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WOMENINNANO — Result In Brief

Project ID: 16754
Funded under: FP6-SOCIETY
Country: Germany

Reducing the gender gap in nanoscience

A pilot initiative for women working in nanoscience has increased their number and enhanced their public and academic profile. The initiative's activities aimed to identify and help overcome obstacles that women encounter in this rapidly developing interdisciplinary field.
Reducing the gender gap in nanoscience
The problem is often that many women who begin a career in science leave it early, while very few are promoted to senior positions in scientific disciplines. A women's group of 11 senior nanoscientists from nine European countries decided to do something about this.

They formed a partnership to tackle the problem, the EU-funded 'Strengthening the role of women scientists in Nano-Science' (Womaninnano) project. The project’s aim was to find ways to support and encourage women to study and work in the challenging fields of nanomaterials and nanotechnology.

In the first Womaninnano stage, the project team reviewed the particular situation of women working in nanoscience, and identified and mapped their competences at all levels. The study revealed that differences between countries' national scientific systems apparently had little effect on women’s career opportunities, as opposed to factors such as cultural values.

The second stage was devoted to activities for a publicity campaign to make scientific careers more attractive, especially for younger women, and to bring nanoscience out of the laboratory into the public arena. Schoolchildren and older students got the message that it can be a lot of fun to study and work in nanoscience, through Womaninnano open public events, lab visits and regional workshops, among others.

A third stage involved communicating with decision-makers in research, politics and industry at all levels to address gender inequality issues in science. Discussing best practice employment policies and highlighting the scientific contributions of women helped advance the acknowledgement of women scientists in the wider scientific community and further their networking potential.

Womaninnano succeeded in improving the standing of women in the EU scientific community as well as in the public eye. Gender inequality is a serious obstacle, not only in terms of human resources for the development of nanoscience, but also for European society overall.

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