EU Debate on Women in Techology and Research
Discussing gender: Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of 20-first
- Janez Potočnik, the EU Commissioner for Science and Research, took part in a discussion on the progress of women in technology and research at a networking event organised by Women in Leadership in the Information Society (WiL) on June 2nd-3rd in Brussels.
- Three other leading speakers joined Potočnik in the discussion: Françoise Le Bail, Deputy Director for DG Enterprise and Industry at the European Commission; Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, co-author of the book Why Women Mean Business and CEO of 20-first; and Martine Blockx, Ernst & Young partner, presenting the E&Y study, “Groundbreakers. Using the Strength of Women to Rebuild the Economy.”
- Janez Potočnik discussed the “leaky pipeline” of women in the research field, which affects the ability of the EU to achieve its goal of building a knowledge society. However, he applauded the successes of past initiatives such as the EU Commission’s “She Figures”, which aimed to increase the proportion of women in research. In the long-term, Potočnik hopes there will be progressive changes in society and education which would encourage women. Specifically he’d like to see: science and research becoming as attractive to women as other careers such as business management, marketing and law; increasing the value of science in developed societies; confronting biases in organisations; investing in education; and collaboration among EU institutions.
- Avivah Wittenberg-Cox spoke about the increasing importance of women in the world economy as consumers and as talent. She said that the financial sector, currently a male-dominated and unpredictable sector, needed to increase the contribution of women in decision-making roles. She stressed that the way to support women is to work with the current leaders in business to manage women’s career cycles more effectively. She also said that men needed to be persuaded to accept the changing realities and inevitable shifts in power.
- Françoise Le Bail announced that her team would be working with the Swedish EU Presidency to launch a Women’s Ambassador program to persuade women to take risks and start their own businesses.
- Martine Blockx presented the E&Y study, Groundbreakers, which confirmed that there is a link between gender balance on executive boards and higher profitability.
- The network agreed that one of the challenges was to make power attractive to women, so that they would take more risks and use their influence to change things. The second issue was about changing cultural biases. They agreed that quotas [to increase the proportion of women] might be a good idea.
- They agreed to share their gender statistics with policy-makers to encourage change.
- The second part of the meeting provided an opportunity for mentors and mentees from the Mentor2Mentee program to meet and discuss their issues with one other.
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