In 2009, women in scientific research accounted for 33 % of researchers in the EU. Their proportion since 2002 is growing faster than that of men (5.1 % annually, compared with 3.3 % for men). Over the same period a similar pattern is followed by the proportion of women among scientists and engineers (5.4 % annual increase, compared with 3.1 % for men). On average, the balance between female and male researchers in the EU-27 is better in the government and higher education sector than it is in the business enterprise sector, as in both sectors on average in 2009 the proportion of female researchers was of 40%, while in Business enterprise sector the proportion falls to 19%.
In the EU-27, 59 % of all PhD graduates were women in 2010; they equal or outnumber men in all broad fields of study, except for science, mathematics and computing (40 %), and engineering, manufacturing and construction (26 %), the two fields with the highest overall number of PhD graduates.
Over the period 2002–2009, female researchers were generally gaining ground in all fields of science in Higher Education, although at a very different pace in the different countries. In particular, the humanities as well as in engineering and technology; these fields were attracting more and more women. Contrary to the relatively uniform distribution of female researchers across science fields in Higher Education, the situation in the Government Sector is much more diverse and disparate, and the way the number of female researchers evolved over time in the different fields of science was highly country-specific. In most countries the medical sciences accounted for the highest share of female researchers in the Business Enterprise Sector, whereas again it was in engineering and technology where they were most absent.
However, women's academic careers remained markedly characterised by strong vertical segregation in 2009: women represented only 44 % of grade C (the entry level of a typical academic career) academic staff, 37 % of grade B academic staff and 20 % of grade A academic staff (full professors). On average throughout the EU-27, in 2006 only 15.5 % of institutions in the higher education sector were headed by women and only 10 % of universities had a female head of staff. This under-representation of women is even more striking in specific fields , as for example the field of science and engineering.
Unbalanced representation of women and men remains also in decision making bodies with on average only one woman for every two men on scientific and management boards across the EU.
She Figures 2012 keeps on reminding us about persistency of imbalance in the number, seniority and influence of women and men in scientific studies and professions and the limited pace of progression towards equality. This mirrored the results of data collected by Eurostat and the Statistical Correspondents of the Helsinki Group.
There is no evidence of spontaneous reduction of gender inequality over time and, proactive policies are therefore still needed to push forward a better equality of opportunities for women and men in scientific careers.