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EU Shefigures 2021

She Figures 2021: women hold 60% of master degrees, but 25% of the top positions

The She Figures publication, first released in 2003 and updated every three years, presents data on gender equality objectives in the field of Research and Innovation (R&I) policy. This year’s edition provides data and analysis for approximately 88 indicators in order to monitor the state of gender equality in R&I across Europe.

Most of the data for She Figures are extracted from Eurostat statistics on education, research and development (R&D), professional earnings and human resources in science and technology; this year they are extended to 44 countries, namely the 27 European Member States (EU-27), the UK and the 16 countries associated to Horizon 2020 (Iceland, Norway, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Israel, Moldova, Switzerland, Faroe Islands, Ukraine, Tunisia, Georgia, Armenia).

The pool of graduate talent

The data shows that the EU has almost achieved gender parity among Doctoral graduates.

In 2018, women represented 48.1% of Doctoral graduates at European level and the proportion of Doctoral graduates was gender-balanced (i.e. women accounted for between 40% and 60%) in the majority of EU-27 Member States and Associated Countries. Since the last report, there was little progress towards increasing women’s representation among Doctoral graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). More specifically, at European level, women are under-represented among Doctoral graduates in Physical Sciences (38.4%), Mathematics & Statistics (32.5%), ICT (20.8%), Engineering & Engineering trades (27%), Manufacturing & Processing (40.9%), and Architecture & Construction (37.2%).

Women represented more than half of Bachelor’s (54%) and Master’s (59%) i.e. ISCED 6 & 7 students and graduates and almost half of academic staff in grade C positions (47%), nevertheless women’s representation decreased at grade B (40%) and grade A (26%) positions.


Participation in science and technology occupations

In addition to fields of study, women have been historically under-represented in scientific and technical fields and remain under-represented in technological professions in the labour market While, in 2019, the share of tertiary educated population is gender-balanced in the EU (53.7%), women were less represented among employed scientists and engineers (41.3%).

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Labour market participation as researchers

In 2018, women represented around one-third (32.8%) of the total population of researchers at European level.

Data also show that horizontal segregation persists in research careers across the main economic sectors (higher education, government and business), with a higher percentage of women  researchers being employed in the higher education sector (55.9%). In comparison, men researchers are more likely to be employed in the business enterprise sector (53.3%). Horizontal gender
segregation also persists across the different fields of Research and Development (R&D).

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Working conditions of researchers

At European level, in 2019, the proportion of women researchers working part-time in the higher education sector was higher than that of men researchers by 3.9 percentage points. Also at European level, 9% of women researchers and 7.7% of men researchers in the higher education sector worked within precarious contracts.

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Career advancement and participation in decision-making

European level data shows that in 2018, women represented more than 40% of academic staff. However, there were considerable differences by grade. While women represented nearly half of grade C and D staff (46.6% of grade C staff and 47.1% of grade D staff) and more than 40% of grade B staff (40.3%), they only occupied around a quarter of grade A staff positions (26.2%) – equivalent to full professorship.

It was also found that, in each and every field of Research and Development, women represented no more than around one-third of grade A staff at European level in 2018.

While several EU policies such as the new Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 (European Commission, 2020b) have emphasised the importance of increasing women’s representation in leadership positions, the proportion of women as heads of institutions in the higher education sector in 2019 stood at only 23.6%. Also at European level in 2019, just over 3 in 10 board members were women (31.1%) and under one-quarter of board leaders (24.5%) were women.

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Research and innovation output

Men accounted for a greater share of research team members than women between 2015-2019 at both European and country level. In addition, between 2015- 2019, women were more likely to be under-represented among active authors who led research. Women were also significantly under-represented among inventors at the European level, between 2015-2018, holding just one inventorship for every 10 inventorships held by men. Such gender differences in R&I outputs may contribute to a vicious cycle whereby women who have fewer patents or publications to their names have less competitive funding applications, which could in turn decrease the count of patent applications and publication submissions to journals by women.

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