UIC Barcelona attends the CRUE-CUP seminar in Brussels on the future of women in science

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Representatives from universities in Spain and Portugal, as well as from the governments of both countries and the European Commission, held a debate in the headquarters of the Commission in Brussels in relation to the implementation of the topic of gender quality in the field of research and in future European programmes.  Consuelo León, the director of the Family Policies Observatory in the Institute for Advanced Family Studies participated as a representative of UIC Barcelona and of the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE) on this topic. 

UIC Barcelona attends the CRUE-CUP seminar in Brussels on the future of women in science

On 17 October, in Brussels, as part of the activities organised by the European Crue-CRUP office, and in cooperation with the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, a seminar entitled «What is the future female scientists want? » was held. Throughout the day various issues of gender in research and innovation programmes were tackled, as well as the European Commission’s strategy to promote gender balance in research teams. 

The Secretary of State for R+D+i, Ms Carmen Vela, was in attendance, as was her Portuguese counterpart, the Secretary of State for Science, Technology and Higher Education, Ms Fernanda Rollo. There was also participation from the office of Commissioner Moedas, along with MEP Ms Soledad Cabezón and the General Director for Budget in the European Commission, Ms Nadia Calviño, among other heads of research and gender policies from the European Commission. 

Focusing on Spain, Carmen Vela underlined the fact that « In terms of averages we are slightly above the European average in areas such as Life Science and Social Science publications, according to the Gender Equality Index, and a little above average in values such as work, power or health.  Female researchers represent 39% of the total, which is almost balanced (40%--60%), and above the European average, which is 33%.  But we want equality.  Although more female than male students enter university, and there have been more female than male graduates in recent years, we still haven’t managed to overcome the glass ceiling of 21% of full professors being female.  The higher up you get in a professional career the number of women drops, and this is not due to having children.  We are penalised.  Additionally, it has been proven that the presence of women in courts has a direct impact, since for each woman who is missing in court, female candidates have a 14% smaller chance of probability». 

In terms of gender balance, the Secretary of State insisted that «it is not only a question of percentages. In Spain, all research projects that are applied for have to explain whether they will have a gender impact or not.  Cooperation between all of us is important.  We need to achieve good science, that resolves citizen’s problems, but we will not do so if gender issues are not included». And Carmen Vela concluded with a quote from Concepción Arenal: «Everything is impossible while it seems that way». 

In relation to women’s success in terms of being awarded research projects, the president of the European Research Council, Jean Pierre Bourguignon, provided the following information:  «The success rate, of 40%, was higher among women in Life Sciences, Physics, Engineering, Social Sciences and Humanities in 2017». 

On the other hand, the General Director for Budget at the European Commission, Nadia Calviño, underlined the fact that «gender equality can be incorporated into all political decisions.  Not as a unique programme but as an inspiring principle.  We want to continue insisting on gender equality for all policies and we want this to be generalised.  We don’t want a specific gender programme». 

The head of office at the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation in the European Commission, Ana Arana, talked about providing gender issues with a perspective «that is not only based on social justice, but also economic justice». For that reason, she underlined the fact that «it has been demonstrated in the private sector that when gender issues are dealt with, results improve.  And in the field of research the same can be observed.  It is important to not forget that women are more than 50% of the population; we cannot turn our back on that potential». 

The rector of the University of Granada, Pilar Aranda, was optimistic about the future.  And she highlighted the fact that gender issues are reflected in Framework Programme 9.  «I still remember how our colleagues in Spain used to laugh when they had to answer the question of whether their project had incorporated the question of gender.  We have progressed, but we have to continue implementing a positive discrimination policy.  In 2015 I was the only female rector, there are now 4 female rectors in state universities and 7 in private universities.  I insistently ask my fellow rectors to make the women who are currently vice-rectors, deans or departmental directors more visible». 

The rector of the University of Évora (Portugal) underlined the fact that «it will only be possible to tackle the gender issue if we continue to hold debates about it.  I continue to say that women are more easily scared and men have more leadership skills.  However, women have different abilities when we take advantage of our full potential.  Society must research itself and take advantage of its full potential without relegating women.  This benefits everyone, not only women».