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The European Commission has published a leaflet detailing the preliminary findings of the ‘She Figures 2009’ study of Women in Science across Europe. This study is funded by the FP7 Capacities programme – Science in Society (SiS). These figures show that whilst the numbers of women participating in science across Europe are increasing, there is still a substantial gender imbalance, particularly in senior higher education positions.
She Figures is a major publication presenting a Europe-wide data collection on women in science from tertiary education through to the job market. Together with the 27 EU countries, She Figures also presents data on Croatia, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.
The new publication details some of the preliminary findings of the ‘She Figures 2009’ study, which is funded from the 2008 Science in Society Work Programme. The publication shows that, in 2006, the numbers of women graduating in the EU at PhD/Doctorate level was 45%, which is an improvement on the 2002 figure of 42%. This means that the number of female graduates increased by a higher rate than male graduates, by +7.3% per year compared to +3.8% per year for males. However, there were significant differences between disciplines, with women being noticeably less represented in the physical sciences and engineering, compared to life and social sciences.
Career retention is still an issue for female researchers. While there are high numbers of female PhD graduates, as they move through the career lifecycle, women are less well represented. The EU average of women in Grade A research positions in 2007 was only 20% (although this is an improvement from 2002, when this figure was 17%).
Speaking at a recent hearing of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) on Women in Science, the European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik, gave an update on the progress towards getting more women involved in science through the Framework Programmes (EU funding for R&D;). He stated that over ten years of European policy in this area has made great improvements, but there is still a lot of work to be done. As an example of the progress made, the Commissioner noted that in FP4, only 4% of the membership of evaluation panels was made up of women, whereas in FP6, this figure was 36%. Currently, the Commission aims for a 40% involvement across all areas of FP7. Commissioner Potočnik drew attention to areas of concern, and noted that while around 50% of the PhD students involved in funded projects are women, less than 20% of the scientists in charge are women.
The final ‘She Figures 2009’ findings will be presented in a booklet to be published by the Commission in September 2009.
The European Commission Science and Society webpage about Woman and Science can be found here