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Advanced Training for Women in Scientific Research

Final Report Summary - ADVANCE (Advanced Training for Women in Scientific Research)

There are significant differences in the career paths of male and female scientists. The road towards faculty positions not only takes longer for women, but there is also a significant portion of female candidates who drop out before reaching their goal, a phenomenon appropriately referred to as 'leaky pipeline'. This syndrome feeds on itself, since the paucity of females in leading positions, both in academia and industry, results in few role models for ambitious graduate students to emulate.

The ADVANCE project (see online) addressed the issue of gender equality in science and research and intends to make a contribution towards 'plugging the leaky pipeline'. The objective of the ADVANCE programme was to promote the participation of women in science and research by supporting female scientists in acquiring research and career management skills and other tools which help them build up their careers.

The project was coordinated by the Danube University Krems in cooperation with five European universities from Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland. The project duration was two years starting from September 2006. The goals were to be realised through career training and mentoring and coaching activities. In addition, enhancing and encouraging networking has been an important part of the programme. The programme targeted female researchers in predoctoral and postdoctoral career phase in natural sciences and technology.

The ADVANCE summer school, and mentoring and coaching programme have succeeded in providing multiple, gender-sensitive and career-relevant support and training for female scientists in different career stages. The programme has had an empowering impact on the participants. The participants have gained more motivation and self-confidence, learned various professional and management skills, networking skills, and became more conscious of different aspects and demands in scientific careers, including specific challenges women scientists encounter. One of the factors behind the success was the combination of multiple didactic methods: lectures, group discussions, developing individual mentoring relationships, and possibility for individual and/or group coaching.

The programme has also enhanced networking among participating researchers. The programme had also organisational impact in the participating universities and through senior researchers who participated as mentors. Through the programme, participating organisations and mentors have become more aware of problems women scientists encounter on the one hand and on the other hand of the need to organise systematic career support structures in both predoctoral and postdoctoral career phase. As a result, several participating organisations are going to start related programmes in the near future, which was also one aim of the project.

Based on the evaluation report and feedback from the advisory board of the ADVANCE consortium, the experiences and outcomes of summer school, and the mentoring and coaching programme were refined to so-called 'transfer models'. Essential prerequisites that allow for sustainable implementation of coaching and mentoring as parts of regular personnel development within the single institutions were defined. All resources are available free of charge for interested organisations as well as for the consortium itself. It is not planned to make commercial use of the projects outcomes.