Promoting gender equality in research institutions and integration of the gender dimension in research content

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Under-representation and glass ceiling

by Federico Zemborain - published on , updated on

European statistics [1] show that, today, despite a number of positive trends such as the growth in the number of women graduating at PhD level in science, women in scientific research and innovation remain largely under-represented. Although their proportion has been growing faster than that of men (+5.4% on average per year over 2002-2010, compared with 3.1% for men), in 2009, women still made up only 33% of researchers in the EU and continue to face strong vertical segregation across scientific fields. In engineering and technology, the proportion of women in the highest academic grade (grade A, corresponding to full professor or equivalent) was just 7.2% in 2006 [2]. Only 13% of heads of higher education institutions in Europe are women.

A glass ceiling prevents women from reaching top academic positions, even in fields where female doctoral students and junior researchers are more numerous (such as social sciences and humanities, or biology). The Glass Ceiling Index (the ratio of the proportion of women in grade A positions to the overall proportion of women – in grades A, B, and C) indeed stood at 1.8 in the EU-27 in 2007. This Index illustrates the difficulties women face in gaining access to the highest hierarchical levels. In no country is the GCI equal to or below 1.

A detailed analysis also shows clear evidence that women have poorer access to R&D resources, receive lower salaries on average, and have a disproportionately lower chance than men of reaching leadership and decision-making positions, for example through membership of scientific boards.


[1] She Figures 2012 “Gender in Research and Innovation – Statistics and Indicators” : link: http://ec.europa.eu/research/science-society/document_library/pdf_06/she-figures-2012_en.pdf

[2] Of course, this decrease is to be related to the entry of new member states in the European Union in which the situation was even worse than average.