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.
Back to top
Description of topic - terms of reference
The ETAN pilot action will address the following questions:
Setting the scene
Identifying important issues and challenges of the gender perspective in research policy
- 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 ?
: 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, ...) ?
: 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?
Defining and evaluating policy options
: there seems to be a tendency in some disciplines for women to organise in womenï¿½s network and to remain away from the ï¿½mainstreamï¿½ networking, or the ï¿½old boyï¿½s networkï¿½. 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 ?
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 Unionï¿½s level).
Back to top
Members of the working group
Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry
Dept. of Biochemistry
Am Fassberg 11
University of Bristol
School for Policy Studies
Rodney Lodge, Grange Road - Clifton
UK-B58 4EA Bristol
Centre for Genderstudies
NL-6200 MD Maastricht
IRP - Insitute for Population Research
Viale Bethoven, 56
Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Technology
Women in Education and Research
National Public Health Institute of Finland
Dept. of Human Molecular Genetics
Laboratoire de Physique de la MatiÃ¨re CondensÃ©e
Laboratoire PMC - Ecole Polytechnique
Immunologia y genetica aplicada. S.A.
Hnos. Ga Noblejas, 41 2a
UniversitÃ© Libre de Bruxelles
Isotopes, Petrology and Environment
50 av. Franklin Roosevelt
Tennis court Road
UK-CB2 1QR Cambridge
Dept. of Immunologia
Commission officer responsible
DGXII-F4 - SDME 03/82
Rue de la loi, 200
Back to top
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