Newsletter - December 2014, Issue 8



Stories of women and science associations in the Maghreb: Tunisia and Morocco


Final conference in Casablanca

Project final recommendations


Women and science in Europe


Rahma BOURQIA, sociologist and anthropologist, Morocco
Zahida Darwish Jabbour, writer, Lebanon
Amal Kabous, Economist, Syria
Fatima Muhammad Al-Fihri (800 AD), Tunisia


by Daniele Meulders, Sile O’Dile and Maria Caprile, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Coordinator of SHEMERA

In this final issue of SHEMERA newsletter you will find a summary of the final conference, "Gender and science: time for action" held at the Faculty of Literature and Human Sciences of the University Hassan II in Mohammedia, Morocco, on October 20th, 2014; a summary of the final recommendations of our project and many other insights on gender and science issues in the Arab Mediterranean countries.
We all feel happy for the work done in spite of the difficulties that have surrounded our project. The main aim of the SHEMERA project was to support Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in a joint effort to strengthen the role of women in science. During the course of this project, several historical events have shaken up the Middle-East region: the so-called Arab spring, the rise of ultra-conservative Islamist parties, the war in Syria and the intensification of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with Israel’s attacks on Gaza. On the European side, the economic crisis has had a devastating impact on the Southern countries. In spite of this, the SHEMERA project has brought together researchers from universities and research institutes from both sides of the Mediterranean basin who have found ways to enhance research cooperation on gender and science between the European Union and the AMCs. Our priorities were to increase knowledge on gender and science issues, to empower women in science, to enhance networking and to steer policy-making on gender and science in the years to come.
Our work has been based on the premise that gender equality in science is not a women’s issue. It concerns and should fully engage men as well as women. We hope the results of our work not only serve to increase knowledge, but also to support and encourage evidence-based policymaking. There is a pressing need for this. Increased awareness and networking around gender and science issues in the Arab Mediterranean countries needs to be channelled into effective policy action.
It is also our firm tenet that gender inequality in science cannot be dissociated from the wider context of gender inequalities in society at large. In a time when prospects for women’s rights are uncertain in many Arab Mediterranean countries, we can only hope that our work, alongside other gender studies, will help to push policy change towards strengthening women’s social, economic and political rights and supporting equal participation in all spheres of life.
SHEMERA is done but we hope to keep working on gender equality issues in the Arab Mediterranean countries in the years to come. In the meanwhile, we would like to thank you all for having followed our work!

Women and Science in Tunisia: the edification of scientific knowledge with women
by Prof. Oum Kalthoum Ben Hassine, University Tunis El Manar, Founding member of the Tunisian Association « Women & Sciences »
Since the last century, there has been a growing awareness of the critical role of science in economic growth and the importance of scientific knowledge as a basic tool of modern civilization. Indeed,  the Second World War has definitively provided evidence that technical inventions and scientific discoveries, even in "the most abstract specialties", are indispensable to the construction of a strong economy (Leite Lopes, 1967). In this way, science has become a social entity and was considered, gradually, as a factor of production and development, which has enabled it to gradually evolve to become a major dimension of our times where the production of wealth, indispensable to the development, is related to scientific production and applications of science (Ben Hassine, 2004), as demonstrated by the scientific advances of the last 50 years that have had direct huge positive impact on the socio-economic development and the quality of life (UNESCO, 1999).  Today, the fact that science constitute the key and the fundamental strength of the economic expansion of nations is clearly recognized. Thus, scientific and technological research is now associated with the economic growth and with economic progress in the regions.
However, the use of all the creativities is required, in order that science can be a powerful lever for socio-economic development of countries. Indeed, "because of their role in society (education, care of others, transmission of culture, maintaining a healthy environment), women are often addressing the promotion of peace and preservation of the environment along their carriers" (Ben Hassine, 2004). Of this fact, their bringing, in scientific research, of new ideas and different ways to solve problems constitutes a value that will be reflected on the intellectual quality of scientific research and on its approach (Ben Hassine, 2004). In this case, "their full participation in scientific and technologic field  allows not only the increase of human scientific potential of countries -what is not without important repercussions on economic development- but also contribute to a greater diversity in the elaboration of the scientific knowledge and the formulation of new ethical standards on science and technologies "(Ben Hassine, 2004). It is certain, indeed, that "in the era where white  the grey gold replaced the black gold, countries have, more than ever, need for the implication of women in scientific and technological research because only the contribution and the full participation of men and women allows to ensure the future of nations "(Ben Hassine, 2004).
For all these reasons, the international organizations are concerned, since the end of last century, with the representation and the place of women in science and in scientific research, as UNESCO which has dedicated, to this problem, an important part of its World Conference on science, held in 1999 in Budapest (UNESCO, 1999).
In Tunisia, where there has been a development of higher education and scientific research and an increase of the number of educational and research institutions, this issue has been the subject of an international conference that was organized within the framework of "Tunis Regional Cultural Capital" in 1997. It should be noted that this conference was the first of a series of regional meetings which prepared for the World Conference on Science in 1999.
The holding, in November 1997 under the aegis of UNESCO and in collaboration between the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Faculty of Sciences of Tunis, of this international conference on "Women, sciences and technology" was decisive to the issue of women in science. Indeed, the main finding of this conference was the underrepresentation of Tunisian women in the Sciences and the main recommendation was the creation of an Association 'Women and Science'.
From there, the group of academic women scientists, who were members of the Organizing Committee and the Scientific Committee of the 1997 International Conference, have worked for the creation of the Tunisian "Women & Science" Association. This creation came In December 1998, and made the Tunisian Association the first one of the kind, to our knowledge, in the South Mediterranean countries (Morocco in 2006, Egypt in 2008, Algeria in 2013) and even in France (2000).
I had then the honour to be its first president and the one who developed its logo. The latter contains 2 X representing 2 women's silhouettes with a single head (what symbolizes the solidarity) who sketch one step forwards (what symbolizes the progress, the fact of forging ahead, etc.) and showing two colors the blue of the sea (symbolizing the depth of knowledge) and the yellow of the sun (symbolizing the scientific radiance).                                               
Among its objectives, it is worth mentioning :
  • enhancing the integration of the girls in the scientific and technical sectors where they are underrepresented and in all the fields of scientific research;
  • encouraging women in science and making visible their participation in the edification of scientific knowledge;
  • contributing to the diffusion of scientific and technologic knowledge and to the popularization of sciences.

