[Theme in Focus] Women in Science | Gender Equality, WBC-RTI.info Newsletter May/June 2016

Promoting gender equality is a core activity for the EU. The Commission's “Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019” is a reference framework for increased efforts at all levels, be they European, national, regional or local. In addition, the EU has a well-established regulatory framework on gender equality, including binding Directives, which apply widely across the labour market including the research sector.  In Horizon 2020 Gender is a cross-cutting issue and is mainstreamed in each of the different parts of the Work Programme, ensuring a more integrated approach to research and innovation. Three objectives underpin the strategy on gender equality in Horizon 2020:

  • Fostering gender balance in research teams, in order to close the gaps in the participation of women.
  • Ensuring gender balance in decision-making, in order to reach the target of 40% of the under-represented sex in panels and groups and of 50% in advisory groups.
  • Integrating the gender dimension in research and innovation (R&I) content, helps improve the scientific quality and societal relevance of the produced knowledge, technology and/or innovation. (EC)


Gender inequalities in research and innovation persist; attrition continues to exist at higher levels of a scientific career

The latest “She Figures 2015” publication shows that gender inequalities in research and innovation persist; it shows further that some progress has been made, although attrition continues to exist at higher levels of a scientific career.

In the 2015 version of She Figures, data are presented at the individual country level as well as the broader EU level for the current 28 EU Member States, plus candidate countries (Iceland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, the Republic of Serbia, Turkey) and associated countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Faroe Islands, Israel, Liechtenstein, the Republic of Moldova, Norway, Switzerland).

The most recent data indicate that women made up 47% of PhD graduates in the EU (EU-28), but made up only 33% of researchers and 21% of top-level researchers (grade A). It is even lower at the level of heads of institutions with a mere 20 %. These figures show that only limited progress has been made since 2011.

Women researchers in Western Balkan countries

For the Western Balkan countries a comprehensive analysis related to women in science is not possible due to lack of data. Based on data available in EUROSTAT as of Sept. 2015, analysis of R & D personnel by sex shows that women accounted for 51 % of the workforce in Serbia in 2011 and Montenegro in 2013, and a higher majority (57 %) in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 2012. By contrast, women were in a minority among R & D personnel in Bosnia and Herzegovina (42 %). Update is expected in October 2016. No data are available for Albania and Kosovo. 

Nevertheless some observations are made by “She figures 2015” team and are summarised below. For detailed information and methodological constraints please consult the “She Figures” handbook and report. 

Overall, women researchers remain under‑represented, except in Macedonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Despite increasing gender balance amongst top level graduates and rises in the level of women’s educational qualification, the under‑representation of women researchers is still apparent across the EU (with the lowest proportions found in Luxembourg (24 %), the Netherlands (24.1 %), France (25.6 %) and Germany (26.8 %)). Only in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Latvia and Lithuania women researchers represent more than 50 % of researchers across all sectors of the economy.

The proportion of women researchers is the lowest in the agricultural sciences, with the exception of Serbia

The study shows further that across the various fields, women researchers are most likely to work in the social sciences in 13 out of 31 countries and in the medical sciences in 12 out of 31 countries. This is the case for natural sciences in only two countries (Estonia and Italy), and for engineering and technology in only three countries (Croatia, Greece and Romania). Generally, the proportion of women researchers is the lowest in the agricultural sciences, with the exception of Serbia. Serbia displays the opposite trend: 24 % of women researchers in the higher education sector work in agricultural sciences.

Largest proportion of women supporting staff within the business enterprise sector in Serbia (48%), the lowest in Macedonia (1%)

Within the business enterprise sector in almost all countries, the proportion of women occupying other supporting staff positions among all women R&D personnel is larger than the corresponding proportion for men, while the opposite is observed for researcher positions. The largest proportion of women supporting staff can be found in Serbia (48 %), while the lowest proportion was found in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1 %). Within R&D personnel, a smaller proportion of women work as technicians compared to men, except in Hungary, Germany, Denmark, France, Cyprus and Montenegro.

In the government sector, the proportion of women researchers exceeds 55 % in Serbia and Montenegro

As with the higher education sector, the government sector also has a relatively strong presence of women researchers. Furthermore, as compared to the HES and BES, women make up more than half of researchers in a larger number of countries. In the government sector, a number of countries show this form of gender imbalance: the proportion of women researchers exceeds 55 %, namely Bulgaria (55.2 %), Serbia (55.9 %), Montenegro (56.9 %), Latvia (57.8 %), Portugal (60.8 %) and Estonia (61.7 %).

The proportion of women in grade A posts varies widely across countries, ranging from 11 % in Cyprus to 67 % in Macedonia

Due to the variability in the application of the grading definitions to national systems, it is difficult to compare the proportions observed for the lower grades of academic staff (grades B–D) across countries. Nevertheless, it is interesting to compare the data for grade A, as this level corresponds to the rank of full professor in the majority of the countries, or otherwise represents the highest post at which research is normally conducted. There is a large amount of variability across countries in terms of the proportion of women in grade A positions, with the proportion ranging from 11 % to 67 %. The highest proportion of women is observed in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (67 %), Malta (45 %) and Croatia (38 %), whilst the lowest proportion is found in Cyprus (11 %), the Czech Republic (13 %) and Lithuania (14 %). It is important to note that the high proportion of women observed in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia represents only six women out of a total of nine grade A staff members.

