Gender in science – addressing the imbalance
Women continue to remain under-represented in many fields and professions of research across Europe. This is despite efforts to promote gender equality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) positions.
As a father of a teenage daughter I worry that continuing gender stereotypes will put her off pursuing a scientific profession. And she has few role models to look up to; unfortunately this is the same for many women graduating today.
The lack of workplace flexibility to balance work and family life continues to have an impact on a young women’s decision to go into science and studies show that gender related bias, in part, also explains why men are more likely than women to hold more jobs in science related fields.
The European Commission encourages women into science
The European Commission has been trying to address this imbalance for some time. Initiatives such as the 2012 ‘Women in Research and Innovation’ campaign, the Science in Society Programme and other policy initiatives have been put in place to encourage more women into science and technology.
I’m a clear supporter of policy changes to enable/encourage more women into science and technology careers but there also needs to be a significant change in people’s attitudes in the workplace. Funding initiatives should educate current and future leaders, managers and staff on how to be effective and fair to all members of staff. Great companies and leaders consider the needs of their staff as individuals.
Supporting more women into STEM positions isn’t only about rules on team composition and marketing strategies. It is no good successfully encouraging women into the workplace if the workplace isn’t ready to receive them. Making sure we adopt modern business management techniques and change our work place environments are equally important.
Gender and science under Horizon 2020
New rules in the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation place a strong emphasis on gender balance. The idea is to ensure women are at the centre of how research and innovation will be funded going forward. These rules specifically encourage gender balance in research teams and decision making and in the analysis of research and innovation to make sure women’s needs are taken into account. Proposals which demonstrate a strong gender balance will be marked above those that fail to do so.
Horizon 2020 will be competitive. It amazes me how many consortia fail to maximise their chance of winning. Winning is about taking care of the details in your proposal. Not by being just good enough and there is a clear incentive to ensure gender balance in your research team. You can gain more marks by having a good gender balance.
Putting some glamour into science
The new programme under Horizon 2020 “Science for and with society” will focus on developing new ways of making science more attractive to young people and by encouraging research and innovation.
The programme hopes to bring science and innovation closer to society and to create a balanced research society. By bringing researchers, citizens, policy makers and industry together during the research and innovation process, it is hoped that this approach will encourage gender equality in both research process and content.
Get the right information
How gender equality will be integrated within the different calls under Horizon 2020 and how best it can be demonstrated in proposals, will be a key topic of discussion at the upcoming Gender Summit in Brussels. The summit provides a timely opportunity for those applicants wanting to discuss this important aspect of calls with experts.
The gender dimension is already integrated across 13 different programmes under Horizon 2020. It will be interesting to see how far these new rules work towards integrating the gender dimension into research to achieve more sustainable science, and specifically how this element will sit alongside other key Horizon 2020 objectives.