Its main actions are :

1. Promotion of science & technology to girls by:

  • organization of information stands on sciences and technology,
  • meetings with students and pupils on scientific & technologic studies, jobs & employments,
  • seminars around education in science and technology and trades.

2. Encouragement of girls to integrate scientific and technical fields through various actions by

  • distribution of prizes to the Laureates of scientific disciplines,
  • annual scientific meetings where feminine PhD students presenting their research with prizes for the best presentations
  • Invitation of women scientists to talk about their success stories (effect of role model).

3. Organization of seminars and workshops in science and technology 

4. Contribution to increase the visibility of women in science by:

  • homages to the scientific women who obtained awards
  • homages to creative academic women.

5. Studies on  women in science and in scientific research.

The challenge for activists of the Tunisian Association "Women and Science" is to achieve equity in science and this within the framework of research daily which turns to good account the combined talents of the men and the women.
Ben Hassine O.K., 2004. -  La place de la femme tunisienne dans les sciences: analyse de la situation actuelle et perspectives de développement, published online on:
Leite Lopes J., 1967. - La science, le développement économique et le Tiers Monde. In: Tiers-Monde. 1967, tome 8 n°29. pp. 121-134.
U.N.E.S.C.O., 1999. – Femmes, science et technologie : vers un nouveau développement ?, Conférence mondiale sur la science, Budapest (Hongrie), 26 juin-1er juillet, extraits des débats sur la parité entre hommes et femmes, Edit. Unesco, Paris.

Oum Kalthoum Ben Hassine, Professor of Biology at the University of Tunis and Director of the Research Unit of Biology, Ecology and Parasitology of Aquatic Organisms, is the Founder and President of the Tunisian Association “Women and Sciences”.
Oum Kalthoum holds a Scientific Baccalaureate, a License in Natural Sciences, an Advanced Studies Diploma in Marine Biology and Oceanography, and a PhD in Marine Biology and Oceanography & Doctorate d’état ès Sciences. 
She began her teaching at the University of Tunis in 1971 and she continued her academic career, becoming Professor in Biology in 1984 and Full Professor in 1990. In this period, and, in particular, between 1980 and 1983, she acquired a solid international experience as Associated Professor in Biology at the University “Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc” in Montpelier (France).
Oum Kalthoum is the author of almost two hundred publications in international scientific journals; founder and coordinator of some masters; expert in biology, agriculture, sustainable development and ecology.
Her involvement outside the scope of scientific research is also remarkable and recognized: Oum Kalthoum has received the “Mérite de l'Education et des Sciences” Award in 2000 and 2008; the Certificate for exceptional volunteer services, by the United Nations, in 2001; and she is a member of the European Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.
Of great importance is her interest in gender issues in science. Founder and president of the Tunisian Association of “Women and Sciences”, Professor Hassine is among the foremost leaders of the network for the advancement and education of women scholars in the Mediterranean basin in the field of science and biotechnology.

