Last updated: October 24, 2012 11:26 pm

Women have lost out to men in past investment in science

From Dr Elizabeth Pollitzer.

Sir, The role of science in Europe’s future (Letters, October 23) was defined earlier this year in the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 proposal, currently being debated by the European parliament. There is much expectation that the research and innovation that will result will contribute to creating sustainable economies, improve the wellbeing of Europe’s citizens and society and give member states fresh opportunities to create new markets for scientific knowledge.

The Commission has requested a budget of €80bn for Horizon 2020 over the period 2014-20. I note that of the 47 Noble laureates and Fields medal winners who signed the letter, only three were female. This imbalance is indicative of the unequal way that past investment in science has benefited women and men. Only at PhD level has parity between women and men been achieved so far.

A week after heads of state and government meet in Brussels to discuss the EU budget for 2014-20, the European Parliament will host, on November 29-30, the European Gender Summit. Leading scientists and top-level policy makers will share their knowledge and ambition to ensure that, in the future, women – as researchers, taxpayers and consumers – can take a full part in helping Europe to achieve scientific excellence and to create innovations that are of value and benefit to both women and men, equally. It is to be hoped that, in the process, fewer women will leave science and more will have the opportunity to set up large research labs and advance to leading positions in science deserving the Nobel prize nomination.

Elizabeth Pollitzer, Director, Portia, London EC2, UK

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