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"Break the glass ceiling for science and technology", say Women's Rights members


Women face barriers, stereotypes, conscious and unconscious bias during their academic and scientific careers which often lead them to drop out of the career, said Women's rights and gender equality members in the text adopted on Tuesday. They call on Commission and member states to come up with EU strategy in order to tackle different barriers in professional development of women and to make science more inclusive.

The careers of women in these fields are characterized by strong vertical segregation and only few women reach to the highest posts in research and academia, even in sectors were they form a majority, like the education sector.

Rapporteur Elissavet Vozemberg (EPP) explained: "It is our duty that one day a woman in science and academic career, will walk into a job wondering whether she is there only because she checked a gender box, but rather, feeling welcomed and confident that she can make a meaningful contribution. Helping women to get the support they need, in order to achieve great advances in science and leadership is what society needs.  It isn’t time just to break the glass ceiling.  It’s time for all of us to shatter it.," she added.

The resolution, adopted by 30 votes in favour and 1 against, proposes measures to be taken by the Commission and Member States to helped women to overcome the barriers preventing them from progressing in science, research and the technology sector.


Implementation of positive measures to bring us forward

Members call for EU strategy and ask member states to analyse law and revise it if necessary in order to enforce equal treatment of women and men. The principle of non-discrimination must be observed in all types of employment contract or funding, and the legal right to equal pay for equal work must be respected. Furthermore, cultural and institutional barriers that create direct or indirect discrimination against women in scientific careers and decision-making need to be removed in order to achieve gender equality. Selection and promotion process should be open and transparent, MEPs added.


Better work-life balance

Reconciling work and family obligations is the major barrier for women to advance in scientific and academic careers and one of the main reasons to drop out of those careers.

Women often lose their job after maternity leave. Therefore, MEPs urge member states to create programmes to encourage women to continue their careers after maternity or parental leave and to provide funding for re-entry programmes.

Better childcare services should be offer to parents and men should be more involved in familiar life, says the text.


Institutional change

Institutional change need to be done in order to tackle gender inequalities especially with regard to the participation of women in decision making, says the text. Members of women's rights committee welcomes the fact that the Commission finances the creation of gender equality plans through projects under the 7th Framework Programme and Horizon 2020, as well as creating an on-line tool for gender equality plans as a means of identifying and sharing best practices with relevant stakeholders.

They also call on member states to involve more media in eradication of stereotypes and in raising awareness campaign among young people.


Steps forward, make science more inclusive

Applying gender budgeting to all programmes and measures providing funding in the area of science, academia and research, is needed said members. They urge member states to provide incentives to research institutes and universities to introduce and apply gender equality plans and to introduce special programme in tertiary education in order to highlight the significance of gender equality.

School program should step up positive campaigns aimed at girls and women encouraging them to enter academic and research careers in all scientific fields, they add.

In order to tackle stereotypes and prejudices change need to be done as well in mentality whereas family and education play important role.



- Women are under-represented at higher hierarchical levels, even in sectors where they form a majority such as the educational sector. In 2012, only 1 in 10 rectors in Europe was female.

- The numbers of female researchers are still significantly lower than those for men, with the biggest gap being in the business sector.

- They are hugely underrepresented in STEM related education fields and careers, accounting for just 24% of science and engineering professionals.

- 59 % of EU graduate students in 2010 were female, only 20% of EU senior academicians were women.

- Although the proportion of female researchers has been growing faster than that of men, in 2009, only 33% of researchers in the EU -27 were women.


Note to editors

The term glass ceiling was adopted in 1986 by the journalists of the Wall Street Journal. It describes the invisible barriers (based on prejudices) that limit the advancement of women to higher positions in their career paths.

Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee
Profile of Elissavet Vozemberg (EPP, EL)