The number of women in top positions in science, both in academia and industry, has risen, but not by much, according to the latest figures from the European Commission (EC).
In a report on gender equality in science, the European Commission has outlined its ongoing work to encourage more women to stay in science, once they qualify. These include setting targets for participation in the Commission's own work and creating ambassadors for women in science, an area it will have to put some effort into, because between 2001 and 2003, the number of women coordinating these programmes actually fell from 27 per cent to 26 per cent.
Women account for 44 per cent of graduates in science and technology subjects across the EU, yet by 2002 they held just 14 per cent of the top (Grade A) academic positions. In 1999 this figure was 13 per cent. Grade B positions are a bit more evenly distributed at 32 per cent, up from 30 per cent, and the number of women working on PhDs has surpassed forty per cent (41 per cent in 2002 against 39 per cent in 1999).
The European Council has set a target of 40 per cent participation by women at all levels of scientific research programmes, as part of its sixth framework programme. It said that reaching this target is "a crucial element" in reaching the EU's goal of investing three per cent of its GDP in research and development.
The EC has earmarked an extra €5.7m for Women and Science in 2005-2006, bringing the total in the sixth framework programme to around €20m. From this, the EC has awarded a €2m grant to establish the European Platform of Women Scientists, which will build networks of women scientists and organisations working towards gender equality in scientific research.