Progress on gender equality in public research slow and uneven across Europe

News Alert

Progress on gender equality in public research slow and uneven across Europe


3 September 2014

The European Commission has today published a report on gender equality in public research, showing the variety of policies across 31 European countries. Significant progress has been made concerning gender balance in decision-making bodies in 18 countries. However, overall progress is slow and often piecemeal.

Some of the key findings of the report:

  • About half of the countries surveyed have put in place initiatives supporting the individual careers of female researchers.
  • In the last five years, there has been a significant rise in the number of countries implementing quotas or targets for the under-represented sex in decision-making positions: from eight countries in 2008 to 18 in 2013.
  • However, in the past five years, the number of countries where research institutions modernised their management through more comprehensive gender equality plans has only risen modestly - from 12 to 15. Positive developments are observed in the few countries which have legal provisions that require or stimulate research institutions, including universities, to set up gender equality plans and adapt their practices.
  • Furthermore, gender analysis in research has been explicitly included in only six national research programmes so far.
  • Gender issues in graduate schools curricula – aside from the social sciences and humanities – have been mainstreamed in just four countries.

"We must do better," said European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. "We need joined up policies that will achieve real change on gender equality across Europe. That means equal opportunities; equal treatment and more attention to gender in research itself."

The report is based on a survey conducted among the members of the Helsinki Group, the Commission’s advisory group on gender, research and innovation. The study covers both EU Member States and other European countries associated to the EU research programme. Gender equality in the European Research Area (ERA) pursues three objectives: the equal participation of women and men both in scientific careers and in decision making, as well as the inclusion of gender analysis in research content and programmes. It provides a timely input for the upcoming ERA Progress Report 2014.


Promoting gender equality is one of the key priorities set by the Commission for the achievement of the European Research Area (ERA). Within ERA, Member States are engaged to remove barriers to the recruitment, retention and career progression of female researchers, to address gender imbalances in decision-making and to strengthen the gender dimension in research programmes. Integrating the gender dimension means taking into account biological characteristics and social or cultural factors of both women and men in research content. This improves the quality of research and its relevance to society. Research organisations are invited to implement institutional change through Gender Equality Plans, which include impact assessments of procedures and practices, strategies to address identified gender bias, as well as targets and indicators to monitor progress.

The Helsinki group on Gender in Research and Innovation gathers national representatives of EU Member States and the Associated Countries. It advises the Commission on initiatives to promote gender equality in research and innovation at EU level, in Horizon 2020 and in the ERA. The Helsinki Group is also a valuable forum for dialogue about national policies and it plays a key role in raising awareness and monitoring the progress on gender equality at national and EU levels.


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