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Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me start by saying congratulations. The Elsevier Gender Report is an extremely ambitious endeavour. 20 years, 12 regions and 27 subject areas. The data collected gives us an exceptional glimpse into the gender dimension of research.
The report also complements the She Figures report that the European Commission published in 2015. Combined, both enrich the statistical support to the gender equality strategy in EU research and innovation policy.
I want to thank Elsevier’s CEO, Ron Mobed in particular. His commitment to promote gender equality in STEM is commendable. It also sends an important message: promoting gender equality is not just a task for women. It’s a task for everyone.
Two months ago, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker published the White Paper on the future of Europe. In it, he says:
There are more women in work than ever before but achieving real gender equality will mean breaking down persisting barriers.
This is no truer for other areas than it is for science.
And the report we are talking about today tells that story. It shows us that gender parity in research is improving. But we still have a long way to go.
Throughout the report, there were three findings that struck me the most:
The first is on Interdisciplinarity: Women’s scholarly output has a larger proportion of highly interdisciplinary research than men’s.
The second is on gender-focused research: It is growing in terms of size and complexity.
And the third is mobility: women are less internationally mobile than men.
I want to discuss all three today.
First on Interdisciplinarity. Let me begin by telling you a story.
I want to tell you about the work of Marjolein Helder. Marjolein is a researcher specialising in bio-energy. She is the founder and CEO of "Plant-e".
Plant-e is a company that develops products using electricity generated from plants.
This is a fascinating innovation. It’s environmentally friendly, and it can be implemented worldwide.
But because the technology is at the intersection of disciplines, it doesn’t fit neatly into any box.
So early on it had problems when looking for funding.
They tried to get funding as an energy company – it didn't qualify.
They tried to get funding as an agricultural company – it didn't qualify.
The struggle that Marjolein faced is all too common. Some of the most exciting and innovative research resides at the intersection of disciplines. But if often struggles to succeed at the early stages because of this. Plant-e is a perfect example of this.
I’ve talked about the importance of interdisciplinarity many times before. So I was happy to see the report finds increased numbers of interdisciplinary research being conducted by women.
If women are conducting good research at the intersection of fields, we have to encourage it. There is already a disparity between the numbers of men and women in science. By encouraging interdisciplinary research, we are opening the door wider to women to enter the field.
Secondly, I want to highlight the importance of gender-focused research.
I’m very happy to see the finding stating that gender research is growing in terms of size and complexity. This is essential in almost every field of science. Take medicine for instance.
Prof. Vera Regitz-Zagrosek might be familiar to many of you. She is a cardiologist, and she coordinates EUGenMed, an EU-funded project looking at gender in medicine. Some of her findings are stunning.
In most European countries, women with heart attacks come to hospital later than men.
Once in the hospital, they are diagnosed later than men.
Women are treated later than men, and they are treated less intensively.
They then receive less medication and information when they are sent home.
If they do receive drugs, they have a greater chance of having adverse effects and inadequate dosing than men.
Vera sees a number of causes for this, such as lack of knowledge among doctors. But one important contributor is that women are underrepresented in clinical trials.
One study looked at hundreds of early stage trials, investigating if drugs are safe and tolerable. More than 34% of these safety trials had only male participants. In total out of more than 10,000 people they looked at, little over 30% were women.
If women are not included, and if gender is not a focus of research, we will continue to fail in areas like heart disease.
More importantly, it means we will be conducting research that is only benefitting half of the population.
As Prof. Londa Schiebinger excellently puts it in the Report:
It’s not just about women and inclusion. Integrating gender into research is about the quality of the research.
As the report points out, the Commission asks funding applicants how they take gender into account in their proposals.
Not only this, I hope that scientific publishers will encourage scientists to take into account gender analysis in their articles as we do in Horizon 2020.
My third point is about mobility.
Science does not see borders. This can be both a positive and a negative. It can open the world to researchers. Yet for some women, the need to relocate could signal the end of their research. Or possibly even the end of their career in science.
When looking at mobility patterns in the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and Japan, women appear to be less mobile than men. This has the knock-on effect of a lower citation impact.
The She Figures provide another perspective which focuses on career levels. Both male and female junior researchers appear to be equally mobile. However, women are less mobile when they hold senior positions and progress in their career.
But regardless of the seniority of the researcher, the lack of mobility puts female researchers at a significant disadvantage. The ability to move freely and to follow the best centres of science is an integral part of good research. So we need to create schemes that encourage and support the mobility of female researchers.
Networking also has a role to play in this. I believe two other findings of the report are interlinked with the lack of mobility of women. These are the findings that women are less likely to collaborate and across sectors on research papers.
Science is borderless as I have said. It is also an area that thrives on collaboration. The collaboration gap for women is without doubt a loss for science. But it is important to identify that it is also a loss for the female scientific community. Collaboration plays an important role in creating networks of female scientists. A female researcher is more likely to find new opportunities and chances for mobility if she is tapped into one of these networks.
Earlier this year I announced the winners at the European Women Innovator Awards. The first prize winner, Michela Magas, founded Stromatolite, a design innovation lab. When she received her prize she made a particularly salient point during her speech: she said she wanted to create a network of women innovators, beginning with her fellow nominees and winners at the awards. She hoped this would encourage more women thinking of entering the area who are facing obstacles.
This drive to link women in science is integral. Open communication will help to link women with opportunities. It will encourage greater mobility for women in science, and lead to better science for all.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Of all eight key findings in the report, the first is perhaps the most impactful: the proportion of women among researchers and inventors is increasing in all twelve countries and regions over time.
This is a win for science. But this is only the beginning.
For me, this report makes it clear what are tasks for the future are:
We need to cherish interdisciplinarity
We need to encourage gender as a component in research
And we need to break down barriers to mobility, while encouraging networks for female researchers.
Of course, these don’t reflect all of the barriers to gender equal science. But if we commit to these tasks, it will go a long way towards improving gender parity in research globally.
To conclude, I would like to quote Professor Jane Grimson, from Trinity College, Dublin. When it comes to science, she said
if you want to improve gender equality, the starting point is to gather the data.
Elsevier has done their part with the Gender Report. And this will help significantly in growing the complex data set we need to direct gender equal policies in the future.
I am delighted to see Elsevier actively engaged in promoting gender equal science. We all need to play our part to make gender equality in research and innovation a reality.
Because, simply put, gender equal science is better science.