[Methodological Note She Figures 2015: "In general, for some countries with small populations, raw data relating to small numbers of people have been reported. The percentages and indicators have not always been included (mostly growth rates) and this is identified in the footnotes to the indicators. The reader is therefore asked to bear this in mind when interpreting the most disaggregated data, in particular for Cyprus, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Malta, and, in some cases, for Estonia, Iceland, Latvia and Serbia."]

What are the main obstacles and challenges for R&I sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Is gender equality among those challenges? WBC-RTI.info asked two young women scientists / project manager in Sarajevo for their opinion and about their experiences

Bosnia and Herzegovina was the first country in the region to pass the Gender Equality Law in 2003 (revised in 2010). In 2004, following the implementation of the Law, the first gender mechanism was established – two entity based Gender Centres and the BiH Agency for Gender Equality, with the mandate to prepare, monitor and coordinate Gender Action Plans based on inputs from state-level ministries and entity-based Gender Centres. (Feasibility study on the establishment of the Women’s Fund in BiH, 2015)

But how are the women represented in research and innovation sector in the country and more importantly what are their experiences as women researchers and how do they perceive the gender equality at their institution / in their country?

According to EUROSTAT, in 2013, women were in a minority among R&D personnel in Bosnia and Herzegovina (42%), while in Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro the proportion of women researchers exceeded 50%. So WBC-RTI.info asked young women scientists / project manager in Bosnia and Herzegovina for their opinion about national R&I sector and their experiences as a researcher / project manager so far. The interviews are published with the permission of the interview partners at WBC-RTI.info, namely with Maja Arslanagić-Kalajdžić, PhD and Selma Kadic-Maglajlic PhD, both Assistant Professors at the School of Economics and Business, University of Sarajevo (SEBS).

In essence, it is less a “gender issue” that our interview partners identified as a huge challenge for research and innovation in the country or at the institutional level of their respective organisation. They see the reasons for stagnation / obstacles / challenges in research and innovation sector somewhere else (more about this later in the article).

I would asses that the gender equality is fully respected in my institution. Namely, when it comes to faculty (both teaching and research staff), there are about 46% of female researchers employed. The same is with the students, I currently do not have the formal statistics (that we do measure), but I can confirm that female students are equally represented at each level of the study (Bac/Master/PhD).

Maybe I can consider myself lucky, but in my career I was not discriminated based on gender. I was receiving the same treatment in all circumstances as my male colleagues.

No, luckily I can say that my research career did not suffer just because of my gender. I would say that I was appreciated in the same manner as my male colleagues or even with more respect by others. Furthermore, since the high quality research and publishing process is embedded in the “blind review” processes, there is no way my scientific work could be undermined because of my gender.

Related to institutional gender policies, our interview partners say: 

Unfortunately, there are no particular gender policies/plans at my institution; however, University rulebooks are assuming gender equality as one of its major principles, as well as the law on higher education.

When asked about practice of academic hiring by e.g. giving preference to female applicants with same qualifications, our interview partner answered that no such preference is given when employing candidates (in terms of formal criteria and evaluation) at their institution.

Some of the suggestions they made related to gender equality in research and innovation at the university / faculty as well as related to the improvement of gender equality at national level include:

One of the suggestions could be to establish (or to connect to already established) female research networks that exist in different fields and that provide additional community support.

Probably, additional criteria in terms of higher preference for female researchers when it comes to research support and selection for grants could be added and developed, as well as the integrated policies and action plans to further support female researchers.

A preference treatment of women when selecting national/international project teams is one of the steps towards improving the gender equality. However, I need to point out that I really feel that the treatment towards female researchers at the University of Sarajevo and my institution is fair and on equal terms with male colleagues.

As stated before, more challenges for further development of research and innovation sector are spoted somewhere else. E.g related to the complex organisation of the country:

I would also say that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a special case, since the complex organization of the country and unclear role and place of these specific pillars are not allowing for education, research and innovation to reach its full potential. Namely, higher education (and education in general) is fragmented and in one entity it is regulated at the cantonal level, while in the other at the entity level. There is a lack of coordination between these levels, and a lack of joint perspective and common orientation and goals. This assumes that it is possible to have a completely different approach to higher education institutions between two cantons, while entity and national level coordination bodies do not in fact manage to establish a full coordination. When it comes to research, a great problem is that it is really difficult to track the system of the support for researchers from different levels since ministries at each level have their own systems of support. Support exists, but I need to point out that it is still really limited in terms of quantity/size and scope. Finally, when it comes to innovation, there is a lack of a coherent national innovation system that can follow up and facilitate the research and innovation processes in the country.

