Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Advancing Gender Equality in Research and Innovation in Europe and Beyond: COST Network genderSTE

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Advancing Gender Equality in Research and Innovation in Europe and Beyond: COST Network genderSTE

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. Gender is one of five priorities of the European Research Area, as stated in the Communication adopted in July 2012 entitled A Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth (EC 2012c). Following this Communication, the EC has fully integrated gender dimensions in its proposal for a regulation on the new research framework program Horizon 2020, which includes in Article 15 a provision for gender mainstreaming (EC 2011b). One final upcoming policy instrument announced by the EC is the Recommendation on Gender, Science and Innovation that will address member states and be adopted in 2014. Against this European policy background, the international COST policy driven network genderSTE (Gender, Science, Technology and Environment) aims at enhancing a better integration of gender dimensions in science and technology at three main levels: i) promoting women's careers in science and technology through structural change of institutions (as recommended by EC) by disseminating existing research and practice; ii) promoting a better integration of gender in the content of science, research and technology, by dissemination existing research on the topic; iii) identifying gender dimensions relevant to environment-related Horizon2020 Grand Challenges and other urban EC initiatives.

Keywords: gender, structural change, environment, cities, transport, research, innovation

1. The European Policy Context on Gender and Science

Statistics show that the presence of women in the science system does not advance at the same rate as the numbers of women holding PhD's and also that horizontal segregation persists in some scientific and technological fields. Horizontal (or quantitative) segregation is produced to the extent that some fields of knowledge are very feminized (especially those related to life sciences), whilst others are very masculinized (engineering and experimental sciences). Vertical segregation is produced in all fields, independently of the degree of feminization of the university student body: there are very few women at the highest levels in science, even in fields, such as medicine, where women have been in the majority at Associate Professor level for some time.

The presence of women at the highest level in science is not proportional to the number of women who are qualified, of the correct age, and have the necessary merits and motivation for these posts. Furthermore, the number of women in leadership posts is practically unchanging and is progressing only very slowly over time.

It is becoming broadly agreed in European scientific institutions that the scarce presence of women in science and technology is a waste of resources that neither science nor the economy can allow. 60% of people graduating from European universities are women. They graduate with excellent academic grades, often better than those of their male counterparts. But this highly qualified personnel does not find a place in the system. Many technological fields remain highly male also in overall numbers among undergraduate students, with average numbers of women studying these subjects below 30%.

Effective public policies are required to remove the obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of women in science and technological careers in Europe. The European Commission started along this path in 1999 with the creation of two organizations responsible for defining these courses of action and putting them into practice: the Women and Science Unit at the very heart of the Directorate-General of Research, and the Helsinki Group, an assessment group for the Commission. In 2001 the Commission published a preliminary report on the matter, the ETAN Report Promoting Excellence through mainstreaming gender equality that, for the first time, provided a global view of the position of women in science in Europe.

Since the publication of the ETAN Report, the Commission has funded a large number of studies that are already providing a solid base to help us understand the situation, its causes, and the measures taken so far by each country. …

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