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(Women) Scientists, (Women) Engineers !

Improving Women's Place in the Sciences: a Strategy for European Action

Director of the Mission for the Place of Women in the CNRS since 2002, Geneviève Hatet-Najar has been with the CNRS for over two decades, mostly with the Office of Communications. Gender parity has been a subject of growing concern to European science over the last few years.

What assessment can be made of the place of women in research?
Geneviève Hatet-Najar: In a century of Nobel prizes, ten laureates have been women (with Marie Curie winning twice). Similarly, the CNRS has awarded its Gold Medal 55 times since 1954, and two winners have been women: the neurobiologist Nicole Le Douarin and the Egyptologist Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt (who shared her prize with a man). The problem is not new! If gender parity is well reflected in overall figures of CNRS staff, disparity reigns as one moves up the ladder. Researchers are 70% male, and fewer than ten women hold the highest grade of senior scientist as compared to 137 men (CNRS Social Report, 2001). It is as if a roadblock exists on the career path from associate scientist to senior scientist, a glass ceiling. In addition there are disparities among disciplines, with women even more underrepresented in mathematics, physics, and engineering sciences. All of this becomes a paradox in light of the number and the performance of girls in science subjects in school.

How was the Mission for the Place of Women in the CNRS initially set up?
G. H.-N. At the beginning of 2001 when gender parity was established as a goal in the political sphere, CNRS General Director Geneviève Berger made the decision to put in place a steering committee for "disciplines, trades, careers, and gender: the place of women in the CNRS". In July of 2001 she established the Mission and placed it directly under the authority of the head of the CNRS, for added visibility. The CNRS in this way became the only public research structure to have an operational branch devoted to gender parity. Several projects and studies have been launched to identify and analyse the factors which affect women's careers in an attempt to understand better the glass ceiling phenomenon. Educating and sensitizing on issues related to gender parity is another one of the Mission's tasks, and along these lines the Mission recently organized the first multi-disciplinary workshops on parity (held in Corsica in late 2002). This initiative should and will be renewed. Gender parity ought to become an excellence factor for the CNRS, even if the road is long. It must become the concern of everyone and at all levels.

What is being done in favor of parity at the European level?
G. H.-N. In 1998, the European Commission's General Directorate for Research commissioned a report from a group of women experts. The EU was one of the first institutions to take a hard look at gender parity issues, leading to the creation of the Helsinki group "Women and Science" which brings together twelve member States and more than fifteen associated States around the parity issue. Meeting bi-annually, the Group (whose steering committee has asked me to participate) issued its latest report in December 2002 on the occasion of a seminar organised by the Spanish presidency of the EU on developing women's place in science. The report inventoried all of the programs and measures in place locally in the EU for supporting and encouraging female scientific vocations. The next step will be to get these initiatives working together in a network.

Gender parity network
Mission for Gender Party in Teaching and Research (
The association "Women and Science" (
The "Women and Science" unit of the General Directorate for Research of the European Commission (
Consult the web site


March 6, 2003: Signing of a cooperative framework agreement for gender parity, at CNRS headquarters, by the Minister for Gender Parity, Nicole Ameline, the Minister for Research, Claudie Haigneré, and the General Director of the CNRS, Geneviève Berger.

March 8, 2003 Women's Rights Day
The exhibition "D for Discoverers" was on display at CNRS Paris Headquarters in March 2003.

March 8, 2004 Women's Rights Day
The official release of the book «Women in the history of CNRS» was on display at CNRS Paris Headquarters in March 2004.



à lire

• "Science and Society Action Plan for a European Research Area"; European Commission, 2001.
• Report by the steering committee for gender equal access to higher positions in the public sector. Anicet Le Pors, Françoise Milewski, 2003. Available at the Documentation Française, Paris.


Geneviève Hatet-Najar
Director of the Mission for the place of women in the CNRS

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