Brussels, 23 January 2003
Just 50,000 of the 500,000 researchers working in industry across Europe are women, according to recent studies. The average is 15% in the 10 countries where the data are gender specific. But this figure goes down to as little as 9.6% in Germany and 9% in Austria. But women accounted for 55 % of all graduates in higher education in the EU in 2000. Today in Brussels, an EU-sponsored group of experts presented a report to Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, with the aim of analysing the situation, and making widespread improvements by 2010. Urgent action is necessary to change an outdated culture of recruitment and progress in research careers, so as to redress this imbalance. The report calls for action by the private sector and highlights the need for governments, universities and other stakeholders to improve access to scientific education and careers for women.
"I am worried by the very low representation
of women in industrial research,” said Commissioner Busquin. “The
decision taken by EU leaders in Barcelona last year to increase
investment in R&D from 1.9% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to 3%
by 2010 implies a substantial increase in the number of researchers
over the next seven years, particularly female researchers. This
is especially true in the private sector, given the increasing role
it is expected to play in R&D. Europe cannot afford to waste such
great human potential. And bright female graduates have the right
to access industrial research on an equal footing. I therefore welcome
these recommendations on how to overcome the disproportionate loss
of women to industrial research. This is a major challenge for Europe
The gender gap
Data shows that the proportion of
women among successful science and engineering students is growing
in the EU. In 2002 women made up 41% of EU graduates in science,
mathematics and computing and 20% of those qualifying in engineering,
manufacturing and construction subjects were female. Therefore women
are an obvious source of recruitment.
Despite their interest in scientific
disciplines, women are under-represented in the research field.
They account for only one third of researchers in universities and
public research institutions and the situation is even worse in
the private sector as they merely constitute around 15% of industrial
researchers in the EU. Although more than one third of all European
industrial researchers are based in Germany and Austria, the proportion
of women is as low as 9.6% and 9% respectively. In other Member
States, the proportion of women ranges from 17.8% (Finland) to 28.2%
The need for urgent change
The report published today highlights
the untapped potential of women in industrial research. Experts
point out that old-fashioned ideas and practices still impede womens
careers in industrial research.
Women represent a talent pool that must be better used in order
to improve European performance in research and innovation, in quality
and quantity. This is even more important today as the labour supply
in Europe is shrinking and ageing. There will be more competition
for qualified staff in the future, and recruiting and retaining
good quality industrial researchers as well as other qualified staff
is vital in the context of skill shortages.
The report provides recommendations as to how the talent pool of women could be employed more equitably and resourcefully. These include:
attracting more girls to science and engineering to widen the recruitment base;
- making efforts to improve knowledge surrounding the attrition of highly skilled people from industrial research;
- setting up structures to support implementation of healthy work/life balance policies. Equally, the needs of people returning to industrial research after a career break require closer attention;
- collecting more statistics on the position of women in industrial research. While much data exists on the participation of women in publicly funded academic research, relatively little is known about their role in industrial research. More data will allow informed policies and practices to be developed;
- encouraging an organisational and cultural change in the industry
- developing indicators and benchmarking for monitoring progress made in retaining and promoting women and men, and comparing the effects of national and industrial policies
- compiling and disseminating successful examples of companies that have retained female members of the European talent pool for research and development.
The Expert Group
The expert group that completed the
report was chaired by Professor Helga Rübsamen-Waigmann, Vice President
of Bayer AG, Head of Antiinfective Research, and Dr. Ragnhild Sohlberg,
Vice President of Norsk Hydro ASA, Corporate Center. Around 50 top-level
experts from leading research and development (R&D) companies and
innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as
senior researchers, contributed to this work.
Commissioner Busquin underlined the growing unbalance between the
EU investments in R&D, and those of the United States and Japan.
The gap between these efforts is in the order of 80 billion euros
a year and it is growing rapidly, hampering the innovation potential
of the European economy and its prospects for long term competitiveness
and growth. If this trend is not reversed quickly, it risks compromising
EU drive to meet the objectives set at the Lisbon European Council.
Hence the key policy aim adopted by the Barcelona European Council,
to devote 3 % of GDP to R&D. (see IP/02/290 for a more detailed
Note to editors:
The full report will be available on: http://ec.europa.eu/research/wir
Should you need further information, please contact:
Helga Ebeling, Science and Society Directorate,
DG Research, European Commission
Tel.: +32.2.299.88.31 - E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For interviews with Commissioner Busquin, please contact:
A Vision for Europe: Women in Industrial
A wake up call for European Industry
Brussels, 23 January 2003
11:30 - 13:00
rue de la Loi 170
11.30: Presentation of the Report
on Research and Development (R&D) in European Industry - How can
we reach our goal if we ignore women, who represent half our talent
pool? (open to the press)
- Introduction of European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin
- Prof. Dr. Helga Rübsamen-Waigmann, chair of the expert group, Vice President of Bayer AG, Head of Antiinfective Research
- Dr. Ragnhild Sohlberg, vice-chair and chair of the subgroup on best practices, Vice President, Norsk Hydro ASA
- Dr Teresa Rees, University of Cardiff, Professor at the School of Social Sciences
- Pierre Bismuth, chair of the subgroup on young scientists, Vice President Personnel, Schlumberger Ltd.
- Conclusions of Commissioner Busquin.
12.30: Press conference with Commissioner
Followed by a buffet lunch until 14:00