One of the objectives of the European Union is to eliminate inequalities and to promote equality between men and women in all its activities. The European Commission actively promotes gender equality in science, and participation of women in all scientific disciplines, and has set a target of “40% participation of women at all levels in implementing and managing research programmes”. In 2005, 28% of all researchers in the EU-25 were women, and their participation in advisory groups and programme committees in FP6 was 27% and 26% respectively.
The CONffIDENCE consortium greatly values strong involvement of women in the project, both in the lab and in management. Of the 22 work package leaders and deputies, 9 are women (41%), and of the scientific staff involved in the project, 42% are women, demonstrating the strong contribution made by women to the project. In order to stimulate female participation even further, new job openings for CONffIDENCE activities will be preferentially filled with female candidates. Each participant has listed its key personnel active in the project in their partner description . This includes for each (male and female) researcher a brief description of their expertise and their tasks in the project.
The work performed in the CONffIDENCE project is highly technological in nature, and women are actively encouraged to participate and expand their scientific expertise and perspective. In order to stimulate development and exchange of expertise for female scientists, an internal mobility programme for young female scientists will be launched. This will allow them to gain experience in other CONffIDENCE laboratories and to support their professional career development.
In addition, the CONffIDENCE consortium has appointed a gender counsellor (Dr. Lonneke van der Geest) who reports directly to the coordinator, and has the following responsibilities:
• Be available for confidential advice to participants on gender matters;
• Support the interests of female participants, including work-life balance, equal opportunity and stimulating career opportunities. In case of gender related disputes the gender counsellor can intervene and take appropriate action via the coordinator.
• Keep track of gender statistics within the project
The focus of CONffIDENCE on fast and easy detection of many classes of food and feed contaminants is of special interest to women. As well as having a greater impact on their health, food contamination by chemicals is a greater concern for female consumers than men. For example, certain POPs, pesticides and mycotoxins are known for their adverse effects on fertility and reproduction. The development of new means of testing for chemical contaminants in food will have a positive impact on women’s health and address the special concerns of female consumers.