It has long been recognised that the position of women in science is an important issue that is of interest not only to women in science but also to research infrastructures in general, in particular with regard to the efficiently utilising all talents that are available in R&D (see the recent Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament entitled Researchers in the European Research Area: One Profession, Multiple Careers /COM (2003) 436 final/).
Over the past thirty years, various activities have been launched in Western Europe both at the individual level of female mobilisation and networking and at the institutional level. In response to mobilisation and activism of women in science, activities in support of gender equality in science at institutional level in Western Europe have flourished over the past decade, including the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research (for more on this, see ”Gender Equality” section of the website).
In Central and Eastern Europe, the structural obstacles at national level (aversion to the implementation of equal opportunities policies), the structural obstacles in R&D (horizontal and vertical segregation, pay gap, lack of transparency in career advancement etc.) and the personal and historical obstacles (distaste toward advocating women’s interests among women researchers, unequal gender contract etc.) create a roadblock to a successful implementation of gender equality in R&D. To remedy this situation efficiently, a pan-regional activity is required. This will facilitate synergies at national level in the individual countries involved, contribute to networking of women scientists in the region, and provide a European added value in that by fostering networking and research co-operation across the continent, it will contribute to the structuring of the European research area.
Thus, building upon the policies and activities of the EC (establishment of Helsinki Group in 1999, the ETAN report of 2000, the EC’s ENWISE project monitoring the position of women in science in the wider Europe, and the planned establishment of the European Platform for Women Scientists, a regional centre (which brings together partners from Czech Republic, Hungary, France, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia) titled the Central European Centre for Women and Youth in Science (CEC-WYS) was established to address the obstacles and problems summarised above.
In its documents, the European Commission recognises a threefold relationship between women and science:
The Centre will focus in particular on the third aspect, concentrating on activities aimed at mobilising and networking women in science in the Central European region. This goal is important from two perspectives: