International Women's Day 2022: COST Actions for a sustainable tomorrow


As celebrations for International Women’s Day (IWD) take place today on 8 March, the importance of maintaining efforts to promote gender equality is put at the forefront of worldwide priorities. With a focus on fostering gender equality in the context of the climate crisis and disaster risk reduction, IWD 2022 looks at ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’. In this context, we highlight the need to empower the voices of women and girls and ensure they are equal players in decision-making related to climate change and sustainability.

Boosting the share of women researchers is crucial in tackling gender equality to addressing climate change. COST has been very active in the last 50 years in supporting the participation of women in science. Promoting gender balance throughout COST Action activities is a key principle of the COST Excellence and Inclusiveness policy. By being open and flexible, COST Actions are strong foundations to build diverse and inclusive research networks.

COST Connect on gender equality

Illustation of a women facing a man with a loading bar below

In 2021, to allow its researchers to further exchange on this specific topic, COST organised a dedicated COST Connect on Advancing gender equality in research and innovation. Participants of this event recognised COST as a front-runner regarding gender equality with its Excellence and Inclusiveness policy.

Advancing gender equality in research and innovation is a key objective of the European Union’s gender equality policy. Across Europe the numbers have increased over the last years (women are indeed a majority among PhD graduates), however, only a third of women are scientists, a phenomenon especially visible in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) where women are even less represented.

At a glance: women’s participation in COST Actions

  • 48% of participants in COST Actions are women;
  • 37% of the Chairs and 49% of the Vice-Chairs are women;
  • 46% of the total participants in COST Actions are young women researchers;
  • 51% of ITC participants in COST Actions are women.

Women in science

On the ‘International Day of Women and Girls in Science’, celebrated last month, COST invited six COST Action researchers to share their career experiences through interviews.  

Three black and white portrait photos of women researchers looking directly to camera
From L to R: Dr. Marie RUIZ, Dr. Anna Einarsdottir, and Dr. Rita Duarte.

Increasing participation of women researchers is essential and Dr. Marie Ruiz, Chair of the Women on the Move COST Action, in her interview for COST said:

“Emphasizing women’s visibility in science is a natural phenomenon and a necessary step to reach equality. “

When asked why it is important to keep talking about women in science, Dr. Anna Einarsdottir, Chair of the LGBTI+ Social and Economic (in)equalities COST Action, explains that it is:

“Mostly because women are still underrepresented in science, a field that is largely shaped by masculinity and masculine values. In my discipline, management, women are well represented among early career scholars, but less in senior level positions. Clearly there is a lot more work to do still.”

Working in the field of chemistry, Dr. Rita Duarte, Chair of the Green Chemical Engineering Network towards upscaling sustainable processes COST Action, describes on her side:

Don’t be discouraged by others opinion or by the hurdles that may come ahead. Pursue your passion for science, keep your curious mind alive and follow your dreams!

Despite the numbers in Portugal show a good balance between men and women in science, the same does not happen worldwide and until science is seen as an equal path for both men and women we should keep talking about women in science.”

COST at ‘Picture A Scientist’

To mark this special Day, the United Nations organises a special screening of the film ‘Picture A Scientist’ in Brussels . On this occasion, COST Policy Officer, Judith Litjens, will join the panel discussion that will follow the broadcast on the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. Find more information on this event here and register here.

More information

– Watch COST video on Women participation in COST Actions and conference on Women in Quantum Technologies here

– Read COST news on ‘International Women’s Day 2021 – COST fully committed to support Women leadership’ here

– Read the interview of Magdalenda Król, member of the COST Action Mye-EUNITER here

– Read the news on COST Connect ‘Advancing gender equality in research and innovation’ here

– More about COST Open Call 2021 here

– More about COST Actions here

– Read COST interviews’ series on ‘Women in science’: Dr. Anna Einarsdottir here; Prof. Ana Ganho Ávila here; Dr. Marie Ruiz here; Dr. Elena Cuoco here; Prof. Maria Letizia Jaccheri here; and Dr. Rita Duarte here.