The Commission will give an extra push to tackling gender imbalance in universities by launching a new online advice hub, Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas, told the inaugural meeting of the European Women Rectors Association on Monday.
The service, being co-developed with the European Institute for Gender Equality, an EU body, will pool good practice gathered in Europe and abroad. It will be available sometime in the autumn.
Many universities in Europe already have plans and recruitment targets to tackle gender biases and to give an example of the impact, Moedas citied the success of improved practices at Šiauliai University in Lithuania, which led to the number of women on the university council increasing from zero in 2011 to 36 per cent in 2014.
However, only one in five top level academics in the EU are women, and just one in ten universities has a female rector. Only in Sweden are more than half of higher education institutions led by women.
This needs to be seen in the context that women have a higher likelihood of completing higher education studies than men. “The fact is that gender inequalities are not self-correcting,” said Moedas. “The solution is not to give it time. Universities and politicians need to make a conscious effort to create the conditions in which women thrive.”
Figures suggest that progress towards gender equality depends on the field of study. In medical and agricultural sciences the gap is smaller than in engineering and technology.
The Commission spends money on various initiatives to promote gender equality. It has a commitment to reserve 40 per cent of its Horizon 2020 advisory panels for women. Through its research and innovation programme it also gives financial support to institutes that implement gender equality programmes.