European Network for Gender Balance in Informatics
TU Wien Informatics is part of the recently approved COST Action EUGAIN, aiming at improving gender balance in Informatics.
Since women are underrepresented in Informatics at all levels, from undergraduate and graduate studies to participation and leadership in academic and industry positions, the COST Action CA19122 EUGAIN: European Network For Gender Balance in Informatics aims at improving gender balance in Informatics. TU Wien Informatics is part of this recently approved COST Action.
COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is a funding organization for research and innovation networks. The Cost Actions help connect research initiatives across Europe and beyond and enable researchers and innovators to grow their ideas in any science and technology field by sharing them with their peers. The actions are bottom-up networks with a grant duration of four years.
The COST Action EUGAIN will implement and propose new measures within five working groups in order to attract female high-school students to academia, to encourage female bachelor students towards PhD studies, to mentor female PhD students on their academic paths towards full professorships, to strengthen cooperations with industry and society, and to raise awareness about the gender imbalance and bias in Informatics.
By creating and strengthening a European network composed of colleagues working at the forefront of the fight for gender balance in Informatics in their respective countries, institutions, and research communities, the COST Action EUGAIN will be building on knowledge and experience from their successes. Learning and sharing what has worked and how it could be transferred to different settings and practical realities across Europe is one of the network’s primary goals.
The first management meeting of this COST Action took place online on 19-20 October 2020. Thirty-four countries participated; two management committee members represent each country. From Austria and TU Wien Informatics, the management committee members are Gerti Kappel and Laura Kovacs.
The management meeting aimed to set up the COST Action structure, decide on leadership positions, and organize management committee members within working groups. “We can actively contribute to the working groups of the action, providing our best practice examples in recruiting, promoting, and retaining female scientists,” explains Laura Kovacs. “On the other hand, we can and will learn from other actions implemented in COST Action countries, for example, from the Athena measures implemented in the UK/Ireland.”
Challenges To Meet
“Given its wide coverage of EU-related countries, the COST Action will face the challenge to adjust its outcomes towards various communities and countries,” Kovacs is convinced. According to her, the “lack of gender and diversity representation varies on different levels of education— for example, in undergraduate education, Eastern European countries are doing great in this respect, which is not the case in Western Europe.”
Women are underrepresented in STEM. In many fields, the gap starts after graduation, when women enter professional life and progress in their careers. For Informatics, the gender gap starts much earlier, and women remain a distinct minority from studies to professional life, with the academic career being significantly affected. The lack of women in Informatics research and education and all sectors of Information and Communication Sciences and Technology represents a severe threat to the discipline and the economic and social development of Europe. Laura Kovacs believes “that our faculty’s initiative Abenteuer Informatik can help our COST Action, in particular with attracting female high-school students to Informatics and academia.”
How can we motivate more girls to choose Informatics as their higher education studies and profession? How can we retain female students, assure they finish their studies, and start successful careers in the field? How can we encourage more female Ph.D. and postdoctoral researchers to remain in their academic careers and apply for professorships in Informatics departments? How can we support and inspire young women in their careers? Moreover, how can we help them to overcome the main hurdles preventing women from reaching senior positions? These are the open questions and challenges the COST Action will address.