European Reports on women in science


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In 1999, the European Commission launched an action plan on women and science, which set out a strategy to promote research by, for and about women, in co-operation with Member States and other key actors. This proved such a successful approach that it was maintained and developed in later phases of activity.

The Helsinki Group on Women and Science – which was also set up in 1999 – provided a framework for pooling national policy experiences and exchanging good practice. It has also set out a comprehensive strategy for longer-term co-operation.

The Commission’s 2001 Science and Society Action Plan contains a series of actions – Actions 24 to 27 – targeted specifically at ‘producing gender equality in science’.

Since then, numerous conferences, reports and initiatives have sought to raise awareness of the issues facing women in science and to promote scientific studies and careers among women. (from the www.europa.eu.int website)

We present in this section a synthesis and introduction of some of the European reports on Women and science. The following reports and more information can be found at
www.europa.eu.int/comm/research/science-society/documents_en.html
and
www.cordis.lu/improving/women/documents.htm

Reports
Etan Report
She Figures
European Report on science and technology indicators
Daughters of Minerva


Etan Report

ETAN Report, commissioned by the Directorate-General for Research of the European Commission and drawn up by an international group of experts and published in the principal languages of the Union in 2001, which covers all policy actions implemented by various countries concerning both specific measures adopted for universities and research institutions and a vaster cultural initiative aimed at eliminating gender stereotypes in schools and society as a whole. Furthermore, the ETAN Report provides an updated overview of women’s roles in the scientific sector (university and research institutions), revealing that the widespread resistance in academic and scientific organizations to promoting women to positions of responsibility has little to do with their competence and productivity (Osborn et al., 2000).

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She Figures

“She figures” is the result of two years of methodological and statistical work undertaken by the Commission in co-operation with the statistical Correspondents of the Helsinki Group on Women and Science. This work has involved discussions on the harmonization of data, two data collection exercises and the development of a coherent system of statistical indicators. The intention is for it to serve as a solid benchmarking tool for scientists, researchers, policy makers and human resource managers concerned by women and science.

By presenting the results from these indicators, this publication describes some of the common trends in the employment of European women and men scientists and researchers:

- There are broadly equal numbers of men and women working in science and technology occupations when a wide definition of S&T is examined.

- On the other hand, women are consistently under represented as PhD graduates, as researchers – especially in the Business Enterprise Sector, among senior university staff and as members of scientific boards.

- Only a third of researchers in higher education and government research institutions are women.

- The rates of increase are currently higher for women than for men PhD graduates and researchers in most countries and sectors.

As the most detailed collection of statistics and indicators yet available, “She figures” is also a tool that enables analysts at a national level to review the overall patterns in scientific education and employment by field of study and field of science. The results indicate that there are strong common gender patterns in the distributions of women and men in the scientific fields across Europe, among PhD graduates, in research, and in academia. Women remain under-represented in engineering and natural sciences but form the major part of people performing research in humanities and social sciences in many countries. However for the first time a deeper analysis of senior university staff by field of science reveal that there are still relatively few women in leadership position in these fields. In fact there appears to be a serious dichotomy in career outcomes for men and women in academia. The average percentage of women (13.5%) in senior academic positions in the Member States in 2000 was lower than we would have expected from the overall percentage for all women in all academic positions (31%). It is, on the other hand, an increase from 11.6% in 1999.

The data on academic staff are drawn from national surveys of higher education systems, and there are, as a result, some differences in the coverage and in the definitions applied. However, among all men covered by this surveys, as many as 19% have reached senior positions, whereas only 6% of the women surveyed have enjoyed the same recognition.
The data therefore suggest that women are least present in the most highly rewarded positions. This appears to be the case for Member States and for Associated Countries alike. In fact, there are slightly higher proportions of women participating in science and research in the Associated Countries, but the dichotomy in seniority is just as pronounced. The purpose of “She figures” is simply to present the available data, so it not possible to establish to what extend this is due to women choices (i.e. a work-life trade off whereby they settle for the low-pressure/low reward posts) or to invisible barriers in proportion mechanisms.

Two other aspects of success and fairness that are central to the scientific system are explored. The first of these is the attribution of research funds. The figures reveal a general pattern whereby the success rates are slightly but consistently higher for men than for women. Statistical tests show that these differences are in fact significant for several countries. The second aspect is concerned with the representation of women in scientific decision-making and therefore examines the sex composition of scientific boards. The indicators show that women are under-represented in all countries, with only one exception. More work is needed to study the mechanisms of the composition of scientific boards to discover why this is and how this can be redressed.

