The existing differences between women and men are of a biological and social nature. 'Sex' refers to the biologically determined differences between women and men. 'Gender' refers to social and cultural differences. These differences are learned, may change over time, and vary significantly both within and between cultures. 'Gender equality' refers to a situation in which all human beings are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices without limitations set by gender roles.
Gender equality means putting men and women on an equal footing and ensuring that they have equal opportunities. However, facts and figures show that women are heavily underrepresented in the scientific job market, and especially in decision-making positions. For example, in 2006 women made up over half the student population but only held 18 % of senior academic positions.
In addition, conventional research agendas often fail to take into account gender specificities. If society is to develop a better understanding and acceptance of the developments in science and technology (S&T), specific measures must be taken to address both the underrepresentation of women in S&T, and the general lack of attention paid to gender differences within research.
The Science in Society (SIS) Programme supports initiatives and projects that address the gender challenge in European research.