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Survey of the University Career of Female Scientists at Life Sciences versus Technical Universities

Final Report Summary - UNICAFE (Survey of the University Career of Female Scientists at Life Sciences versus Technical Universities)

The aim of the project was to carry out an innovative pilot survey to enhance existing knowledge on career patterns of female scientists at universities. The project opened up new perspectives for further in-depth work in the field by mapping the situation of female researchers in engineering and life sciences in seven universities in six countries of Europe, with special regard to gender differences in research careers, critical areas where women are underrepresented, leading university positions, access to funding, mobility and work-life balance.

Women face great difficulties in developing professional careers in equal opportunities to those of men in these sectors, especially regarding their proportion and representation at the higher levels of the hierarchical ladder. The project examined and compared the situation of female and male researchers and decision-makers. A methodology to map careers in university was designed and tested in the partner institutions. The survey involved PhD students, researchers and decision-makers.

Besides the collection of detailed statistics, which is missing at almost all involved universities, the consortium conducted interviews with those female researchers who succeeded in doing a career in these areas of science in spite of the difficulties. The project mapped not only the good practices but the bad ones as well, in order to determine how the career of female researchers is set back in these areas. Furthermore, the project wanted to draw the attention of university managements to the importance of ensuring equal opportunities for women and men and using the practice of gender mainstreaming as a European Union policy.

The partner countries included two new Member States (Hungary and Estonia), three old Member States (Austria, Finland and Italy) and a candidate country (Turkey), so they provided an ideal coverage of circumstances available throughout Europe.

As one of the main tasks of the project, an empirical survey was implemented. First the appropriate methodology for gathering relevant information and data to specify adequate measures and practices to support female researchers was identified. A survey guide was prepared which determined common indicators to use in all institutions for the survey in mapping the existing practices and the missing factors.

A synthesis report was prepared integrating the most important findings of the university reports and comparing the results, based on the comparison between universities and on the comparison between the two fields of science (engineering and life sciences) involved. Conclusions were drawn and policy recommendations were formulated with respect to possible actions to be carried out at universities to implement gender mainstreaming.

Direct dissemination activities within the UNICAFE project were achieved through the following activities. The university reports and the synthesis report were distributed in the national languages and in English among universities, decision and policy makers all over Europe. An international conference was organised to disseminate the results of the survey, including the discussion of conclusions and recommendations with university decision-makers and policymakers. The event gave floor to university leaders, decision makers and researchers to report their experiences and compare these with the project results. A website was established for the UNICAFE project at

The comparative mapping exercise was a pilot action providing opportunity to compare the gender mainstreaming policies and equal opportunities strategies - if any - at the universities and the working conditions of female researchers in different countries and environments. The project formulated conclusions about the university atmosphere in the countries involved, shed light on the obstacles women face in the different scientific fields and countries, and opened up the field for further studies based on the methodology and findings of this pilot action. University reports and the synthesis report in national languages will help university managements to deal with the problems and tasks related to gender mainstreaming.

The dissemination activities aimed at spreading the knowledge gathered during the project and sharing the experience of universities in tackling the issue of female careers in science, thus helping university managements to implement a more effective human resources strategy, in order not to waste valuable brains and provide equal opportunities for female and male researchers.