Association Women in Science in Morocco (AFSM)
by Amina Bettachy, HassanII-Mohamedia University in Casablanca
The Association of Women in Science in Morocco (AFSM) is a body (non-profit organization)  that works to improve the involvement and contribution of women in different fields of science in Morocco. It has been created, in June 2006, towards changing the gender gaps in the scientific field and  promoting the careers of women in science in Morocco.
The AFSM contributes, since its inception in June 2006, to establish an environment to enhance the status of women in scientific and technical careers  and directs its efforts to promote scientific and technological culture among pupils and students through the popularization of science in order to give a better attractiveness of research careers, particularly among girls.
The association counts among its members professors  researchers, PhD students and staff exercising a scientific profession in the public, semi-public or private sector. To achieve its objectives, the AFSM is conducting a series of activities: seminars, training workshops , round tables and workshops at secondary schools and universities. Among his concerns, studies and surveys on the role of women in science. The AFSM is also working to build collaborations at national level with institutions with similar goals (NGOs, regional academies, universities ...).
Currently, a debate has begun within the association to reorient our thinking and advocating to the question of under-representation of scientist women in scientific bodies; they have less access to positions of responsibility and also on the effective participation of women in Scientific Research.
At the international level, the contribution of some of its members to seminars and conferences helped its involvement in networks working for the integration of the gender concept in science. 
In this context mention may be made  to  participation at  the conferences 
- International Conference on physics Education : ICPE2007: Building Careers with Physics- Marrakech ; Novembre 2007
- Conference : « L’homme malade  de son environnement »; March 2008 – Marseille.
- International Conference for Women in Physics : ICWIP 2008- Seoul. ICWIP 2011- South Africa, ICWIP 2014 Waterloo- Canada.
- Co- organisation of the 1rst Moroccan- Canadian meeting on “ Eau- Sol- Climat” Béni- Mellal- 2008.
- Gfs conference: Beyond the leaky pipeline: Challenges for research on gender and science- Brussels, 19-20th October 2010.
- “Research Partnership Workshop on Water, Energy, and the Environment for Women Scientists from the U.S. and North Africa”. Workshop aimed to empowering Women in North Africa to be Leaders in Science and Technology through Career Advancement Opportunities in Water and Energy Research. Casablanca, Morocco March 5-8, 2013.
- Conference : “Género y conocimiento en un mundo global: tejiendo redes”  conference/ Tenerife; 25-27 September 2013.  "Gender and knowledge in a global world: weaving of networks".
- Euro-Mediterranean Workshop on gender and science; May 2014/ Napoli
Amina Bettachy, professor of Physics and Material Science at the Faculty of Science Ben M’sik of the HassanII-Mohamedia University in Casablanca, she is also President of the Association of Women in Science of Marocco.
Amina studied at the University Mohamed V in Rabat, where she earned the Bachelor in Mathematics in 1976; the Licence in Physics, with a specialization in Electronics in 1980; a Diploma of Advanced Studies in 1983 for her researches in thermodynamics; a Diploma of Higher Studies in Theoretical Physics for her studies on phase transitions in magnetism; a PhD in Physics, with a thesis on Polymer Physics and Critical Phenomena.
During her studies and researches in physics, for some years Amina Bettachy taught in higher schools and in refresher courses for teachers. In 1987, finally, she became a professor at the University Hassan-II-Mohamedia. Since 2000 she is Director Search Team at the Laboratory of Polymer Physics and Critical Phenomena.
Besides her work of teaching and scientific training of many young students, Amina is a Founding member of the Moroccan Association of Statistical Physics in1997, and Founding member and Secretary General of the Moroccan Association of Polymer Physics and Soft Matter since 2000. Her researches gave a remarkable contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field of polymer physics and soft matter. Currently, she is particularly interested in studying polyelectrolyte membranes for fuel cells devices used in the applications of energy storage.
Since ten years, Amina is engaged in gender issues. After founding in 2006, the Association of Women in Science in Morocco, of which she is still the president, she was appointed by the IUPAP (International Union Of Pure and Applied Physics) Working Group on Women in Physics  as the coordinator of Women in Physics Group in Morocco (team leader) for the ICWIP - International Conference on Women in Physics in  Seoul (2008), South Africa (2011) and Walerloo- Canada (2014).
With these activities, Amina is contributing to the success of women in the scientific environment of her country and of the whole Maghreb.

GENDER AND SCIENCE: Time for Action. SHEMERA Final Conference in Casablanca
Rachida Nafaa , Université Hassan II, Morocco
During the last day of the Final Conference, on October 20th 2014, participants from eight Arab countries and five European countries discussed and exchanged ideas of the results of SHEMERA that lasted more than 3 years.
That was an opportunity for researchers, activists and officials to set up an action for a greater presence of women scientists in research, teaching and business, including decision making positions.
Researchers and experts from Belgium, Spain, Turkey, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Palestine, all concluded that women still have a long way to achieve parity in scientific areas and that women engagement in science is the basis for all countries development.
The agenda of  this final conference was as following:
  • presenting the results of the final report of the project.
  • the implementation of the recommendations of SHEMERA project.
  • the proposal of equality policies in various scientific areas, especially in countries with gaps in their policy against women.
  • the proposal for an action plan for implementation.
Questions of great relevance have been raised: is there a policy for women in Science and Technology? If yes, how is it applied ? If not, how to set up an action plan for MPC countries, how to raise capacities of women in science, technology and business ?
All the presentations highlighted the constraints that have disrupted the conduct of research and the training of influential groups. Data collection and statistics has been very difficult. Concerning countries from the MPC side, it should be taken into account that very specific circumstances surrounded the project. Turbulent socio-political context of Middle East has been not only the backdrop of the work done, but also had serious implications for the prospect of the recommendations produced.
On the European side the financial difficulties faced by coordinator of the CIREM and the fire that partially destroyed Citta della Scienza reminded also such unexpected risks that can that can touch scientific and cultural institutions.
But the positive sides of this project are highly relevant, since it has attracted the attention on a topic, which was not considered today as a priority in Arab countries due to the political conditions.
The project helped to gather not only a considerable amount of data to carry out comparative analysis for future research goal, but also a comprehensive list of recommendations to encourage national and regional evidence-based policymaking. These recommendations were mainly based on the presentations of the SHEMERA research and discussions that took place during the national workshops in the MPCs.

