While more and more women are reaching senior levels in science and engineering, the aspiration of reaching gender equality is not yet fulfilled. Data from the She Figures 2012 report, a major EU publication that presents Europe-wide data on women in science from tertiary education through to the job market, show that there are nowhere near enough women at the top levels of science and research.
The problem is that female graduates often opt out of science after they have completed a PhD. This is the time when scientists typically take up post-doctoral research positions in academia, however it is also the time when many women begin to think of starting a family. The reality for many female scientists, it seems, is that they have had to choose between a career and a family.
Data shows that teachers can also have a tendency to encourage more boys than girls in the classroom, according to Professor Ines Sánchez de Madariaga, Director of the Women in Science Unit in the Spanish Department of Research, Development and Innovation.
In 2012, the European Commission launched ‘Science: It’s a girl thing!’, a campaign aimed at getting more girls interested in science, technology and engineering.
The Towards Women in Science and Technology (TWIST) project is another EU-funded project supporting women in science. TWIST – now in its final stages – ignited discussions on the issues surrounding women in science through a series of coordinated activities in seven European science centres.
Meanwhile, the EU's Institutional Transformation for Effecting Gender Equality in Research (INTEGER) project brings together a consortium of organisations committed to carrying out ‘sustainable transformational change’ to improve the career progression of female scientific researchers.
Relying just on numbers to assess gender equality is insufficient because companies and researchers are smart enough to game the system, a conference in Brussels, Belgium, has heard.
Graphene production could become a very attractive market for small- and medium-sized enterprises, according to Dr Amaia Zurutuza, scientific director of the graphene production company Graphenea, but it might take a while.
Video games that are specifically designed to test and improve children’s social and emotional skills could enable parents and teachers to spot issues and help children improve their behaviour and performance at school as well as in later life.
A new type of use-by label for milk bottles that decomposes as the liquid inside goes sour could appear on UK supermarket shelves later this year. Labels such as these, capable of telling consumers exactly when fresh produce has gone bad, are being developed by scientists who want to stop food from being prematurely discarded. If successful, these indicators have the potential to reduce the millions of tonnes of valuable food thrown away each year.
Identifying behavioural issues early on can help improve outcomes in later life.
Wireless tags and indicators that mimic decomposition could replace expiry dates.
Deploying this technology rests on successfully making a business case to companies, says Kristin Jordal.