Tackling the gender gap in research and enterprise
While the number of women working in the business and scientific communities is constantly increasing, females are still woefully under-represented in key research sectors. There are many reasons for seeking greater involvement of women in science and industry, aside from the promotion of equal opportunities for all citizens. First, the potential benefits of putting half of the population to work in these areas are obviously enormous. Second, women are well suited to carrying out research that responds to economic and social concerns. Women have long been leading consumers and educators, and nothing could make more sense than that they should play an equal role in the innovation and production sectors. The European Council Resolution of 1 June 1999 on Women and Science states, “The question of under-representation of women in the field of scientific and technical research is a common concern for Member States and the Community...”.
The starting point for the ‘WomEn2FP6’ project (Enterprising Women into European Research) was the realisation that women entrepreneurs are very often not aware of the opportunities offered under the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for RTD. Indeed, almost none participate in transnational co-operative initiatives. WomEn2FP6 involves 15 partners from ten EU Member States and aims to reduce the existing gender gap, supporting women entrepreneurs through transregional learning, training courses and seminars. Building upon the EU-funded ‘ProWomEn’ project, WomEn2FP6 brings together two types of partners – those with expertise in technology and innovation, and those with expertise in helping women set up businesses – to develop a strategy for effectively integrating women entrepreneurs into FP6 projects. An internet database will also allow women to advertise their companies and their expertise. The project is supported under the EU’s Economic and Technological Intelligence (ETI) scheme.
Full project title: Enterprising Women into European Research
Project acronym: WomEn2FP6
Project coordinator: Dr Petra Püchner, Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum,
Science in society significance
A lack of appropriate role models, difficulties in balancing family and work, or economic problems in traditional sectors are just some of the reasons why women tend not to start their own businesses. Those who do take the chance often have to face new problems in the form of missing networks, male-dominated support systems or even outright discrimination. By breaking through these barriers to fully exploit the potential of women entrepreneurs in research, new opportunities and prospects for innovative business and technological development can be created, even in less-developed regions. Long-term solutions have to start with the educational system but, in the medium and short term, information and training within existing organisations can be helpful. The WomEn2FP6 project is focusing on networking and implementing structures to promote entrepreneurship and research by and for women, for the advancement of science, industry and European society as a whole.
WomEn2FP6 is aiming to:
- Create regional partnerships of intermediaries and key players;
- Raise awareness of FP6 opportunities for women entrepreneurs, including training sessions in each of the European regions;
- Generate a searchable isnternet database with profiles of women entrepreneurs;
- Form transnational clusters;
- Match women entrepreneurs to EU-funded Networks of Excellence (NoEs) and Integrated Projects (IPs);
- Create a virtual platform for coordinators of NoEs and IPs to search for and contact women entrepreneurs;
- Organise two major events to raise awareness and disseminate results.