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European Commission


Brussels, 21 June 2012

Commission launches "Science: it's a girl thing!" campaign

Why is the Commission launching this campaign?

Women continue to be under-represented in research at a time when Europe needs more researchers to foster innovation and bolster its economy. The goal of the campaign is to attract young women to research careers in order to increase the total number of researchers in Europe. The European Union has set itself the goal of increasing R&D spending to 3 per cent of GDP by 2020, compared with around 2 per cent now1, and will need an extra 1 million researchers to make this a reality2. Some businesses already complain about a lack of researchers and skilled technical workers.

There is a growing pool of female talent in Europe from which research and innovation should benefit. There are many factors at work explaining the lack of women in research in general and in some sectors in particular. Some are linked to the practices of research institutions and others to persistant stereotypes which affect the culture and image of science. The campaign intends to address these stereotypes.

Why are you directing the campaign at girls?

Young people typically make critical career decisions between the ages of 13 and 17. At this point in their education they orientate towards or away from science and technology studies. Recent analysis of education data from OECD-PISA shows that at age 15, both girls and boys have roughly the same preference and ability in science and technology. However, then a large number of girls drop out of science, engineering and technology to pursue other subjects.

How big is the problem?

Since the 1990s the majority of university graduates have been women but the proportion of women in top positions in European science is still very low3. In the EU, well over 50 % of all graduates are women in most areas of study, and significantly more in some (for example 78 % in education)4. They also make up the majority of masters students, and 45 % of Ph.D. graduates5. However, female graduates are severely under-represented in the areas of engineering, manufacturing and construction, with women making up just 25.5 % of graduates in these fields. Women are also under-represented in the areas of science, mathematics and computing, where they constitute 40.2 % of all graduates6.

Furthermore, EU-wide, women make up only about 32% of career researchers. Most countries acknowledge that this is a problem, not only now but for the future of research. With businesses in many countries already reporting shortages of skilled workers, Europe cannot afford to waste any of its young talent.

Proportion of female PhDs (2007)

What is the role of FP7 in relation to female scientists?

There are several initiatives in FP7 to encourage the participation of women in research and innovation. The Science in Society initiative provides financial support to research organisations to establish gender equality plans. The programme also funds training to researchers to better integrate gender issues in research projects. It is within this programme that a monitoring of the situation of women in research is ensured, with the publication of so-called SHE Figures. The next edition is planned this year.

FP7 also provides financial support to the mobility of male and female researchers within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions encourage women to work in research and through a set of measures help them to balance their career and family life. Fellows have attractive working conditions with full social benefits including maternity leave, in line with the principles of the "European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers". Under specific conditions, Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellows can also work part time to combine their personal lives with their career development. Finally, women who wish to resume their career after a break can return to research; their applications to the Intra-European Fellowship Marie Curie Actions will be treated in a specific restart panel. Nearly 40% of Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellows funded so far under the EU's current research framework programme (FP7) are women.

What is the situation in different countries?

Researchers are defined by the OECD as professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems and also in the management of the projects concerned. There are roughly 1.5 million researchers (Full Time Equivalent, FTE) in the EU, of which 524,000 are in the business sector, but the number of researchers per country and sex of those researchers varies greatly. In Latvia more than 50% of researchers are women, while it is less than 30% in the Netherlands or Luxembourg.

Source: Eurostat Science, technology and innovation in Europe 2012

There are fewer female researchers in the business / private sector than in the public sector.

What is going to happen in the campaign?

The campaign will be anchored by an informative and dynamic website and a Facebook page. The website will contain:

  • Video profiles of role models (female scientists) from each focus country;

  • An interactive quiz revealing which science career best suits each girls’ interests;

  • Science facts and figures;

  • Descriptions of the many (sometimes surprising!) careers that can spring from studies in science.

  • Six global challenges – why science needs you

Is this only running in Brussels and online?

No. In the first pilot phase there will be events in six countries. Following the launch in Brussels, a ‘Science: It's a Girl Thing!’ mobile expo truck will wind its way through Austria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. It will visit Vienna, Krakow, Warsaw, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Munich, Milan and Rome between September and December 2012. The truck will offer fun, on-the-spot scientific activities demonstrating the connection between science and music, cosmetics, food, fashion and more. For example, girls are invited to make their own lip balm or visit our oxygen bar to identify the smells of different food aromas such as mint, chocolate and strawberry. Boys are of course also welcome!

In addition ‘Science Café’ will be organised for schools to meet inspirational role models: female researchers from the country, who will talk about their careers and the great opportunities for women. Participants also have the chance to take part in a flashmob-style ‘Chain Reaction Dance’, take the ‘Discover Your Inner Researcher’ quiz on a tablet and pick up goodies and giveaways.

Did you work on the campaign with Member States? Will they tie in or take it forward at the national level?

Member States have been informed about the campaign and we hope they will get involved. Around two thirds of EU countries already have gender equality policies in place in order to increase the number of women in engineering and science. The campaign does not replace national activities but intends to create synergy with national initiatives which promote gender equality. Member States share the same challenges relating to stereotypes on gender in science and learning from each other will help them progress towards the same goals.

Statistics – EU and first phase focus countries 7


Women represent 45. 9 % of PhD graduates in the EU (% of total PhD graduates)

Women represent 32 % of total researchers in the EU

Women represent 39 % of researchers in Higher Education in the EU

Women represent 39 % of researchers in Government in the EU

Women represent 19 % of researchers in Business Enterprise in in the EU


Women represent 49.1 % of PhD graduates in Poland (% of total PhD graduates)

Women represent 40 % of total researchers in Poland

Women represent 42 % of researchers in Higher Education in Poland

Women represent 42 % of researchers in Government in Poland

Women represent 25 % of researchers in Business Enterprise in Poland


Women represent 52.4 % of PhD graduates in Italy (% of total PhD graduates)

Women represent 33 % of total researchers in Italy

Women represent 36 % of researchers in Higher Education in Italy

Women represent 44 % of researchers in Government in Italy

Women represent 20 % of researchers in Business Enterprise in Italy


Women represent 42.5 % of PhD graduates in Austria (% of total PhD graduates)

Women represent 26 % of total researchers in Austria

Women represent 36 % of researchers in Higher Education in Austria

Women represent 39% of researchers in Government in Austria

Women represent 14 % of researchers in Business Enterprise in Austria


Women represent 41.9 % of PhD graduates in Germany (% of total PhD graduates)

Women represent 23 % of total researchers in Germany

Women represent 33 % of researchers in Higher Education in Germany

Women represent 30 % of researchers in Government in Germany

Women represent 12 % of researchers in Business Enterprise in Germany


Women represent 41.7 % of PhD graduates in Netherlands (% of total PhD graduates)

Women represent 17 % of total researchers in Netherlands

Women represent 29 % of researchers in Higher Education in Netherlands

Women represent 30 % of researchers in Government in Netherlands

Women represent 13 % of researchers in Business Enterp

1 :

European Council conclusions June 2010

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