Report of the conference
At the opening session of researchers Daniele MEULDERS, Síle O'Dorchai and Maria CAPRILE presented the results of the SHEMERA project (see project reports) as coordinators of the project.
Prof. Dr. Bahia Shaheen of the University of Alexandria choose to speak about the National Council for Women (NCW) in Egypt, to show the work being done to promote gender mainstreaming in science in Egypt. The NCW grew out with the reasoning that countries aspiring to accomplish and achieve progress, can’t afford to marginalize women. The NCW aims at promoting and empowering women to play an active role in the undergoing social renaissance of Egypt. Aware of the requirement to reinforce the national organization with women's advancement, Egyptian political leaders have placed the NCW at the highest political level. Political participation is considered the core of democracy and the road leading for sustainable development in the future.
Prof. Farida Khammar from the women ISESCO Chair, presented the organizational structure of this chair, its objectives and actions; of which at least two important ideas are in synergy with SHEMERA goals :
  • the development of innovative strategies for the involvement of women in science, in the management of natural resource, in health and nutrition of populations, in the management of disaster risks (development of technical skills of women); for the implementation of training programs especially in educating girls to continue their studies and in supporting the number of women in the careers of teachers, researchers and engineers.
  • the focus on information and knowledge to empower women and involve them in the governance in all environments: urban, suburban, rural and enable them to contribute to social change.
The Turkish expert, Prof. G. Tan Mine in her lecture “Policy Debate at the national level: national workshops SHEMERA”, noticed that many of the historical events that shocked Middle East (ie, the so -called 'Arab Spring'), the conflicts or war in Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Libya, rising of ultra conservative Islamic invasions happened all in the course of this project. Despite this, national workshops were organized in several countries and have given important and relevant conclusions. The best success is that policy makers are aware of this issue and are mobilized for future action.
Prof. Rachida NAFAA, tried to show the evolution of the Moroccan context in terms of democracy and equality. Morocco has made great progress, but some problems still exist. Women are able to gain access to schools universities (48%), and also in the exercise of administrative functions (41%). However, their integration of the teaching professions remains below the expectations. Indeed, at this level, the rate of female presence hardly exceeds 26% (2012-2013). Students are present in all levels of education without discrimination. Overall, the percentage of women is 47% in the normal cycle, 42% in Master (this rate reached 44% in professional and specialized master) and 36% in PhD (base year 2011-2012). But there is a gender gap in employment and the rate of women is particularly low : 68% for men and 23.4% for women. Moreover very few or no data have been collected in Morocco for the following : The number of women researchers in the private sector, the number of female researchers in industries, the number of women researchers in business, management and trade; the place of women researchers in the leadership, the number of full-time researchers in the public sector, the number of full-time researchers in the business sector; expenditures on R & D in terms of purchasing power in higher education; spending on research and development as standard in the public sector; spending on research specific to women.
Pr. KARAKI Ghada, from Birzeit University in her presentation “Women Participation in Academia: Facts and Challenges”, illustrated the situation of women in higher education and research. Palestinian women have achieved parity in some areas: University regulations are neutral and convey with the basic labour law that protects employees; there is no pay gap between female and male staff; union of teachers and employees and IWS promoted the discussion regarding enhancing women‘s representation in Academic and Administrative positions; good practices have been implemented such as offering funds for building capacity and hiring women of high academic background. But this is not the case for all sectors: there is no fixed systematic plan to reduce the gender gap or a time table for making the change. There is no clear hiring policies that are sensitive to women, especially when it is a tie between female and male candidates in qualification. The standards and definition of excellence for ranking the candidates for hiring or promotion is not always clear and often left to the power of groups, women being not part of it. Future steps, already started to define gender gap and diagnose root causes of the gap, suggestion for regulation reforms that aims to make these regulations gender sensitive to empower women, to establish a Gender Monitor that tracks gender violations in procedures and policies within the university.
The Expert from (Tunisia) Prof. Ben Hassine presented the state of the art and perspectives for Tunisian women in science. In Tunisia, the international conference on "Women, science and technology" in November 1997 was decisive for the outcomes of women in science, where the under-representation of women in science was demonstrated. The main outcome was the establishment of a Tunisian Association about Women in Science. Studies on women in science and in scientific fields showed that women get their PhD thesis or their empowerment to conduct researches at a more advanced age than men (30.7 against 29.2 and 42 against 37.5 respectively).
The woman marries younger than men and have the first child before obtaining doctorate. Man marries after the doctorate.  Women participate less than men to the implementation of research projects (the rate is 2.4 against 4.7 for men), especially as a project manager.
Their contribution to the assessment of products and research projects is very low compared to men (0.7 against 5.8 for items, 0.2/0.5 for projects against 86%), as well as their participation to commissions. Two proposal have been made: the establishment of appropriate policies that helps women to reconcile familiar and professional responsibilities, the development of educational policies for women to be more competitive in the labor market.
Dr. Yasser Refaat from Egypt, presents a list of recommendations (namely plans) about gender quality coming out from the National workshops: from gender balance in committees to mentoring and networking; measures for a better work-life balance and to promote mobility and dual careers; gender impact assessment of procedures and practices; deepening the gender dimension of education policies including a more proactive role to fight gender stereotypes; promoting gender mix in all primary and secondary school in order to study; favoring a more gender-balanced distribution across study fields at later stages of the educational and professional career. In particular gender dimension should be integrated into university curricula in all study fields, Including natural sciences and technology. High quality degrees in gender studies are needed to achieve a critical mass of gender experts at the national level.
At the end of the conference, the researcher Dr. Maria Caprile, gave an excellent closing presentation, specifying also the dates of the latest reports to conclude the project.
Anyway, we should regret the absence of some experts, parliamentarians and senior officials from Europe and Arab countries. Their presence should have been useful to find echoes to the results and the recommendations formulated during the project. The role of NGOs is key, it may be the only way to achieve equality.

