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Topic 4

Adressing the gender balance in research policy


It is now widely recognized that women are underrepresented in science. This needs to be changed, for the sake of science and research itself as well as for the sake of equal opportunity. This awareness has risen sharply in recent years, notably in most member states, as well as in the scientific community. The underlying factors behind the underrepresentation of women in science and the issues at stake are complex and needs further consideration, in order to elaborate adequate policy responses, in the field of science and technology.

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Description of topic - terms of reference

The ETAN pilot action will address the following questions:

Setting the scene

  • What is the situation in the different countries ? What statistics and information are available ? What policies have been implemented and do they work? What examples of good practice exist and can they be extended to other EU States? What are the relevant actors/stakeholders (networks, associations, administrative units, ...) ? What level of concern is there in the different member states ?
Identifying important issues and challenges of the gender perspective in research policy
  • Statistical information : there is a huge need for better statistics on the situation of women and science. It is important also to look at the distribution of women among different disciplines and at the vertical stratification of women in science. These improvements will only be made possible through long term and consistent establishment of data sources or data gathering. This has a cost, and may require some new legal basis. There is, of course, a trade off to be found between the burden of producing data and the advantage of good data. What are the trade-off routes ? By which procedures could we establish better statistics in Europe, on a comparative basis ? A comparison with the situation in the U.S., Canada and Australia may be useful.
  • Scientific career and family life : The tempo and the requirements of the scientific career are sometimes thought to be close to incompatible with the life of a woman. Her biological clock, as well as the mobility required for becoming a good scientist can make it very difficult for a woman to combine family life and a scientific career. This does not mean that women are not good scientists. But rather that it is a policy challenge to create the models and the structures that make it feasible for a woman (not only a super-woman) to be a good scientist. What are the policy implications ? What are the implications for scientific career management ?
  • Gender relevance in research : there is an ongoing debate whether, beyond the equal opportunities issue, there are differences in the way women contribute to research, compared to the way men do. Do women tend to choose different topics for research, do they adopt different approaches/methodologies or ways of running laboratories and do they behave differently in the dissemination of their work (publications, conferences, ...) ?
  • Monitoring : It is important to monitor programmes for equal opportunities and to see whether they increase the number of women entering and staying in different scientific disciplines. How is this done at national levels, and how could it best be done by the new gender and science watch system at the EU level ? How should the results be publicised?
  • Women in leadership and decision making roles in science : Currently relatively few women occupy leading roles in Europe in either an academic or an industrial setting. How could the numbers of women in such roles be increased?
  • Networking : there seems to be a tendency in some disciplines for women to organise in women�s network and to remain away from the �mainstream� networking, or the �old boy�s network�. Is this true ? If yes, why is it so ? What are the policy implications in terms of information and dissemination ? Under what conditions can all networks be put on the same mainstream ground ?
Defining and evaluating policy options

On the basis of the analysis of the issues and the identification of the related challenges, the ETAN pilot action will formulate policy recommendations for the different levels of research policy (within research institutions, at regional, national and at Union�s level).

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Members of the working group

Chair :

Mary Osborn
Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry
Dept. of Biochemistry
Am Fassberg 11
D-37077 Göttingen

Rapporteur :

Teresa Rees
University of Bristol
School for Policy Studies
Rodney Lodge, Grange Road - Clifton
UK-B58 4EA Bristol

Members :
Mineke Bosch
University Maastricht
Centre for Genderstudies
Postbus 616
NL-6200 MD Maastricht
Rossella Palomba
IRP - Insitute for Population Research
Viale Bethoven, 56
I-00144 Rome
Helga Ebeling
Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Technology
Women in Education and Research
Heinemannstrasse 2
D-53175 Bonn
Leena Peltonen
National Public Health Institute of Finland
Dept. of Human Molecular Genetics
Mannerheimintie 166
F-00300 Helsinki
Claudine Hermann
Ecole Polytechnique
Laboratoire de Physique de la Matière Condensée
Laboratoire PMC - Ecole Polytechnique
F-91128 Palaiseau
Carmen Vela
Immunologia y genetica aplicada. S.A.
Hnos. Ga Noblejas, 41 2a
E-28037 Madrid
Jytte Hilden
Odensgade 17
DK-2100 Copenhagen

Dominique Weis
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Isotopes, Petrology and Environment
50 av. Franklin Roosevelt
B-1050 Bruxelles
Anne McLaren
Wellcome/CRC Insitute
Tennis court Road
UK-CB2 1QR Cambridge
Agnes Wold
Göteborg University
Dept. of Immunologia
S-41346 Göteborg

Commission officer responsible
Nicole Dewandre
European Commission
DGXII-F4 - SDME 03/82
Rue de la loi, 200
B-1049 Bruxelles
e-mail: (email removed)

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Reports and Documents

Science policies in the European Union: Promoting excellence through mainstreaming gender equality

Events and conferences

On November 23, 1999, the report was officially presented by the group to Commissioner Busquin and discussed with representatives of the press.

On April 3 and 4, 2000, a major conference was organised by the Commission in order to present and discuss widely the recommendations of the ETAN report.

For more information on the follow-up, refer to /improving/src/hp_women.htm .

Last Updated: 19-07-2000
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