Help wanted: more women to strengthen science in Europe

Greater gender diversity is needed to advance European research, according to a leading Spanish member of the European Parliament.

By  Anthony King

Dr Lina Gálvez is as certain about science’s ability to improve people’s lives in Europe as she is about the risks of failing to attract enough women into scientific careers.

A Spanish member of the European Parliament since 2019, Gálvez hails the Horizon Europe research programme running for seven years through 2027 with a total budget of almost €100 billion.

‘Great steps’

‘We have taken great steps with Horizon Europe compared with previous programmes regarding gender equality,’ she said at the European Research and Innovation Days event in Brussels on 20-21 March 2024.

With women accounting for less than a third of doctorate graduates in engineering, manufacturing and construction in the EU, European policymakers have pushed gender equality in science to the top of the political agenda.

Big gaps need to be overcome across the continent.

Women in the EU represent just a quarter of self-employed professional in technical fields including science and are even more underrepresented as inventors with just 10% of patent applications.

Leaky pipe

Gálvez compares the career paths of women in science in Europe to a leaky pipe that ends up discharging them because they hit barriers to advancement.

She said the pipe needs to be fixed.

‘We are losing a lot of talent because talent is equally distributed by gender but opportunities are not,’ said Gálvez, who is vice-chair of the EU Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and a member of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.

A social scientist and feminist with a PhD in economic history and institutions, she has drawn lessons from many years of academic and political work.

Gálvez is the author of scholarly works on feminist economics, austerity and postfeminist empowerment and has been a professor at the University of Reading in the UK and at Charles III University of Madrid in Spain.

She has also been a vice-rector of Pablo Olavide University in Seville – her native city – and served as a minister for research and universities in the government of Andalusia.

Recommended rules

Gálvez urges strong anti-discriminatory regulation in institutions and the labour market in Europe, arguing that gender equality in crucial to getting the EU to next level of science.

While European research has proven its value on numerous fronts, including during the Covid-19 pandemic when scientific discoveries paved the way for new vaccines, she says the stakes keep rising.

‘We need science for a better Europe, for a better world, and to face all the challenges we have,’ Gálvez said.

In an interview with Horizon Magazine after R&I Days, she said that diversity is as important as colloboration to the success of EU research.

‘Cooperation is key, aiming for excellence and inclusivity,’ said Gálvez. ‘We must advance not just in scientific pursuits and governance for equality and gender parity between men and women but also in fostering diversity across socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual and gender orientations.’

While a range of institutions within European countries is central to carrying out common research projects, she said the EU itself has a crucial role in ensuring progressive approaches.

‘It is up to the EU to level the playing field within the EU and in each Member State,’ said Gálvez.

The views of the interviewee don’t necessarily reflect those of the European Commission.

More info

This article was originally published in Horizon the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.

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