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Gender in the Portugal Research Arena: A Case Study in European Leadership

March 1, 2021 | 14 min read

Biotechnologists carryout out a medical test

Shattering the glass ceiling in research, Portugal has emerged as a pioneer in Europe in bridging the gender gap, with a remarkable 10% increase in women's representation over the last two decades.

Gender in the Portugal Research Arena: A Case Study in European Leadership (2021)

Over the last two decades, Portugal has exhibited the largest percentage increase in women’s representation — an impressive 10% — putting the country at the leading edge of closing the gender gap in research.

Gender in the Portugal Research Arena: A Case Study in European Leadershipopens in new tab/window offers a data-led look at the dynamics underlying Portugal’s leading edge. At the same time, it points to persisting gender gaps in research that require stronger transformative efforts, and it reveals how these gaps tend to mimic and perpetuate structural inequalities between women and men.

Together with distinguished academic leaders in Portugal, we have worked to put into context quantitative analyses with policy perspectives, insights and best practices. We hope to contribute insights from the experience of one country to inform policy and inspire targeted initiatives among policymakers, research leaders and funders around the world to achieve gender equity in research.

Key findings

  • Women represent nearly 50% of active authors in Portugal — the closest to gender parity for all EU28 countries analyzed

  • Women are highly represented across the life sciences and health sciences fields, where gains in Portugal continue to be largest, and in chemistry, chemical engineering and psychology

  • They remain most underrepresented within the physical sciences, especially in fields related to data science and AI such as computer science, mathematics and engineering

  • In Portugal, women are most highly represented among first authors, indicative of greater gender representation for early-career researchers

    • Also, unlike the trend seen in other countries, women researchers are likely to continue publishing over time, thus remaining in research

Portugal’s leadership is the result of many deliberate steps, the result of specific policy initiatives and a coordinated approach to targeted interventions. Such efforts are combined with a longstanding commitment to strong early education STEM interventions and research on gender equality, as well as funding to implement work-life balance and gender equity plans.

Cover of the report "Gender in the Portugal Research Arena"

Gender in the Portugal Research Arena: A Case Study in European Leadership

Download the report opens in new tab/window

As Rosa Monteiroopens in new tab/window, Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality, Portugal, states in the report:

The latest report gives us a positive picture of gender diversity progress in research. This seems to accompany women’s increased participation in the labor market. However, we also see that research reproduces structural gender inequality patterns. For example, having men with longer publication histories and established international networks is a reflection of career interruptions and the reality that women still shoulder a much larger share of unpaid care work than men over the life course, with gender gaps in terms of pay and vertical segregation.

Image of Rosa Monteiro

Rosa Monteiro, Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality, Portugal

Percentage of women and men among researchers in Portugal

Percentage of women and men among researchers in Portugal (PRT) compared with Denmark (DNK), Italy (ITA) and an aggregate regional comparator that includes 27 European Union countries plus the UK (EU28). (Source: Scopus and NamSor)

Percentage of women and men among researchers in all research and selected subject areas

The percentage of women and men among researchers in all research and selected subject areas in the physical sciences in Portugal during the period 2014–18. (Source: Scopus and NamSor)

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