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The integration of women in research
The issue of women and science lies at the heart of the construction of the European Research Area. Women are under-represented in all scientific sectors; although they represent over 50% of all school leavers, they account for only 31.7% of applicants to higher education within the European Union (EU). Full participation of women in all scientific disciplines and at all levels on equal terms with men will further strengthen excellence and progress in European science.
Communication from the Commission of 17 February 1999, "Women and Science": mobilising women to enrich European research.
More and more women are taking part in most areas of economic, social and political life but they remain particularly under-represented in scientific research and technological development. Despite the significant numbers of women gaining university degrees (the majority in some subjects), the proportion of women decreases the further up the science career ladder you go, and is virtually zero at the top.
This situation must be rectified in the interests of equal opportunities for men and women: this is essential to democracy and a political priority for the EU (Articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty). Furthermore, it would harm Europe's interests to fail to take advantage of the greater involvement of women in research, which constitutes an enrichment in terms of scientific methods, subjects and objectives.
Integration of equal treatment into the Fifth Framework Programme
On 17 February 1999, the Commission presented the communication " Women and science ", which aims to promote equal opportunities in research activities in the European Union and, in particular, the Fifth Framework Programme for research and technological development (1998-2002).
This communication follows the conference organised jointly by the Commission and the European Parliament on 28 and 29 April 1998, during which scientists and political decision-makers affirmed the need for further efforts to be made to increase the numbers of women involved in research in Europe.
This communication presents a set of measures to be implemented in the context of the Fifth Framework Programme to promote women in research. Two objectives are to be pursued:
- setting up a dialogue between Member States on the measures implemented at regional and national level;
- developing a consistent approach within European Union policy (Fifth Framework Programme).
To match research to women's needs, the Commission aims to achieve at least a 40% representation for women at all levels of implementing and managing research programmes (particularly in Marie Curie research scholarships, advisory groups and assessment panels for the Fifth Framework Programme for research and technological development).
Impact studies will be conducted for specific programmes to determine whether the work programmes and the funded research are taking account of the potential differences in the needs of men and women.
Economic and social factors must be considered, in addition to the essential role of education and training, in promoting more active participation of women in research.
Equal opportunities efforts should not concentrate just on boosting the number of women researchers but should also ensure that the research meets the needs of both men and women.
The Council considers that the two most important objectives of the communication are:
- stimulating discussion and the sharing of experience among Member States;
- boosting the numbers of women involved in Community research based on a consistent approach supported by research framework programmes.
The Council also calls upon the Member States to:
- make existing statistics available on the involvement of women in research and development;
- play an active part in the dialogue proposed by the Commission by analysing the situation and by jointly evaluating current policies. Research institutes, higher education institutions and private businesses are urged to participate;
- use appropriate means, including other national policies (e.g. the National Action Plans), to promote women in research.
Recent progress in the integration of women in research
- The Sixth Framework Programme: the promotion of equal and non-restrictive participation of women in all scientific disciplines and at all levels is an integral part of the Sixth Framework Programme. The emphasis is on the development of synergies between national and regional policies or actions in order to increase the participation of women in industrial research and to integrate equal treatment in scientific institutions;
- The Helsinki group on "Women and Science": the purpose of this group is to promote gender equality and the participation of women in scientific fields at European level. Meetings are held twice yearly and are an important forum for dialogue on national policies. Its main function is to exchange points of view, experiences and good practice concerning measures and policies developed and implemented at local, regional, national and European level;
- Network development: Networks are an essential tool for making the voice of female scientists heard in Europe. One of the factors which results from the under-representation of women in science and research is precisely the feeling of isolation and the lack of support experienced individually by female scientists in their sectors;
- Statistics: to measure collective career progress for female scientists it is crucial to have regularly updated statistics and indicators in order to check whether or not the situation is improving and to observe variations according to discipline and country;
- The Enwise group: The Commission set up the Enwise Expert Group (Enlarge "Women in Science" to East) to analyse the situation of female scientists in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic;
- The Expert Group "Women in Industrial Research": the purpose of this group is to advise the Commission, the Member States and private industry on measures to be taken to encourage employers in the private sector to take advantage of the financial benefits which they stand to gain from recruiting women into their businesses.
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