By Maria Caprile

1. Enhancing political will and increasing cooperation between key actors
The advancement of women in science requires political will and cooperation between different actors: government, scientific institutions (academic, educational, research and funding institutions), private companies, professional associations, employers’ organisations and trade unions and women’s and other relevant non-governmental associations. Political will and cooperation should be firmly rooted in the view that promoting gender equality in science is not a women’s issue. It concerns and should fully engage men as well as women. Wasting women’s talent is unfair to women but also bad for science and society.
2. Supporting policy-making through data gathering and research
Governments should implement the necessary measures to strengthen the evidence base for sound policy making in the field of gender and science. There is a pressing need for the Arab Mediterranean countries to elaborate statistical data as is being done in Europe (R&D surveys, Labour Force surveys, data on wages, and so forth). Not only are key data lacking but available data are often of lower reliability, comparability and quality. Further research is needed in order to identify the set of constraints, barriers and biases that undermine women’s access, retention and promotion in science on equal terms with men. Such research is only possible when good data are collected regularly.
3. Establishing appropriate governmental structures for promoting gender equality in science
Governments should establish gender and science units at the highest possible governmental level with appropriate resources of staff, expertise and funding. These units should act as focal points for preparing and monitoring national strategies for gender equality in science with the involvement of all key actors.
4. Encouraging scientific institutions to adopt gender equality plans
Governments should enact legislation and implement measures to encourage and support scientific institutions to adopt gender equality plans. At the institutional level, basic prerequisites are: getting the support of persons in high-level responsibility positions, carrying out a sound audit of the institution (data and indicators), establishing a gender equality unit in charge of monitoring gender equality and implementation of preventive and corrective measures. Gender equality plans should address a wide range of policies, including:
  • gender balance in committees
  • gender-neutral criteria for promoting equal access to scientific positions and funding
  • transparency in decision-making
  • mentoring, networking, role models
  • work-life balance measures for both women and men
  • gender-sensitive measures to promote mobility and dual careers
  • measures for enhancing gender awareness and removing gender bias
  • gender impact assessment of procedures and practices
5. Deepening the gender dimension of education policies
The education system (primary, secondary and tertiary education) should adopt a more proactive role to fight gender stereotypes. It should carry out gender proofing of curricula and of pedagogical and counselling practices in order to remove gender bias. Measures are needed to promote a gender mix in all primary and secondary school study fields in order to favour a more gender-balanced distribution across study fields at later stages of the educational and professional career. The gender dimension should be integrated into university curricula in all study fields, including natural sciences and technology. High quality degrees in gender studies are needed for achieving a critical mass of gender experts at the national level.
6. Strengthening R&D as a precondition for improving women’s opportunities and prospects in science
Increasing public and private R&D expenditure is a challenge common to all the Arab Mediterranean countries. It is also a precondition for improving employment opportunities and career prospects for young women in science, both in academia and the private sector. Specific measures to facilitate women’s access to research positions in the private sector are required. Strengthening R&D also entails improving the quality of R&D outputs. Measures are also needed in order to foster the integration of the gender dimension in research content in order to better align R&D on societal needs and improve the lives of both men and women.
7. Enhancing south-south and north-south cooperation on gender and science
Many of the problems faced by women in science are common all over the world; others are specific to certain regions or countries. International initiatives and foreign grants are playing an important role in the Arab Mediterranean countries – giving support to women’s careers and enhancing gender awareness. SHEMERA has demonstrated the effectiveness of south-south and north-south cooperation for promoting research and policy debate around gender and science issues. The project has also paved the way for a further strengthening of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in this field.
8. Adopting an effective strategy for inclusive development and gender equality
The issue of gender equality in science cannot be disentangled from the wide range of gender inequalities in society at large. Legal, social and economic factors that undermine women’s status in the Arab Mediterranean countries have to be addressed in order to prevent any form of gender discrimination. Only an inclusive development strategy can ensure citizens’ equal access to socioeconomic and political rights and opportunities, irrespective of class, religion, ethnic affiliation and gender.

Women in science: Time to recognise the obvious
Prof. Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Address to the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World,
held in Egypt in 2005
“The battle for women in science is a battle for the whole of society, for all humankind.
We must not only mobilize women, we must also educate men. We must hold up mirrors that show them society as it really is, and open windows through which they can see the world as it can be. We cannot focus on building and empowering the women of tomorrow without worrying about re-educating the men of yesterday.
The obstacles are large, but they are not insurmountable. The journey is long, but women have already come a long way, and men are increasingly recognizing their responsibilities to help remove the many obstacles that still prevent women scientists from rising to their full potential and giving society the full measure of their talent.”
Serageldin, I. (2006) Women in Science: Time to Recognize the Obvious, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, p. 28