or related to the role that research and innovation plays on the national level (declarative vs. practice):

I believe it is important to make here differentiation between declarative statements of policy makers and reality that very often does not corresponds to each other.  In Bosnia and Herzegovina what you can observe in a press and in general, is that education, research and innovations are seen as crucial for development of the country. However, at the same time in practice, some decisions that are being made are in total contrast with above mentioned statement. For example, all decisions about higher education are being made on the local level, without a clear joint vision on state level. So in country with cca 3.5 million of citizens there are 8 public and more than 25 private universes that provide very questionable quality of education, which is not being closely regulated or monitored.

or related to missing managerial and administrative capacities when it comes to improvement of participation and success rate in Horizon 2020:

Unfortunately, I cannot outline too many positive examples and developments in terms of research and innovation policy at the level of the country (B&H). I could outline positive efforts to publish the research and innovation statistics (only since 2012), and commend the policy makers that they ensured the ticket for the country to access the EU research funds, although the capacities for utilization of these funds are still limited. 

Building a knowledge base, administrative and project management capacities is vital for improvement of success rate in Horizon 2020 and other research funding programmes. Furthermore, attending specialized trainings on applications writing skills and networking would also help to improve the process.

Building capacities of researchers for preparing demanding project application and ensuring that each institution has an appropriate project management infrastructure that can help in the development of the proposals is very important. Furthermore, national level institutions should enable all researchers (and in particular higher education institutions) an access to networks of researchers and institutions that were particularly designed in order to help consortiums to emerge and connect. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country with relatively low potential, and it can so far only be an additional element of the offer in the consortium, and not the core of it. This means that institutions from the country should be well connected with the institutions from Western Europe in order to be more competitive at the highly competitive Horizon 2020 calls.

WBC-RTI.info thanks Maja Arslanagić-Kalajdžić and Selma Kadic-Maglajlic for sharing their experiences and thoughts with us.

Maja Arslanagić-Kalajdžić obtained her BSc diploma at the School of Economics and Business, University of Sarajevo (SEBS) in 2007, and was awarded with the best diploma thesis award for her generation. Her education continued by enrolling in the “Corporate Governance” master programme in 2009, jointly implemented by Faculty of Economics, University of Zagreb and SEBS. In 2011, she became a PhD candidate in the field of Marketing at the Doctoral programme in Economics and Business at Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana (FELU), where she defended her PhD thesis in 2015. She is now Assistant professor at the School of Economics and Business, University of Sarajevo (SEBS). She has co-authored about 20 scientific papers in peer reviewed journals, one book, three book chapters, two monographs, 40 paper presentations at peer reviewed conferences, and implemented more than 10 domestic and international research projects.

Selma Kadic-Maglajlic is Assistant professor at the Department of Marketing of the School of Economics and Business, University of Sarajevo, where she teaches several undergraduate courses (Marketing, Consumer Behaviour, and Marketing Research). She defended her doctoral dissertation at University of Ljubljana, which was awarded for scientific and methodological excellence by Institute for Market-Oriented Management, University of Mannheim. As a visiting professor she was teaching in Austria, Norway and Slovenia. Her research interests spans from marketing and sales to philosophy and psychology in business. She is co-author of several articles published in highly recognized scientific international journals (e.g. Journal of International Marketing, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Business Research, Quality Management & Business Excellence).

About School of Economics and Business, University of Sarajevo (SEBS)

Our institution, School of Economics and Business, University of Sarajevo, represents the oldest and the biggest public higher education institution from the area of economics and business in the country. Apart from having the national-level recognition and tradition, SEBS ensured multiple accreditations from international institutions. Namely, since 2013, programmes at our school are accredited by EPAS (international programme accreditation by the EFMD) and since 2015 the school holds the international AACSB accreditation, which puts it in top schools when it comes to quality at the international level. In order to raise up to the standards of the mentioned accreditations, SEBS faculty put additional efforts in increasing their research efforts (despite limited support and funding).

When it comes to innovation, we have been consistently implementing the best and the newest processes in the school (e.g. first in using the student online registration system, first fully digitalized, highly developed online Courseware system through the e-learning Moodle platform, student e-cards etc.) Furthermore, since 2014, we are implementing an EU funded project titled Platform for trans-Academic Cooperation in Innovation (PACINNO) that analyses micro- and macro- determinants of innovation and develops innovation policies at the national and regional level and under which, SEBS was the first at the University to set up and equip the Technology Transfer Office.

However, although there are significant positive achievements, the school is still struggling in the recognition of its efforts at different levels and there is a general lack of understanding from different important stakeholders. In that regards, SEBS now lack funds to support its researchers to go to scientific conferences and to ensure less administration load and more space for research for its faculty.

A selection of topic related events, news, calls, documents, organisations, links etc. is available here.


Document type
  • Newsletter


Publication Year


Geographical focus
  • Western Balkans
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • Cross-thematic/Interdisciplinary

Entry created by Ines Marinkovic on July 24, 2016
Modified on December 30, 2016