The possibilities for measuring the progress towards gender equality in science have clearly come a long way since the late 1990s. The breakdown of data, not only by sex but also by field and by seniority, is crucial for an accurate overview of the current situation in Europe. It is important to continue monitoring the indicators presented in “She Figures” in order to measure the rapid change occurring in the gender dynamics of European Research Area. These indicators will also be developed as the quantity and quality of available sex-disaggregated data improves.

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European Report on science and technology indicators

The European Report on Science and Technology Indicators proposes an analysis of women in ST as a crucial clue for the development of the science and technology business sector.

As a fact, gender inequalities have economic consequences they represent indeed a waste of high-qualified human resources. It’s then difficult to think that a knowledge-based economy will be made successfully while a large part of the available human resources are not actively involved in the process.

The first part of the report is a comparison of data proceeding from the United States, Japan and the E.U.

The average rate of women in science in the E.U. is 40% among graduate students, but their share reduces to 20% in engineering, rates are similar in the U.S. and lower shares are reported in Japan.

The second part of the report is an analysis of women in the R&D sector. The highest rates of women in R&D are in the public field where they represent something less than the 30%, but as for education this rate shrinks in engineering falling to 13%. Comparing data on graduates and labour force it emerges that women on average loose a share of about 18% in science and 5% in engineering. Even for PhD graduates there is a drop of about 10% in science and 4% in engineering.

The indicators show how climbing the hierarchy ladder the presence of women decreases: women are only the 11% of full professor charges, and number are even lower at top decision positions (boards and heads of institutions). This represents a waste of talent because women’s potential in being under-utilized.

The third part is on the employment of women.

Dividing technology based work into two categories: technicians and professionals, the statistical outcome is that women represent 45% of higher qualified professionals and 53% of higher qualified technicians. Most of the women that have a technical occupation have a tertiary level of occupation this might imply, according to the authors of the report, that women are more likely to occupy positions that undervalue their skills.

Conclusions

A comparison between EU, US, and Japan reveals that the EU is far behind the first two countries in terms of number of researchers, investments in tertiary education and employment of researchers in the private sector.

Involvement of women in S&T sector is seen as a clue for the EU to become competitive and fully transform itself in a knowledge-based economy.

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Daughters of Minerva

Science, like any other sector of the labour market, is representative of society at large with all its inequalities and hierarchies in which women still seem to struggle despite official recognition of equality and their academic success as shown by the increase of female university students, graduates and researchers. Gender, in fact, disproportionately affects the probability an individual has of entering, remaining and succeeding in the scientific community. Even a quick glance at the female-male composition of the governing boards of Italian and European scientific institutions would be sufficient to surmise that the mechanisms and rules operating in our scientific sector are not neutral. Not much attention is paid to the subject, however, and few studies – almost all by women researchers – have tackled the problem of gender and scientific careers”. (From the introduction).

Daughters of Minerva is a text on women in science with particular attention to the Italian situation. The objective of this report is to present a working method to study scientific careers from a gender point of view, a method which tries to exploit available information and acknowledge the importance of the experience accumulated by those who work in scientific and technological fields. Having the European gender indicators as a starting point the text explores the gender dimension of science. Revealing, as every other report, that there is gender discrimination and a need to explain why women do not arrive to top-positions. This is made in chapter 4 which is called “Italian women researchers have trouble climbing the career ladder because...”

After an analysis, based on data, that outlines a vertical segregation, the causes of this segregation are examined through the deconstruction of common beliefs. As a conclusion discrimination is not due to a meritocratic criteria, as women come up to be as productive as men and represent almost half of the scientific staff, but to a cultural problem. In fact, women not only are more precarized than men (for what regards contracts) causing stress and frustration and short term planning, have more family duties, but suffer also a cultural, subtle, discrimination. In the authors perspective it becomes important to look at the scientific research system as a product of society and therefore it reflects its values and organization. “This interpretation makes us realize immediately that the belief that science is neutral, deeply ingrained in men and women in scientific research, and implies that we must identify the ways and means by which current systems and structures indirectly discriminate against women and that the elimination of all discriminatory mechanisms must be one of the primary objectives for the achievement of excellence.”

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