08 March 2013
Today, 8 March, is International Women’s Day. This is an occasion to reflect on the EPO’s attitude to the position of women and on what it does as an employer to address their concerns.
For some years, one of the major innovation challenges for Europe has been to encourage young people to study science and technology. Many countries across Europe have dedicated programmes to increase the number of science graduates. In some fields of technology, moreover, there is an urgent problem of gender imbalance. The EU has set up programmes to counter this and promote gender equality in science.
The EPO, as an international organisation, recruits some 200 to 300 scientists and engineers per year from all over Europe. Today the EPO has 7 000 staff, 4 100 of whom are university-trained specialists working as patent examiners. Women account for 33.6% of the EPO’s workforce.
The EPO has developed a very attractive working environment, enabling staff to balance work and family life.
Last year, we launched a home working programme. Around 600 of our staff members are already enjoying the benefits of working from home for part of the week. Nearly 50 % of those taking part in the scheme are women, who now find it easier to manage their busy lives outside the office while continuing to work full-time.
Apart from the intellectual stimulus of working for the EPO and various career opportunities, there are some very concrete reasons for parents to choose the Office as an employer, including daycare provision for children, flexible working hours, a comprehensive health and social package, and access to multilingual schools.
The EPO is taking active steps to improve the position of women at all levels of responsibility. Since 2010, when I became President of the EPO, women have been appointed to three out of eight senior management positions, at the rank of Principal Director. This increases their share of senior posts from 12% to 18%. However, the proportion is in my view still too low, and there is room for further improvement.
Categories: The EPO