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Good practises

Addressing the gender balance

How can a better balance in the proportion of men and women in the world of science be achieved? In 1999, the Herman von Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres gave priority to women in filling 100 posts in Germany. In Sweden, 31 university professorships were created for women in 1995 (they were open to men in the event of a lack of suitably qualified women candidates). In the Netherlands, the Aspasia programme allows women assistants to apply for research funds in the capacity of associate professor. The Danish programme FREJA (Female Researchers in Joint Action) supports highly qualified researchers committed to pursuing their careers. These policies for a better gender balance are free of any demagogy or compromising on the quality of research. In all cases the criteria of scientific excellence are scrupulously respected.

A different kind of grant

How can you make scientific progress without pursuing research? How can you pursue research without funds? Most applicants for grants - both national and international - are men. Yet when programmes actively encourage women researchers to apply, the response is convincing. This is why in 1999 the European Commission decided to launch an awareness-boosting action to achieve a better 'mix' of the sexes for the Marie Curie fellowships. The result, from the very first call for applications, was a success rate for women which was 92% the rate for men.

Other successful forms of aid take specific account of the needs of women. In the UK, for example, 82% of the researchers who applied for a Dorothy Hodgkin grant between 1995 and 1998 were women, and 45 of the 48 grants went to women. This exemplary programme - one of the few to take account of personal and professional development - provides a salary for four years, an annual research expenses grant, the option of working part time or full time, and possible help for 'family support' (childcare during a conference abroad, for example).

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Women and science