On 21-22 November 2013, the International SAPGERIC conference on “Structural Change Promoting Gender Equality in Research” took place in Vilnius, Lithuania. The conference was organised by Vilnius University Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy, under the auspices of the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council. Two issues were central to all presentations and discussions about the gender equality in research: awareness and accountability of the leadership in European research and visibility through role models.
In her keynote talk, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science emphasised her commitment to increase the number of women scientists in research in Europe and in academic leadership positions. Applicants for all Horizon 2020 programmes will be asked to include in their application as a deliverable the gender-dimension at every phase of their project, in particular their strategy toward gender-balance in the project management and recruitment of scientists for the project.
Ann Glover, Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission, emphasised the responsibility of leadership to not only establish a gender policy in their research organisations, but also accept accountability of the implementation and monitoring of this policy according to well-defined metrics. Project Juno – an initiative of Institute of Physics [IOP] – attracted a great deal of interest with a poster describing the programme of awards for institutes or departments that can demonstrate they have taken action to address the under-representation of women in physics.
The Robert Bosch Foundation, based in Germany, presented AcademiaNet. This practical tool presents the profiles of excellent women academics. The quality of the material found on the portal is ensured by only allowing nominations by partners of AcademiaNet – typically funding agencies, universities and selected industrial companies. AcademiaNet started in Germany, but is growing rapidly with international partners. One initiative to encourage female physicists would be for interested scientists, both male and female, to encourage their university management or funding agencies to become partner of AcademiaNet.
The EPS presented the recent work on its gender-balance policy currently being formulated by its Equal Opportunity Action Committee. This policy aims indeed at enhancing visibility of female physicists via role models, for instance with the recently established Emmy Noether Distinction. The next step of the EPS is to exchange best practices with similar organisations, to enhance the number of women in its own organisation by defining charters for equal opportunity with its divisions and groups and keeping a keen eye on a balanced composition of its committees.