Women and science in Europe
M. Pilar López-Sancho, Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid-CSIC, Women and Science Commission of CSIC; Spain
One of the most important social changes that happened during the last century was the incorporation of women   to   paid work.  The official admittance of women to the university in most countries, allowed girls to receive higher education and, once graduated, to enter into the professional labor market. The number of female students has considerably increased and in 2009 women got the 60% of the university degrees and 45% of the Ph.D.  in the Member States of the European Union   (EU).  However, the proportion of women drops to 18% in Grade A academic staff (She Figures 2009). Why?
In the last quarter of the XX century distinguished scholars established a new analytical category “GENDER” which revealed to be a crucial tool of analysis to understand historical facts, social problems and to reinterpret different situations. The concept of gender is fundamental not only for the feminist theory but also in general sociology.
At the turn of the XXI century, sex-discrimination was identified as a serious problem in academia and scientific research areas. It was thought that promotion of gender equality  would contribute to achieve  excellence and efficiency.  Gender mainstreaming, the systematic integration of gender equality into all policies, has been adopted as a tool to obtain gender balance in the scientific careers. 
In the EU the under-representation of women in scientific careers is a serious concern since 1999. The European Commission (EC) has adopted different actions and policies to promote the participation of women in science and research. The Helsinki Group, set up to focus on this issue, has provided sex-disaggregated statistics and has developed gender sensitive indicators in order to monitor the participation of women in research in the European countries. The EC has funded several projects to study and analyse the causes of the problem. Recommendations have been done to improve the status of women in science. After such a huge work on gender mainstreaming, the data published in She Figures 2012 show that, on average in the EU women represent the 40% of all researchers in the Higher Education Sector but the proportion of women in Grade A has increased from 15% in 2002 to 20% in 2010, on  average, in the EU-27 Member States. These numbers are well below the 25% minimum optimum fixed in Lisbon for this year.  In science and engineering this proportion is even lower, 8% in 2002 and 11% in 2010. Although there is a large degree of cross-country disparity, the progress of women is very slow in all of them. The salary gap is as well a fact and conscious or unconscious bias in the assessment of scientific merits by peer review has been detected in very prestigious institutions. The early study carried in 1997 by  Wenneras and Wold1  about gender bias in peer-review in Sweden, has been confirmed in 2012 by  Moss-Racusin and collaborators2 in a blind study with 127 science faculty members of the prestigious universities in United States of America.  The application of a student, randomly assigned a male or a female name, for a laboratory manager position, was sent to the 127 faculty. All participants, both women and men, rated the male applicant as significantly more competent than the (identical) female applicant and also selected a higher starting salary to the male applicant. In March 7th 2013 Nature published a special  section : “Women’s Work” with the subtitle “Women in Science. The gender gap and how to close it”. Several authors have documented the current status of women in science.  Important data about the salary and funding gap were   given 3.  Conclusions as     “Science remains institutionally sexist” or “Providing equal opportunities for women in science require changes at every level” can be read in the various articles of this Nature special issue3.
In 2011 the EC, considering that the existing policies were insufficient to increase the number of women in science and, in particular at the highest levels, made a change of focus towards addressing   the transformation of scientific institutions: universities, research organisations, funding bodies.  In the document “Structural change in research institutions: Enhancing excellence,  gender equality and efficiency in research and innovation” published by the EC, five main problems are identified in research institutions: the lack of transparency in decision- making; cognitive errors in assessing merits; unconscious gender bias in the assessment of excellence and the process of peer review; important implications of gender bias in research contents; gender pay gap and gendered ways in the organization of work. The report proposes to the organizations to develop statistics and indicators in order to acknowledge the situation; getting support from persons in positions of responsibility; generating effective management practices by ensuring gender expertise and by raising awareness.  These structural changes would modernize the universities and scientific institutions improving their performance.
The integration of the gender dimension in the research content is been supported by the project Gendered Innovations a join initiative of the EC and the Stanford University which employs methods of sex and gender analysis to create new knowledge in science, health and medicine, engineering and environment. The Gendered Innovations Project was presented to the European Parliament in July 2013 and the report “Gendered Innovations. How gender analysis contributed to research” was published with a foreword by the European Commissioner, Máire Geogheangan-Quinn. In the report twenty-three case studies are presented showing the importance of the integration of sex and gender analysis into research and innovation.  The project offer to researchers the tools to  include the  sex and gender perspective in the research.
The lack of success of women in academic career is a general concern.  The proportion  of  women awarded scientific prizes is very  low,  and so it is in Academies and leading positions of scientific institutions. In fact the L’Orèal-UNESCO For Women in Science Program which recognizes the achievements only of female scientists was founded in 1998 to promote a greater participation of women in science4. Where is the problem? Are women unfitted for science?  What barriers do women face? What are the values rewarded by the current scientific system? 
A recent publication5 focuses attention on some of the most important parameters that allow an early-career scientist calculate the probability to become someday principal investigator. The paper is based on a more complicated former work using PubMed data to study the influence of 200 factors on academic scientists’ career trajectories. On the basis of a few standard publication metrics, by using a simplified model based on the same data set, the Science Careers  publication identified four factors: 1.- Be male; 2.- Be selfish; 3.- Be elite; 4.- Publish in journals with high impact factors. As the editor of Science Careers, Jim Austin who signed the paper, comments  about this results “its real value is that it so clearly demonstrates the wide gap between science’s ideals and incentives”. 
The gender gap is present as well in new branches of science as computational science, which developed well after the arrival of women to universities.  The resilience shown by ancient prejudices even in learned and documented scholars has to be a matter of concern. If scientists boast of something is about objectivity and neutrality.   Can we work peacefully facing the proofs of our bias in such easy matters? What other subtle prejudices are unconsciously at work in our minds?  Not only sex and gender prejudices but as well race, nationality, religion, or social class prejudices could be contaminating the scientific work6.
Both the Study on the Status of Women Faculty in Science of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)7   the ETAN Report, published on 1999 had a great impact among the female researchers on experimental sciences in Spain. Women scientists started to organize themselves. In 2001 the Association of Women in Research and Technology (AMIT) was launched to improve the status of women and to enhance the visibility of their achievements7; divisions on women status were organized in some Scientific Societies8. At the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the largest public research institution in Spain, a women’s working group start at 2001 and the first sex-disaggregated statistics of the scientific staff were published showing the gender gap. In 2002 the Executive Board passed the creation of a Commission to advice the Presidency for the analysis, tracking and improvement of the scientific career of women in the CSIC. This Commission is still working9. From 2004 to 2007 the legal framework for equality improved considerably. Parliament passed several laws focused on the improvement of women at all levels and in different sectors. The Order of the Presidency of March 8th, 2005, to reach gender balance in public institutions and companies was particularly important due to the recommendation about the recruitment, promotion and decision-making committees (a 40% of the less represented sex).The new legal framework alongside the increase of available positions in public research organisations allowed  an improvement of the status of women  but the economic crisis have stopped the benefits of the laws.
1 Wenneras, C. and Wold, A. ; “Nepotism and sexism in peer-review” Nature 387, 349 (10997)-
2 Moss-Racusin, C. A.; Dovidio, J. F.; Bresscoll, V. L.; Graham, M. J.; Handelsman, J.; (2012) “Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students”, J. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 109, 16744-16749 (2014) (
3 Special Issue: Women in Science; Nature 495, 21-44(2013).
5 Austin, J.; “What it takes”, Science 344, 1422 (2014) (
6 Ginther, D.K.; Schaffer, W.T.; Schnell, J.; Masimor, B.; Liu, F.; Hank, L.L., Kington, R.; “Race, Ethnicity and NIH Research Awards”; Science 333, 1015 (2011). 
The documents published by the European Commission are available at

