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Facts and figures

She Figures

What is the proportion of female to male researchers in Europe, and how is this proportion evolving over time? In which scientific fields are women better represented? Do the career paths of female and male researchers follow similar patterns? Are statistics on women in science comparable across Europe? How many women occupy senior positions in scientific research in Europe?

Published every three years since 2003, She Figures replies to these questions. It presents human resource statistics and indicators in the research and technological development (RTD) sector and on gender equality in science. The report is recommended reading for all policymakers, researchers and their employers, citizens with a vision of a participative, competitive and innovative Europe.

The latest update, She Figures 2012 ( 4.32MB), shows that despite progress, gender inequalities in science tend to persist. For example, while 59 % of EU graduate students in 2010 were female, only 20 % of EU senior academicians were women. The publication also gives an overview of the scientific fields where women are better or less represented, and compares the research workforce in different economic sectors (e.g. higher education, government, and business sectors).

The She Figures 2012 booklet has been published in March 2013 and uploaded on this website.

All She Figures volumes, in addition to other relevant documents, are available through the e-Library

Participation in the Framework Programme

Achieving equal and full participation of women in all scientific disciplines at all levels in the scientific job market (i.e. having equivalent numbers of researchers involved and equivalent access to research decision-making) is a fundamental part of European Commission policy on women in science. In 1999, the Commission set a 40 % target for the participation of women in all committees, groups and panels relating to the functioning of the Framework Programme. This target is subject to regular monitoring in order to ensure that the current levels of female participations are raised.

The Commission uses external expert evaluators to assess most of the proposals received for funding. More women evaluators are needed to help tackle the problem of female underrepresentation, particularly in some natural sciences and most of the engineering disciplines. Applications are welcome.

Women in private sector research

The strategic position of European research and development (R&D) and innovation policy was highlighted in the Lisbon Strategy as one of the main instruments for implementing a common vision for economic and social development in Europe. The Lisbon Strategy also set a 60 % employment participation target of women in the labour market.

The importance of R&D was again highlighted at the 2002 Barcelona Summit, where the Council agreed on the need to increase the proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on R&D from 1.9 % in 2000 to 3 % in 2010, thereby expecting investment in industrial research to double and the number of industrial researchers to increase significantly.

In 2001, the Commission funded a study on women in research in the private sector. The study had three main tasks: data collection in the EU countries (Member States and Associated Countries); collection and analysis of qualitative/quantitative studies (in and outside Europe) and collection of European-based companies' good practice; and recommendations on data collection and indicators, in comparison with OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) good practice. Published in 2003, the study's results clearly demonstrated the underrepresentation of women in industrial research (with a few striking exceptions of companies where gender diversity was a key element for innovation and economic success in terms of global competition).

She Figures 2012 shows that on average in the EU-27, women represented 19 % of all researchers in the Business Enterprise Sector, although it should be also noticed that the number of female researchers has been witnessing higher growth rates than the number of male researchers.

Gender challenge in research funding

In order to maintain autonomy and ensure scientific excellence, access to research funding should be based on merit and individual scientific achievements. Scientific excellence, however, is not an absolute term but a composite of several determinants, such as, originality and innovation.

Gender studies presented in the 2004 report Gender and Excellence in the Making ( 1.23MB) revealed that the term 'excellence' may hide gender biases when used as evaluation criteria in careers promotion. The report explains that the discourse on excellence needs to be reframed in such a way as to include all scientists, regardless of their gender. One of the important recommendations of the 2004 report is to improve transparency and accountability of procedures to lessen gender bias.

As a follow up, the Commission set up the Gender and Excellence Expert Group. Research was conducted by the group in 2008, and the ensuing report, The Gender Challenge in Research Funding – Assessing the European National Scenes ( 5.05MB), was published in May 2009. It provides an analysis of the gender dynamics among applicants, recipients and gatekeepers of research funding with regard to funding processes, instruments and criteria. It also highlights the role of key funding organisations in promoting gender equality in research.

The analysis was carried out in 33 countries. A copy of the country reports provided by the experts in 2008 is available from the e-Library

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