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Danube University Krems heads EU project for the advancement of women in science
06.10.2006
Women continue to be strongly underrepresented in research. Under the leadership of Danube University Krems, an advancement programme has now been started for women in science and engineering. The ADVANCE project runs under the focal point “Science and Society” of the 6th EU Framework Program. The aim is to open career prospects for women scientists by means of targeted training and the acquisition of management skills.
Karin Siebenhandl
Photo: Danube University Krems
Project leader Karin Siebenhandl

Studies confirm that barriers and “male” structures make the path to scientific management positions much longer for women than for their male colleagues. As a result, many women are systematically lost to science in the course of their career – a phenomenon that is known in research as a “leaky pipeline”. Women are therefore caught in a vicious circle: on the one hand, classical male-oriented structures impede promotion; on the other, there are too few role models, both in industry and in the academic sector. As an example, only around 15 percent of scientists employed in European industry are women.

Advancement of women’s careers in science and technologyADVANCE (Advanced Training for Women in Scientific Research) is intended to counteract this phenomenon and is directed towards women both from universities and from non-university institutes. In cooperation with five partner institutes from Poland, Finland, Austria, the Netherlands and Bulgaria and also – for the first time – in interdisciplinary collaboration with four departments of Danube University Krems, a specific training program for the participants will be developed, together with a mentoring and coaching program. The two-year EU project is aimed in particular at women researchers from engineering and science in the pre- and post-doctoral phase. ADVANCE therefore encompasses not only the working and living situation of women active in science and research, but also the structures and conditions of scientific institutions.

“The experience gathered from the two profiles will be used to develop transfer models which will be freely available not only to the partners, but also to other institutions in the whole of Europe”, explains project leader Dr Karin Siebenhandl from the Department for Knowledge and Communication Management of Danube University Krems. “In this way we hope to achieve a snowball effect and to be able to break open traditional role models.”

Training, Mentoring, Networking

The 456,000-euro project consists of two parts. The core section is the training programme within the framework of a summer school, in which the selected participants will acquire competence in research and management skills according to their needs. A second, key factor of the project comprises the accompanying mentoring and coaching program. The participants are assigned mentors – in other words experienced scientists – from the partner institutions. Both personal and professional development can be advanced within a mentor-mentee partnership. In addition, the candidates are offered the opportunity of networking. “As well as the unfavourable academic circumstances, lack of support and networks are yet another reason for the severe underrepresentation of women in research”, emphasises Michaela Gindl from the Coordination Office for the Advancement of Women and Gender Studies of Danube University Krems, who will organize the Summer School.