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European Platform of Women Scientists

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Women shaping science

A platform bringing together women scientists' organisations from Europe and beyond has been established to counter the current under-representation of women in science and to make their voice heard.

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It has long been recognised that the position of women in science is of interest not only to women scientists - research infrastructures also benefit from the efficient use of talents. However, few networks of women scientists Europe-wide have the capacity or expertise to enter into the European research policy debate. The 'European platform for women scientists' (EPWS) was launched in March 2006 to act as the missing link between women scientists and policy-makers. Special emphasis was placed on supporting existing national, regional and international networks of women scientists. The platform started to reach out to networks across Europe through surveys and questionnaires. Besides collecting information about their main field of interest and activities, the ultimate objective of such efforts was to tell them about the EPWS and encourage them to join in. In less than three years, EPWS evolved into a network of 104 organisations working for the promotion of equal opportunities in research across 39 countries, reaching out to more than 12\;000 women researchers in Europe and beyond. And it continues to acquire new members today. The network met for the first time in autumn 2006, held its first general assembly in 2007, enjoyed the success of its first annual conference in 2008 and the latest in 2010. The conclusions from all meetings, stressing the need to include gender issues in research programmes, were provided as input to public consultations of both the European Research Area and European Research Council. As women in science are still outnumbered by men at all levels, the EPWS proposed changes to increase the participation and advancement of women scientists and engineers. In addition, by networking across institutes and national borders, women have made a concerted effort to penetrate the 'old boy network'. Yet, in spite of its increasing impact, high visibility at European level and the acknowledged crucial nature of its work, EPWS continues to face financial difficulties. Initially funded by the European Commission through its Sixth and later the Seventh Framework Programme, since 2009 the platform has been supported by its members working on a voluntary basis.

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