At the invitation of Dr. Laima Andrikiene MEP, following an initiative of EPWS Board Member Prof. Dalia Šatkovskienė, the event gathered EPWS members and policy-makers on the theme “From Resolution to Realisation – The Impact of the European Parliament Resolution of 9.9.2015 on Women’s Careers in Science and University”.
After a warm welcome by EPWS President Prof. Claudine Hermann, the Lunchtime Debate was officially opened by Prof. Dr. Barbara Kudrycka MEP, who presented data based on her experience as Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education (2007-2013) in the government of Donald Tusk, as illustration of the possibility to improve the situation of women scientists if the political will to do so exists.
Ms Ana Arana Antelo, Head of Unit B7 Science with and for Society, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, detailed the numerous measures in the current Commission policy regarding Women in Science.
After a brief summary of central points of the Resolution on Women’s Careers in Science and University by Dr. Yvonne Pourrat, EPWS and ECEPIE Association, France, several short presentations by experts analysed the impact of the Resolution in selected realms. Prof. Mieke Verloo, Radboud University Nijmegen and EGERA Project, presented existing resistance against institutional changes and pointed out that, in times where democracy was challenged by numerous political forces, the commitment to (gender) equality rendered a crucial contribution to its support. Prof. André Béraud, ECEPIE Association, France, reported that curricula improvements can attract more women in engineering education and training and stressed the importance of women entering these subjects in the digital age. Ms Virginija Langbakk, director of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) argued that measuring progress helps all stakeholders take the right direction; she focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, in which an increased participation of women is decisive not only to meet the needs of the economic sector but to ensure women’s participation in the shaping of the digital agenda. All speakers agreed on the fact that stereotypes are still persistent and that improvements are occurring, but at too slow a pace.
A Round Table on Success, Resistance and Further Steps discussed the impact of the Resolution on the activities of panellists’ institutions, gave examples of measures implemented in the last two years and identified the areas of action discussed by the Resolution that that panellists find especially important concerning the future course of action for the community of stakeholders involved as well as for their own institution.
Prof. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the European Research Council ERC, presented the just published ERC statistics on the grant round 2017, pointing to progress made with respect to the participation as well as the success rates of female applicants. He stressed the huge diversity of situations regarding disciplines and countries and identified a persisting gender gap in the participation and success rates of women in the Life Sciences that still needed to be fully analysed. As a further key point and special target he named the participation of women in ERC panels acknowledging that women tend to be overcommitted and frequently asked.
Prof. Gülsün Sağlamer, President European Women Rectors Association EWORA, shared her own experience as first female rector of Istanbul Technical University (1996-2004) and emphasised the importance of women aspiring to leadership positions with success being the result of a simultaneous bottom-up and top-down exercise. She also stressed the necessity of perseverance in working toward the target of gender equality in science and research; she recommended the Handbook on Resistance to Gender Equality in Academia, an online tool kit created by FP7 Project FESTA presenting a deeper understanding of resistance to structural change to gender equality in academic institutions and the ways of dealing with it.
Dr. Katrien Maes, Chief Policy Officer League of European Research Universities LERU, highlighted LERU’s policy papers in the field and acknowledged that there is still ground to be covered. She emphasised the need to address implicit bias in the work of selection committees irrespective of their gender proportions. With reference to the European Commission’s vision « Open innovation, open science, open to the world » she pointed to the risk to neglect the importance of gender in this context and called on all actors in the field to ensure that gender is included in the present Open Science and Open Innovation debates.
Prof. Dalia Šatkovskienė, President BASNET Forumas, acknowledged the importance of the Resolution for promoting gender equality in research and structural change in research organizations and society in the Baltic Region. She outlined two Horizon 2020 project proposals by her association as well as the initiation of a high level conference promoting gender equality in STEM research in Vilnius on 20-21 November 2017 (www.acceleratingera.vu.lt). She emphasised the importance a) to improve the legal basis regulating scientific activities in order to enforce equal treatment of women and men in research, b) to support sensitation campaigns to reduce cultural and institutional barriers discriminating against women in scientific careers and decision-making as well as c) of common guidelines on institutional change to promote gender equality in universities and research institutions as put forward in different calls of the Resolution.
The audience valued the different contributions and, although time was limited, the inputs let to lively and fruitful exchanges of ideas following the event. For EPWS members, the Lunchtime Debate was a great opportunity to exchange their points of views with European politicians and science policy-makers, to share their concerns and enrich their future thoughts and analyses.
In her conclusion, EPWS Vice-President Dr. Maren A. Jochimsen stressed the need of joint efforts by the European Union, Member States, institutions and associations and referred to impressive projects by EPWS members that needed support. She confirmed the European Platform of Women Scientists’ interest in strategic collaboration with scientific institutions concerned with gender in research and innovation and pointed to the need of strategic alliances of key stakeholders involved as e.g. stipulated by the Ready for Dialogue Initiative with respect to the integration of the gender dimension in science and research, co-created by EPWS and the Essen College of Gender Research in 2015 (http://www.ready-for-dialogue.de/EN).
With reference to Prof. Mieke Verloo’s appeal, she emphasised the ever more important task to support democracy by promoting equal opportunities and gender equality through the European idea of collaboration. She closed with a quote from the farewell address by former EPWS President and now EPWS Honorary President Dr. Brigitte Mühlenbruch to the EPWS General Assembly on 5 September 2017, confirming that “Together we achieved a great deal, but there is still a great deal to do. Success is not inheritable, it has to be captured again and again. Maintain your courage, because courage is the elixir of every democratic progress. »