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BioCop - New Technologies to Screen Multiple Contaminants in Foods

Women in BioCop

Gender Action Plan
Details of the BioCop Gender Action Plan to involve more Women in BioCop.
Women in Biocop Links
External Links Detailing Women in Science.
Women in BioCop Biographies
Individual details of Women involved in the BioCop project.
BioCop International Fellowship Programme
Details of the 2009 BioCop Fellowship programme.
Women Fellowship Winners
Women Fellowship Winners
Women in Biocop Sponsorship
Calls for Sponsorship.
Print All Women in BioCop Bio's
Click the link below to launch a print version of the complete list of Women in BioCop Biographies.

Gender Action Plan

A special gender action programme is set up to attempt to involve more women in the monitoring of chemical contaminants. The issue of involvement of women is not specific to this field, but rather a more general issue for science as a whole. At the same time, it is not a problem that can be “fixed” at the research level. There is a limited interest from women in science and engineering in general and there is consequently a need to consider how awareness of the discipline can be raised, beginning in high school. Without an adequate number of female students entering into university programmes, the situation in research in general will not improve.

The Gender manager (Dr. Chen Situ) of the BioCop project is also a member of both the Top Management Group and Project Steering Committee within BioCop and is responsible for all issues relating to equality of opportunity for scientists involved in BioCop, scientists employed as a result of BioCop and scientists selected to participate in BioCop workshops and training events. Dr. Chen will liaise with the Commission's Network on Gender Aspects in Food Quality and Safety Research and will produce an annual report on advancement of gender issues in this IP.

To ensure that the commitment to gender issues is kept as an important topic during the life of BioCop a number of action points have been agreed by the consortium and some recommendations have also been formulated for gender mainstreaming within the project. These are as follows:

1. Gender statistics
Gender statistics on the workforce employed by the project will be collated periodically in order to monitor the status of women in the project and the progress made in terms of gender balance as the project moves forward.

2. Mainstreaming gender equality
Mainstreaming gender equality is a commitment to ensure that women’s, as well as men’s, concerns and experiences are integral to activities such as research, policy development, programme delivery or technical assistance activities, so that women and men can benefit equally.  The issue needs to be treated in the same way as any other organisational function, such as staffing, budgeting or annual reporting. BioCop’s partners have given a strong commitment that in employing any new staff or students for the project’s work, they will take into account the need to encourage more women to work in science.  The result of implementation is reflected by more than 42% of overall women’s participation in the past three years of the project.  In advertising for and selecting candidates for training, it will ensure men and women having equal access to these opportunities and encourage equal numbers of men and women to take part.

3. Recommendations for redressing work-life balance
BioCop recognise the need to treat the employee as a whole person.  Partners are asked to verify that their employment contracts allow for parental leave and part-time working/job sharing for women with young children.  If this is not the case, the consortium management will request measures be taken to rectify the situation.

4. Raising scientific awareness: BioCop Fellowship for female scientist
BioCop launched the BioCop Fellowship Scheme in early 2006.  This will be an annual event with the aim to raise scientific awareness of female researchers.  The BioCop Fellowship will support a two-week period of scientific visits, study or research-related activities to any institute or research centre of the receiver’s own choice.

5. Network of women scientists
The BioCop website outlines the role of women in the project (''Women in BioCop'') and aims to establish a network for female participants as a communication tool with a platform for dicussion for all gender-specific aspects. It mirrors the ongoing discussions and is suitable to promote the awareness of gender issues among interested website readers. It also includes detailed profiles of all the women scientists working within the project other relevent information includes ''women in BioCop website links'' (e.g. the EU’s women in science site, - (online network for women in agriculture)

6. Mentoring programme for female researchers
In order to increase the number of women who can maintain their science career and are able to return to the field after a career break, they need access to opportunities for self-development and to meet people who can introduce them to these opportunities. Many BioCop partner organisations have mentoring programme for staff, female staff in particular, as part of the personal training and development programme. The objectives of this programme will be: 1) to provide supervision and assistance for young female scientists in all gender-related issues; 2) to stimulate discussion and exchange experiences; 3) to help them achieve their potential through promotion they need and advice and help they obtain from more experienced people on what is possible and how others solve the problems. Mentoring is acknowledged as a key tool in personal development and empowerment.   

7. Other activities
Wherever possible, ‘outreach’ events will be organised by individual organisations to address the under-representation of women in science. These will include annual visits to schools by all scientific organisations in the project to encourage female science pupils to take an interest in this area.

These undertakings are given as a commitment to the acknowledgement that the role of women in science is an important topic.

8. Other issues
Many chemical contaminants in food have a greater impact on women than men. This is sometimes because lifestyle differences make men’s and women’s levels of exposure different and can also be caused by physiological differences. The consumption of food with chemical contaminants by pregnant women can have a negative impact on the foetus’ health and when consumed by women, who are breast-feeding, can be detrimental to the baby’s health.

As well as having a greater impact on their health, food contamination by chemicals is of greater concern for women consumers than for men.

Although these gender differences do not come within the scope of BioCop’s work, they show that the development of new means of testing for chemical contaminants in food will have a positive impact on women’s health and address the special concerns of women consumers.

Contact Person - Dr. Chen Situ, Queen’s University Belfast

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