International Women's Day 2023. What is the EU doing for women's rights and gender equality?


Gender equality is a key priority for the European Union and many of its member states. The EU has set ambitious goals on gender equality, including the elimination of the gender pay gap, promoting gender equality in decision-making, and ending gender-based violence.

One area where there is still a lack of female representation is in the field of science and innovation. According to Eurostat data in 2018, women only represented 33% of researchers and 26.2% of research project leaders in the European Union. This is why Europe is committed to finding solutions, and through the Horizon Europe 2121-2027 programme, support for women is evident through the creation of a “Gender Action Plan,” which is incorporated into all parts of the programme. The Gender Action Plan aims to ensure that all research and innovation activities take into account the gender perspective and promote gender equality in research and innovation.

In addition, Horizon Europe actively promotes the participation of women in research and innovation through a range of measures, including promoting gender equality in the evaluation and selection of research projects, including gender equality objectives in selection criteria, and removing barriers to women’s participation in this field. In this context, several initiatives and measures are mentioned that seek to promote gender equality and inclusion in research and innovation and support women in their professional and scientific development. These include:

  • Creation of a gender network in research and innovation to promote cooperation and exchange of good practices.
  • Promotion of gender equality in project evaluations and decision-making in research and innovation.
  • Inclusion of gender equality clauses in research and innovation funding contracts and agreements.
  • Encouragement of women’s participation in decision-making and in governing and directing bodies in research and innovation.
  • Support for the creation of mentoring networks and groups for women in research and innovation.
  • Promotion of gender equality in education and training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)
  • Implementation of work-life balance measures to support women researchers and innovators.
  • Monitoring and evaluating progress on gender equality in research and innovation, and preparing regular reports to account for progress and challenges.

The latest She Figures report highlights that Europe's economy, labs and academia already depend on women. However, it also shows that we still need to do more to promote gender equality, in particular to inspire girls for a career in STEM. There is no doubt, Europe needs women's creativity and entrepreneurial potential to shape a more sustainable, green and digital future

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Tweet

There are several EU initiatives aimed at supporting and empowering women in tech and innovation. At Sploro, we wanted to summarise some of them:


The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe. The overall ERC budget from 2021 to 2027 is more than €16 billion, as part of the Horizon Europe programme, under the responsibility of the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel. These are some of the initiatives created to support women in research:

  • ERC Advanced Grants for Women: This is a specific program for women that provides funding to high-level researchers in any field of research.
  • ERC Consolidator Grants for Women: This program is designed to support researchers in intermediate stages of their career, providing funding for high-quality research projects. A summary of the 2023 call can be found here.
  • Gender balance in ERC panels: The ERC is committed to ensuring gender equality in the evaluation panels that assess funding applications, with the aim of promoting diversity and inclusion in the evaluation process.
  • Supporting ERC Grantees with Caregiving Responsibilities: The ERC provides additional support to researchers who have caregiving responsibilities, such as caring for children or elderly relatives, to help them balance their caregiving responsibilities and research work.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions fund excellent research and innovation and equip researchers at all stages of their career with new knowledge and skills, through mobility across borders and exposure to different sectors and disciplines. The MSCA help build Europe’s capacity for research and innovation by investing in the long-term careers of excellent researchers. Women in research are being supported by various initiatives that have been implemented:

  • MSCA Individual Fellowships for Women: This program provides funding for women researchers of all nationalities and disciplines to carry out a research project in an EU or associated country.
  • MSCA Co-funding of Regional, National and International Programmes (COFUND): This program funds the mobility and training of researchers through international and regional consortia. COFUND programs may include measures to promote gender equality and diversity in the selection of researchers.

Joint Research Centre (JRC)

The JRC provides independent, evidence-based knowledge and science, supporting EU policies to positively impact society.  Numerous efforts have been made to aid women in research, and these initiatives are some examples of such efforts:

  • Gender Equality Working Group: This is a working group that aims to promote gender equality within the JRC. The group is responsible for developing policies and measures to promote gender equality in hiring, promotion, and professional development, as well as in the culture and work climate of the JRC.
  • Women in Science: This is an initiative that aims to promote the participation of women in scientific research. It offers training programs, mentoring, and networking opportunities for women researchers and scientists.
  • Gender Equality in Research and Innovation: This is a JRC initiative that aims to promote gender equality in the field of research and innovation. It offers studies and analyses on the state of gender equality in the research sector, as well as recommendations and best practices for promoting gender equality in research and innovation.
  • Women in Nuclear: This is a JRC initiative that aims to promote the participation of women in the nuclear industry. It offers training programs, mentoring, and networking opportunities for women working in the nuclear industry.

European Innovation Council (EIC)

The European Innovation Council is Europe’s flagship innovation programme to identify, develop and scale up breakthrough technologies and game changing innovations. 

The European Innovation Council (EIC) has been established under the EU Horizon Europe programme. It has a budget of €10.1 billion to support game changing innovations throughout the lifecycle from early stage research, to proof of concept, technology transfer, and the financing and scale up of start-ups and SMEs. There are several measures in place to assist women who are pursuing research:

  • Women TechEU: This is a program specifically designed to support women entrepreneurs in technology. It provides funding, advice, and mentoring to innovative women who are developing new technologies. We had a special post with all the information about this programme.
  • Women Business Angels Community: This initiative brings together women investors and entrepreneurs to promote investment in women-led companies and encourage women’s participation in the venture capital sector.
  • Gender balance in jury panels: The EIC is committed to ensuring gender equality in the jury panels that evaluate funding applications, with the aim of promoting diversity and inclusion in the evaluation process.
  • EU Prize for Women Innovators: celebrates the women entrepreneurs behind game-changing innovations. In doing so, the EU seeks to raise awareness of the need for more women innovators, and create role models for women and girls everywhere.

European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is an EU body created by the European Union in 2008 to strengthen Europe’s ability to innovate. The EIT is an integral part of Horizon Europe, the EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. They have implemented numerous initiatives to support women, some of which are listed here:

  • Women@EIT: This is an initiative aimed at promoting gender equality and diversity within the EIT and its innovation communities. It provides a platform for women to share their experiences, connect with other women, and receive support and mentorship.
  • EWA (Empowering Women in Agrifood) is a project developed by EIT Food that seeks to promote female entrepreneurship in the agrifood sector, with the aim of increasing the presence of women in positions of business responsibility and thus reduce the existing gender gap in the area. 
  • EIT Manufacturing LEADERS-Women Innovators in Manufacturing at EIT RIS  Is a RIS competition aiming to support the best women innovators (i.e. professionals, researchers, entrepreneurs) from EIT RIS eligible countries who play a leading role in developing solutions to address manufacturing-related challenges with strong financial, environmental, or societal impact.
In conclusion, it is evident that the commission strongly advocates for women’s participation and representation in research. Their commitment to promoting gender equity in research is commendable, and their efforts towards fostering an inclusive research culture must be acknowledged. Through their initiatives and policies, the commission is paving the way for greater gender diversity in research and creating opportunities for women to excel in their respective fields. It is imperative that we continue to support and amplify such initiatives, and work towards achieving a more equitable and inclusive research landscape.