The number of women in science and technology in the EU is growing, but at a very slow pace according to the latest She Figures 2018 report recently released by the European Commission. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of women in both science and engineering and professional and technical occupations grew by 2.9 % per year. However, in top-level positions, women are still significantly underrepresented in all areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Gender equality has been and remains a core value of the EU. Legislations are currently in place to promote equal pay, work-life balance, health, and remove all forms of gender-based bias. The She Figures report is funded by Horizon 2020 to monitor progress towards gender equality in research and innovation within the EU.
The report, released every 3 years, presents official statistics on women in research and provides a range of indicators on gender equality in research and innovation, including gender balance in science, as well as the relative pay, working conditions, and funding success of women and men in working in research.
The recent figures show that only one-third of researchers in the EU’s 28 member states are women, and has not changed since the 2015 report. The countries with the highest proportions of women researchers are Latvia and Lithuania (51 and 50.7 per cent, respectively). Whereas, the lowest proportion is in the Netherlands (25.4 per cent) followed by France (26.1 per cent) and the Czech Republic (26.9 per cent). Interestingly, countries that spend the most on research have the lowest proportions of female researchers.
In addition, working conditions between men and women are considerably different. For example, 13 per cent of women researchers worked part-time in 2016 compared to 8 per cent of males. Moreover, around 8 per cent of women were working under ‘precarious conditions’ (contract arrangements) compared to only 5 per cent of men in the research field.
Furthermore, a significant gender pay gap still exists. Women, on average, earned about 17 per cent less than their male counterparts in 2014. The gap has actually widened slightly in science and engineering occupations since 2013, and the gap only increases with age.
While women now outnumber men at the student and graduate levels and numbers are balanced at the PhD level, gender stereotypes still persist. This is evidenced by the low proportion of women (32 per cent at Bachelor, Master, or equivalent) in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The differences are perhaps most evident at the top of the academic ladder. Women remain a minority in top academic positions (15 per cent). Happily, the ratio of female to male authors is improving ― increasing by nearly 4 per cent annually since 2008.
Overall, female representation in science and engineering is improving in the EU, but progress is still slow. In certain areas, such as innovation, women are still lacking. Nonetheless, maintaining this momentum ― through education, coordinated efforts, and strong government policies and continuing to encourage women to participate in science ― will help to root the necessary cultural changes required to achieve complete gender equality.
European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas writes, “Gender equality is not only a matter of concern for women; it must matter to all of us.” Adding that, “we can shatter the glass ceiling, we can fix the system that keeps women from developing their talents fully.”