for more women to enter the research world and develop careers in it.
Full SET of skills
Today, women make up over half of the student population, and the majority (56%) of graduates in higher education in Europe. But in SET the balance still favours men. As reported in Headlines (10 March 2005), although there are more women in research than ever before, they only account for 30% of EU science and engineering graduates. And the figures don’t improve in the workforce: 35% of the researchers in the public sector and just 18% of the business and enterprise sector of the European research community. Despite evidence of the high quality of their research work, progress of women in science appears to remain slow.
“The European Commission is keen to promote equal and full participation by women in all scientific disciplines and at all organisational levels. Achieving such a real and lasting change goes beyond women currently working in science, or aspiring to work in science: it helps create a more inclusive European scientific research area, for the benefit of the economy and society as a whole,” notes Headlines.
A new website ‘SET for Women’ – developed by the JIVE consortium of Bradford College, Sheffield Hallam, Open and Cambridge Universities – aims to support the UK government’s ten-year investment framework for ‘Science and Innovation’. Its goal is to establish a dynamic centre providing “accessible, high-quality information and advisory services to industry, academia, professional institutes, education and Research Councils within the SET”. Supporting women entering and progressing in SET careers is paramount to achieving this.
Services on the site include weblog pages, mentoring and career advice to women working or planning to work in SET, a women experts database, links to research councils and women’s groups, statistics on employment in the UK, current vacancies in SET, news, events, and more.
Research Contacts page
UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and TechnologyWanted – more European scientists (Marie Curie Action Headlines, 6 Aril 2004)Sixth Framework Programme (FP6)Balancing the books (Nature on-line, April 2005)What’s the update with women and science? (Headlines, 10 March 2005)Women and science (FP6, Science and Society programme)