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2.2  Producing gender equality in science

Research agendas often fail to take the specific needs of women into account. Women represent half of the student population, but hold only 10% of the senior positions in academia and even less in industry.

If society as a whole is to better understand and accept the developments in science and technology, specific measures must be taken to address both the under-representation of women in science, and the lack of attention paid to gender differences within research.

In 1999, the Commission launched an action plan on women and science, which set out a strategy to promote research by, for and about women, in co-operation with Member States and other key actors. This has proven a successful approach and will be maintained and developed in the next phase of activity.

New actions will be underpinned by reinforcing measures that are already in place. The Helsinki Group on Women and Science (the Helsinki Group was established in November 1999. Its members are civil servants involved in promoting women in scientific research at national level in the Member States and Associated States) will continue to provide the framework for pooling national policy experiences and exchanging good practice and will set out a comprehensive strategy for longer term co-operation. The Gender Watch System will be stepped up to improve the integration of the gender dimension within the Framework Programme and research policy in general.

This approach will be complemented by specific research to improve the understanding of gender and science issues in Europe and to develop tools to support the policy process.

Against this background, which will continue to evolve, the Commission will launch four new initiatives, as announced at its conference on Gender and Research in November 2001.

Establishing a European platform of women scientists

There is a need for a framework under which to exchange experience and good practice while facilitating co-operation and consultation across sciences. This would create the mechanism for involving women scientists more actively in the European policy process, by disseminating information and supporting lobbying and advocacy work. It would empower women scientists in their careers, with training actions and networking activities, a database of role models and mentors, campaigns and awareness-raising initiatives.

Action 24

A European platform will be set up to bring together networks of women scientists and organisations committed to gender equality in scientific research.

Monitoring progress towards gender equality in science

Monitoring progress in the field of gender equality cannot be achieved without appropriate indicators. The Helsinki Group on women and science has identified a specific need in the following key policy objectives: increasing the number of women in science; reducing both horizontal segregation (whereby women are concentrated in certain sectors or disciplines) and vertical segregation (whereby women tend to be in lower hierarchical positions); eliminating pay gaps; and ensuring fairness and equity.

Action 25

A set of gender indicators will be produced in co-operation with the statistical correspondents of the Helsinki Group on women and science to measure progress towards gender equality in European research.

Mobilising women scientists in the private sector

The private sector accounts for 60% of European research. It is a resource for innovation and represents a wide spectrum of scientific activity. So far, the activities have mainly covered the research undertaken within universities and research centers. It is of the utmost importance to make sure that the situation of women in research carried out by enterprises is also analysed.

Action 26

An expert group will examine the role and place of women in research carried out in the private sector, identifying career patterns and examples of best practice, and will formulate recommendations to increase gender equality.

Promoting gender equality in science in the wider Europe

The situation of women scientists in Central and Eastern Europe has not been examined in depth to date. However, the political, social and economic developments in this region have created the need to analyse the specific situations encountered by women scientists in these countries, in order to provide them with tools for approaching policy makers, and to promote gender equality in the broader 'accession' context. This analysis will be undertaken in full recognition of the fact that there are lessons to be learned by EU Member States also in this exercise.

Action 27

A group of experts will examine the situation facing women scientists in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, and make recommendations for further work, in particular through the Helsinki Group on women and science and links with other appropriate policies.

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