National Contact Centre -Women and Science opens to visitors

Do Czech women enjoy equal rights on the job market? This question has long been a hot topic here in the Czech Republic. This week a new centre to help women opened its doors. It's called the National Contact Centre, and aims to support women making a career in the sciences. For the next two weeks women scientists will have a chance to pop in and get more information about its activities. Alena Skodova went there and brings back this report:

The National Contact Centre is on a modest scale - just one small room occupied by two young women. I was curious to learn more, and asked the Centre's coordinator, Marcela Linkova about its main objective:

"The National Contact Centre 0 Women in Science was established at the end of 2001, it's financed by a grant of the Ministry of Education, and it is supposed to promote women in science, help them find grant opportunities and other grants and study opportunities in science in various fields, and to help young starting female scientists to launch their scientific career."

Ms Linkova explained to me they were at the very beginning, and that the most significant part of their present work is creating databases:

"The main one is a database of opportunities for all fields, scientific fields, and we are working really hard to fill it up because it will take a lot of time, so we have not been able actually to cover all the fields. The other one is a database of Czech female scientists, who are sending their CVs to the Centre and we type the information to the database. This database will help foreign grant-seeking organizations that are interested in finding Czech participants in the Czech Republic, and it will also serve as a basis for Czech expert scientists within the EU, because the EU has set a target of 40 percent for women's participation in its evaluatory and monitoring committees."

The centre will only really work if Czech women themselves take an active interest. So I asked Marcela Linkova how broad the public response among women scientists has been so far.

"I was actually really surprised because I was afraid that the centre would be labeled as a feminist activity or something and that it would discourage the women, and although we have had a few reactions of that sort, it was definitely a marginal reaction and I'm surprised that every day we have several responses, several e-mails from women who either want to get more information or are sending in their CVs and bibliography. And the surprising thing is that it's mostly natural scientists, not scientists from humanities, perhaps its shows that the position of women in natural sciences is not as easy and as unproblematic as some would like to think."