Article discusses differences between European and American women in the science and engineering workforce.
Author(s): Mary Osborn
Europe has a significant imbalance in the numbers of men and women in top positions at universities, research institutes, and in industry. A proposal was made to use European Union (EU) money "to correct the gender imbalance in European science while maintaining the emphasis on excellence."
Three trends may be observed regarding the distribution of women in science:
There is less participation of women at all levels in the more highly economically developed northern European countries, with the exception of France, than in the southern European countries. Appointment committees, top national committees, and EU committees that set policy and control funds are mostly male. Within the representation on EU committees, little emphasis has been placed on gender balance. In certain committees, such as the science and technology areas of the European Commission, OCED, UNESCO, and Eurostat, gender and professional/academic rank are not considered. Contrary to practice in the United States, many associations and grant recipients in Europe do not collect or supply gender information.
Various countries are starting to identify and acknowledge the areas in which their female citizens may be undervalued or underutilized. The European Commission and European Parliament are concerned by the low level of female representation in "scientific and technical research in general, and in higher positions in particular." Some recommendations for raising the levels of women in science and top organizational positions include:
Osborn noted factors that aided United States women's progress in academe:
European women are only beginning to protest, and existing legislation is not being enforced. Osborn writes that "improvement in the status of women in science in Europe will probably depend on pressure from those with power to initiate change."
Measures taken should aim to ensure that women's contributions to science are judged by objective standards and that women have the same access as men to resources throughout their careers.
More suggestions include:
The consensus reached at the 1993 EU international workshop encourages for national governments and granting agencies, the European Commission, and the European Parliament, to:
Achieving equity for women in science is a problem that should no longer be ignored at the national or the EU level. The benefits of correcting the situation will help address the projected decline in the number of male researchers, increase the diversity of the scientific work force, and improve European competitiveness in science and technology.
--abstract by Juliet Midgley
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