3. An Inclusive Europe
3.4 Mind the gender gap
Everyone wins from greater female participation in the knowledge economy but we are not there yet: despite some progress, women are still underrepresented in R&I and the digital economy.
Despite progress, gender inequalities are persistent in Europe, and in R&I activities.
In tertiary education, there are gender imbalances among Member States and students, since fewer females have gained their diplomas. The number of female researchers has been outpacing the growth of male researchers but their total share is increasing slowly. Although women represent roughly half of EU graduates at the doctoral level, they represent only about a third of all EU researchers and only one fifth of researchers in the business sector.
Women are in a minority in the top academic grade and in recent years their position has only improved slightly.
Across the EU, the proportion of women leading institutions in the higher-education sector rose from 20% in 2014 to nearly 22% in 2017 although, at the same time, several countries experienced a decline in this share.
There is also a pronounced gender gap in the creation of innovative startups.
The emergence of digital technologies witnessed the lower involvement of women, as observed by the lower participation of women in ICT-related fields and platform work.
Female entrepreneurship and funding opportunities for high-potential startups are characterised by a significant gender gap.
There seems to be a division between ‘STEM-related’ industries that are dominated more by male-founded companies and female-led startups. The latter tend to be in areas generally perceived as less high tech, such as lifestyle, education, and fashion rather than ICT technologies. Thus, part of this difference can be attributed to the origins of the gender gap in tertiary education (e.g. gap in STEM education) and later career paths.
A gender diversity gap in AI research also persists but is less pronounced in Europe than in other regions worldwide.
This calls for efforts to promote gender equality to be pursued at all levels.
The integration of gender perspective and gender equality in the preparation and evaluation of R&I policies should be maintained and, where possible, reinforced to make further progress.
The EU also needs to tackle the startup gender gap, beyond the classical market failures.