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
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).