Science represents an opportunity for sustainable development and peace for all people living along Mediterranean shores. The number of women, with high and creative profiles, has grown within the scientific community in Mediterranean countries. These women enrich scientific research with their own personal experiences and individual personalities. This is why every issue of the Shemera e-newsletter offers “portraits” of three researchers who have all contributed, and continue to do so, in making science an opportunity for sustainable development and peace in their countries and in the entire Mediterranean region.

Pietro Greco, Science Writer, Fondazione IDIS-Città della Scienza

Rahma Bourquia 

Rahma Bourqia, 65, a sociologist and anthropologist, is the first woman to have assumed the presidency of a university in Morocco and to be appointed in the Royal Academy of her country.
Born in Khémisset in 1949, she has carried out her primary and secondary studies in Tangier, and later she graduated in Philosophy and earned an Advanced Studies Diploma in Sociology at the University Mohammed V in Rabat. Then, she moved to Manchester, UK, where in 1987 she received her PhD in Sociology with a thesis entitled « State and rural society ». In 1988 in the United States this research work was awarded with the Malcolm Kerr Award of the American Association for the Study of Maghreb and Middle East as the best doctoral thesis. In the following years, Rahma Bourqia’s researches have focused increasingly on the status of women in Maghreb.
Since her return in Morocco, Rahma Bourqia has taught at the University Mohammed V in Rabat from 1990 to 1997; then she moved at the University Hassan II Mohammédia, of which she became dean in 2002. The first woman to head a university in Morocco, she led the University Hassan II Mohammédia for eight years, until 2010. In 2002 she was also admitted to the Royal Academy of Morocco, the first woman to achieve such a recognition.
In all these years, Rahma Bourqia continued to do research in the field of humanities, ranging from the cultural sociology to the political sociology and anthropology. Always with a watchful eye to the status of women in Maghreb and, more generally, in the Middle East, her researches have gained a wide international recognition, testified by the honorary degrees from the University Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, the Indiana State University (USA) and the Liege University in Belgium.


Zahida Darwish Jabbour

Zahida Darwish Jabbour, Lebanese writer and former professor of French Literature, Francophone Literature and Comparative Literature at the University of Lebanon, is  Secretary General of the Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO since 2012.
Her passion for literature and for the contamination of cultures has led her to achieve in 1979 a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University Jean Moulin (Lyon III) and, again, in 1985, a PhD in French Literature with a specialization in poetry at the same university.
From 1970 and until 2011 she taught at the University of Lebanon and, in 2007, she was also Visiting Professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Zahida is the author of a number of books, essays and articles.
In addition to her intensive academic activity, Zahida Darwish Jabbour is involved also in civil society. Since 1995 she is a member of the Union of Writers of Lebanon and in 2006 she founded the Association for the Advancement of Reading and the Culture of Dialogue in Lebanon, of which she is the president. Furthermore, since 2000 Zahida is a member of the Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO, of which she became Secretary General twelve years later.
For all this and more, Zahida Darwish Jabbour has received many awards, including, in 2002, the Knight of the Order of Academic Palms for the dissemination of French culture assigned by the French government in Paris and, in 2006, the Medal of the French Cultural Mission from the French Embassy in Lebanon.
All the work of Zahida Darwish Jabbour is based on the idea of dialogue between cultures and the creative capability through cultural contamination. Zahida is convinced that “a new concept appeared on the scene of contemporary culture, that of world citizenship”. Aim of individuals as well as large international organizations is precisely, according to her, giving shape to this concept.

