Hola! As I write, delegates start to take their seats to hear the first plenary talks that kick off our last conference of the EGEE project. For my part, I am busily preparing and finalising all files and material to join them all tomorrow...
I trust all readers at the conference have found the GAP postcard I blogged about last Thursday, and that comments and input will come in thick and fast. To put things in context, it is now time for me to tell you more about the reasons why we are carrying out a Gender Action Plan in EGEE.
So what is all this GAP business anyway?
Did you know: in Lisbon in 2000, the Heads of Governments of the European Union decided on a strategy to make Europe "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion” by 2010. This included a target of raising the employment rate of women from 54% to 60% by 2010 and to modernise social protection, to secure long term stability in the face of an ageing population and to promote social inclusion and gender equality.
Facts and Figures: according to an extensive study on women’s situation in the workplace, entitled “SHE figures: Women and science statistics indicators” (2006 – 3 years out of date at the time of writing but it gives a picture) - currently, across the EU as a whole, only 29% of researchers are women. Women represent 56% of graduates in higher education in Europe, however, they are under-represented in areas of science (41%) and engineering (21%). Equally, women occupy 31% of all academic positions, but only 15% of senior academic positions.
In this context, the European Commission has conducted several programmes aimed at raising awareness across Europe in a bid to increase the number of women in the scientific workplace. In the 6th Framework Programme, the EC requested all large Integrated Projects to include a Gender Action Plan as part of their deliverables, with a final report at the end of the project.
So that is how it all started for EGEE. Since 2004, we have carried out a number of GAP initiatives and activities to ensure awareness is raised among our project community - grid developers, scientific users, decision-makers alike. It has been a challenge and has given rise to interesting debates in the Project Office whose members take part in the initiative (mostly women J). We all agree that it is not only about women after all. It is about families, men, women, work-life balance, the provision of adequate working conditions to be able to reconcile the roles now assumed by both parents. The issue is compounded by social, cultural, religious, historical and legislative aspects, which differ from one country to another.
To conclude: it’s a tall order.
What we have found in our “GAP travels” is that it’s today’s children who hold the key to change in mentalities. In EGEE, on various occasions we have invited children aged 9 to 11, and girls aged 15-17 as part of Grids for Kids days or Shadowing days. Their feedback shows that it is through them that we can challenge the stereotypes and educate them to see that science is open to all without exception.
Let us know what your thoughts are on this…. 2010, the Lisbon target year, is only a few months away and much is yet to be done.