EU Science Hub

International women's day: fighting for women's place in science is still necessary

Women continue to be under-represented in science-related jobs.
Women continue to be under-represented in science-related jobs.
Mar 08 2019

Observed since the early 1900s, the International Women's Day calls for gender equality and celebrates women's achievements.

But after over 100 years, gender equality is still far from being reality in many sectors, including in science.

Equality between women and men has always been one of the core values of the European Union. Undoubtedly, Europe is one of the best places in the world for a woman to live and work, and the EU has made significant progress in gender equality over the last decades.

The trends are encouraging in terms of women's participation in the labour market, and their progress in securing better education and training.

However, gender gaps remain and in the labour market women are still over-represented in lower paid sectors and under-represented in decision-making positions.  

The new edition of the Commission’s She Figures report highlights that women continue to be under-represented also in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Gender gap in STEM persists across Europe

"The gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) starts developing long before women and men enter the labour market. Our analyses of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) data show that out of the 15-year old European students who expect to work in STEM, three quarters are male. And in fact, only 10 women out of 100 are interested in STEM careers", explains JRC researcher Zsuzsa Blaskó.

A JRC analysis indicates that this gap has been rather stable during the past 10-15 years. The level of adolescents' interest in STEM has remained stable, or even increased in some European countries, but a persistent gender gap remains across the whole of Europe.

"The countries that have experienced a significant increase in students’ overall interest in STEM, have also seen an increase in the gender gap. This suggests that what  is  growing  is  mostly  the  proportion  of  males  –  not  females  –  who  are  interested in STEM", Zsuzsa comments.

There is no strong correlation between gender equality in a country and the gender gap among STEM students. The EU countries that are known for providing equal opportunities for men and women still demonstrate significant gender differences in STEM.

Collaboration – not competition – in science will encourage girls to pursue scientific studies

The JRC report presents a systematic analysis of the potential influences on young people's career paths, starting from individual characteristics to factors related to their families, school environment and country of residence.

The study shows that while girls tend to be generally less interested in science, and enjoy science less than boys, their parents interest in science can be a strong influencer in favour of scientific careers.