Amal Kabous 

Amal Kabous, full professor at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, Aleppo University, in Syria, uses in years the tools of statistics to study and enhance the presence of women in universities and in the business world of her country and in the Arab countries of the Mediterranean basin. She was the head of the Statistics Department of Aleppo University for two times, from 1981 to1986 and from1996 to 1998.  Amal has a strong international culture because she is a member of the Francophone center of the Aleppo University as well as because she studied and worked extensively abroad: in fact, she obtained the PhD in France, with a thesis on : “Recherches sur les modèles de croissance optimale et leur application au développement des pays arabes”.
Since 1979, she teaches especially in the field of Statistics, applied to Demography and Social Sciences. More recently, she participated as a visiting professor and head of Department in the Studies Centre for Girls at the Saoudian Kingdom University in Riyadh. She spent a sabbatical year in Paris at I.N.E.D (National Institute of Demographic Studies) and a second one for four months at I.I.E.P. (United Nations, Paris, France).
Titles of her most important research works  –  “The importance of statistics data in planning for women contribution in economic development”; “Relation between Marriage Rate & the Fertility”; “The participation of familial Environment to support married women to execute his role”; “Demographic factors in juvenile delinquency" – reveal her interest in the studies on women’s social status.
Thanks to her studies, she has been appointed scientific responsible of the Centre of Demography created in the Faculty of Economics, Aleppo University by the United Nations. 



In this last edition of the SHEMERA e-newsletter, we would like to remind the an outstanding women from the past

Fatima Muhammad Al-Fihri 

Fatima al Fihri was born in Kairouan, today in Tunisia, in 800 AD. She was the daughter of Mohammad bin Abdullah Al-Fihri, a wealthy businessman. Her family moved to Fez, on the left bank of the River Fez, in Morocco, when Fatima was a baby. Here, in 859, she founded the mosque and the madrasa of al-Qarawiyyin, considered the first university in the world.
When Fatima al Fihri arrived in Fez, it was one of most influential Muslim cities: a melting-pot of cultures with people of different religions. Women were an active component of the society and, also, of the education system.
In Fez, Mohammad bin Abdullah Al-Fihri had success and Fatima get married young. Some years later she lost her husband, her father and her brother. A sizable inheritance assured to Fatima not only the financial independence but also the possibility to create the al-Qarawiyyin mosque and madrasa: a center of very advanced learning in theology, philosophy and jurisprudence.
Thanks to the ideas and the activity of Fatima al-Fihri, al-Qarawiyyin became one of the most influential center of studies of Mediterranean Sea. The center was attended by a number of great Muslim scholars as cartographer Muhammad al-Idris,  Ibn Khaldun,  pioneer of sociology, jurists Muhammad al-Fasi and Ibn al-Arabi, historian Ibn Khaldun, astronomer al-Bitruji (Alpetragius), and Leo Africanus, the famous author and traveler.
Not Muslim scholars also studied in al-Qarawiyyin, as the Jewish physician and philosopher Maimonides and the Cristian Gerber of Auvergne (who later became Pope Sylvester II and was the first European to meet the Hindu-Arabic numerals and the concept of zero). The university founded by Fatima al Fihri was truly a bridge between Islamic and European culture. 

A Global Exchange for Change, October 21-25, 2014, Los Angeles, California
More than 7,000 women from around the world met in Los Angeles on October from the 23-25 for WE14 + ICWES16 for the largest global exchange for change for women engineers.
WE14 hosted also ICWES16, the 16th International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists. Now celebrating 50 years since the first ICWES, hosted by SWE, WE14 + ICWES16 welcomed engineers and scientists from around the globe. Attendees from both organizations discovered the latest in technology while building their professional networks and contemplating the next steps in their careers.

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

Started in 1994, GHC is now the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. In 2013, GHC hosted over 4,750 attendees from 53 countries including 1,900 students from over 400 academic institutions and 2,850 professionals from industry, government and academia.   The conference features keynotes by prominent women in technology, career workshops, and technical tracks from leading researchers and the best of ACM SIGSOFT & SIGGRAPH.  Meet the women who are transforming technology at the Grace Hopper Celebration.
The 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing was held October 8-10.
Learn more at 

The Next Chapter of Mediterranean Dialogue

From 28th to 30th October 2014, a series of parallel meetings was organized in the framework of the Napoli Conference: the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Advisory Council and Heads of National Civil Society Networks; the Senior Ambassadors of the 42 Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean; the EU Southern Neighbourhood civil society dialogue forum; and the Italian Civil Society Network for Intercultural Dialogue (RIDE). The Napoli Conference also involved leading regional actors and international institutions, including the European Union and the League of Arab States.

SSI, Science, Innovation and Society: Achieving Responsible Research and Innovation, Rome, 19-21 November 2014

The conference’s theme was on the evolution of EU funded activities and policies on Responsible Research and Innovation: the transition from “Science and Society” to “Science in Society” and ultimately to “Science with and for Society”. It draw lessons learned from the EU funded research projects, with a focus on internationalization and comparison of good practices in the Member States.
The main aim of the Conference was to elaborate an effective instrument for the European Commission to be used to plan future RRI framework actions and objectives. A concluding document a Rome Declaration was delivered which draw on the Conference conclusions and recommendations.
In a special session devoted  to  “Science with and for  Society in Rome” Flavia Zucco presented the SHEMERA project  (IDIS- Città della scienza)  as part of the activities of the Associazione Donne e Scienza
Presentations are available on…/TIIYSIFTAPXEN…/er2/index.html
Web site: /

City of Casablanca (Morocco) was the location for the SHEMERA Final Conference (20 october 2014).

Fondazione IDIS – Città della Scienza, Naples (Italy)
Anne - Marie Bruyas, Pietro Greco, Michaela Riccio, Flavia Zucco
Fondazione IDIS – Città della Scienza, Naples (Italy)
Attilio Iannitto, Roberto Paura