Women and Science


World Federation of Scientific Workers
Launch of a renewed reflection about “women and science”


“In the Dakar General Assembly, we noticed two contradictory facts: on the one hand, there were numerous women, in particular from Africa, who attended the event, and their interventions were of high quality; on the other hand, women were a tiny minority in the governing bodies of our federation. Several female attendees underlined the second fact: as a result, women were allowed to chair sessions. The election of the new executive committee was a positive moment of change: there were 10 women elected in this body, instead of 2 in the previous one!

Despite this progress, in our opinion, the question of the place of women in science and research – which is not a mere question of equal rights – is not sufficiently taken into account by our federation.

The specificity of WFSW allows it to tackle this issue from an original viewpoint: its affiliates, organizations or individuals, come from geographically and culturally diverse parts of the word; not all of them are members of international organizations-groupings of trade unions such as Education International (IE), and even those who are indeed members of such groupings might have different kinds of reflections in WFSW than in IE; WFSW started working on some issues of major interest such as disarmament or the climate  change. This is the reason why its affiliates will easily relate these issues to the one concerning women, gender equality and gender balance.

For all those reasons, we propose that our federation launches a specific reflection about the aforementioned question.

Both female and male volunteers are invited to conduct this reflection: working on topics related to women and science is not a “womanly” task. We propose to focus on the following points as a first “roadmap”:

  • To collect statistical data coming from our affiliates, in order to establish an as precise as possible state of the question concerning women accessing scientific research (including the non academic sector) and their career. Our purpose will not be to reproduce official statistics, even though they are of particular interest, offering us an overview of what is happening in many countries. What we seek is our affiliates’ interpretation of these data and/or the actions they take to obtain trustworthy data from their governments or institutions.
  • To analyze obstacles stemming from a wide range of factors, especially socio-cultural ones, which might hinder or restrict women’s access to scientific research or their professional evolution (for example: moral or sexual harassment).
  • To examine concrete examples of success, not in order to promote exceptions, but to highlight good practices and further possibilities.
  • To examine what action our affiliates take to promote gender balance and equality: going beyond what is “politically correct”, we would like to know if there are any field actions aiming at shifting the viewpoint on women and transcending mere statements on gender equality.
  • To elaborate original proposals that WFSW might introduce to its affiliates, UNESCO, and/or the international forums it attends. These proposals will be as close as possible to other major issues WFSW tackles: peace and disarmament, energy and climate, working conditions.”

Text approved by the International Secretariat for dissemination to affiliated organizations on a draft prepared by colleagues Dina Bacalexi (SNTRS-France) and Josette Rome Chastanet (Headquarters-Paris).