Representatives of over 80 networks of women scientists from across Europe gathered together in Brussels on 20 October for the first meeting of the European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS). The EPWS was officially launched in March this year, and during its first few months of operation its secretariat has been busy reaching out to the numerous networks of women scientists across Europe. The main objective of the event was to bring these networks together to share experiences and decide on the future direction of the fledgling organisation. Ultimately the EPWS hopes to engage women scientists in the research policy debate and become a link between women scientists and policy makers at the European level. Initial funding for the EPWS comes from the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), and José Manuel Silva Rodriguez, the Director General of the European Commission's DG Research, was at the event to pledge his personal support to the initiative. 'Gender equality is a fundamental right,' he commented, noting that gender equality in research is essential if the EU is to achieve its goal of becoming the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy. Solveig Bergman of the Nordic institute for Women's Studies and Gender Research (NIKK) noted that many in the Nordic countries think they have nothing to learn from the EU with regards to gender equality in science. In fact the situation there is not so different from the rest of Europe. 'Nordic countries are no paradise,' Dr Bergman warned, offering as an example the under-representation of women on the councils which allocate research funds. Marcela Linkova of the Czech National Contact Centre for Women and Science outlined the situation in Central and Eastern Europe. While the overall picture is the same as elsewhere, there is a lack of grassroots movements of women scientists pushing for change. Her organisation is funded by the EU and the Czech government, a fact which raises a dilemma for her and her colleagues. 'On whose behalf to we speak and what do we say?' she asked. 'We try to devise ways in which women scientists actually come and say what they would like. Then we try to work on it.' Through its activities. the Centre is gradually sensitising both male and female scientists and politicians to the issues. 'It was important to us to have such testimonies on the state of the art of women scientists in different scientific disciplines and in different European regions,' commented EPWS Secretary General Maren Jochimsen. 'They showed us the variety of experiences in the promotion of women scientists in Europe.' 'We are optimistic regarding the Platform's future,' added Adelheid Ehmke, the EPWS' president. 'We are only at the beginning, but meeting so many enthusiastic people wanting to become our members, we are confident that we will do a great job together in facing the challenges ahead.'