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SET-ROUTES — Result In Brief

Project ID: 36715
Funded under: FP6-SOCIETY
Country: Germany

Highways into science for women

A European project has successfully managed to tackle the problem of underrepresentation of women in science by challenging old and outdated perceptions of this male-dominated field. SET-Routes developed a pan-European network of highly successful women in all walks of science, from particle physics and space science to nanomedicine.
Highways into science for women
Women have a low profile in science, and one possible reason is that due to stereotyping, science is deemed to be ′manly′. Linked to this is the fact that there is a distinct shortage of visible, successful female role models in science to attract young students to the field.

A European project actively tried to redress this imbalance. With EU funding, SET-Routes aimed to mobilise women in science, engineering and technology, hence SET, to play an ambassadorial role in schools and universities. The overall goal was to instigate a change in the attitude of women, in particular school girls, about what science has to offer them.

Three of the most influential intergovernmental science organisations in Europe, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, known as CERN provided access, for both boys and girls, to some of Europe′s best female scientists. Project partners recruited school ambassadors (SAs) and university ambassadors (UAs) to pass on their experience in all science subjects – from astronomy and particle physics to ecology and medicine.

Seventy SAs and 65 UAs were selected and given training at the International Conference for Women in Science - The Way Forward, hosted by EMBO at EMBL, Heidelberg before starting on the programme of visits. Ambassadors were encouraged to go back to their old schools, familiar with the environment, the teachers, the local language and the surrounding culture.

To deliver resources where they were most needed, the programme targeted countries where there is a lower proportion of women in science education and careers. A SET-Routes brochure, SET-ROUTES School Ambassadors, in which 12 young women scientists talk about their careers and lives, was also made available.

The SET-Routes initiative was a resounding success. In total, almost 60 school visits promoted the image of young women scientists as dynamic and enthusiastic in fulfilling careers. In particular, young students could see highly successful female scientists that had reached the very pinnacle of their chosen career path in science despite the dilemma presented by family commitments. The project culminated in a Final Ambassadors Event at CERN where 20 of the ambassadors shared their experiences and ideas. This made it possible to draw conclusions about the programme with a view to planning the continuing success of the project.

The interest in both ambassadorial positions and events indicate that SET-Routes was a resounding success and a firm basis on which to model future initiatives. Further information on aims and objectives, events and ambassadors can be found at online.

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