Turning words into action this International Women’s Day
On creating meaningful change for women working in engineering and graphene research
Women are fundamental contributors to all the Graphene Flagship does, and over the past ten years, women involved in the Graphene Flagship have delivered amazing achievements and results. These span everything from research breakthroughs; to collaborating internationally with industry and academic partners; to leading on projects; to mentoring and inspiring the next generation of scientists.
The Graphene Flagship is always enthusiastic about sharing news and highlights from those within our community – and, on International Women’s Day, celebrating women within the project is at the forefront of our minds.
Given this priority, this International Women’s Day, we highly encourage you to familiarise yourselves with Graphene Flagship work and to follow our social media channels for more news about the fantastic graphene-related science and innovation being driven by women throughout Europe. We encourage you to revisit our Spotlight series in particular, which highlights various researchers across the Flagship. Read our researchers’ perspectives on the value of diversity in science, discover the latest updates on research and innovation, and find out about our most recent success stories, such as that of Graphene Flagship researcher Meganne Christian, who was recently selected from among 22,500 candidates to become an ESA astronaut.
This International Women’s Day, we are also keen to reiterate our commitment to equality, within the Graphene Flagship and beyond. We are conscious that despite substantial efforts and progress in supporting women to pursue careers in science and engineering, women remain underrepresented in engineering in particular – and, indeed, in the Graphene Flagship.
According to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, in 2020 there were almost 6.6 million female scientists and engineers in the EU. This figure accounted for 41% of total employment in science and engineering. That said, by sector, women were underrepresented in manufacturing – a sector with strong relevance to graphene research – where only 22% of scientists and engineers were female, whereas there was more of a gender balance in the services sector (46%). As reported by Engineering UK, meanwhile, in March 2022 women made up 16.5% of all engineers in the UK, compared to 10.5% reported in 2010.
Figures such as these make evident that while women are increasingly entering science and engineering, they remain less represented among scientist and engineer ranks than men. Moreover, just because women are represented within a workforce does not necessarily mean that equality has been achieved. Data does not always capture the fact that women often face greater barriers in accessing positions of leadership and influence within their workplaces; women tend to be overrepresented in junior roles, especially in historically male-dominated sectors; gender pay gaps and pension gaps persist; and unsupportive policies related to maternity leave and childcare can adversely affect women in particular. These challenges are also compounded for women facing additional barriers, such as discrimination related to race, sexuality, linguistic background, class background, age, physical ability, and neurotypicality.
Consequently, this International Women’s Day, we are conscious that while there is much to celebrate within and beyond the Graphene Flagship research community, there is also much more that can be done – and which needs to be done – to better support and enable women of all backgrounds to reach their full potential in science and engineering.
With this in mind, today our focus is not solely on amplifying existing results, but also on outlining how the Graphene Flagship will seek to support women during the project’s remaining time. It is our hope, too, that these initiatives will continue beyond the Graphene Flagship project in its current form.
- We commit to connecting women with leading researchers of all genders, and to people with power and connections. This will happen both on a small scale and through strategic design of events such as Graphene Study 2023 and Graphene Week 2023.
- We will continue to run mentoring programs in order to support early career researchers and women in particular. We will call on leading men and women within the Graphene Flagship to offer high-quality mentorship to those who seek it.
- We will engineer a 50/50 split of representation of men and women in our media dissemination work. This is not to project a representation of gender parity where it has not yet been achieved, but rather to support and promote women within the Graphene Flagship, and to encourage young women seeking to follow in their footsteps.
We will also continue to support the elevation of women to leadership roles, and hope that women working within all our partner organisations to have the rights and support to access flexible working arrangements, especially in the context of childcare, and to be supported in returning to the workplace after time away.
In situations where women are enabled to achieve their potential, ultimately, everyone wins. This is especially so in innovation contexts, where the unique talents and contributions of each individual can mean the difference between business as usual and a breakthrough.
Actions speak louder than words – but words can set the tone and direction for action. Here at the Graphene Flagship, we are evaluating our progress to date, celebrating what we have achieved, and resolving to do even better. We hope you will join us in realising this valuable work.