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The continuing gender imbalance in STEM is an urgent issue that affects us all

14 February 2024
Portrait image of Jean Philip De Tender, EBU Deputy Director General/Director Media
Jean Philip De Tender, EBU Deputy Director General/Director Media

Keynote speech delivered by Jean Philip De Tender, Deputy Director General/Director of Media, EBU, on the occasion of the Women of Sciences screening in Brussels, in collaboration with RTBF.

The event was on 8 February 2024.

Hello everyone, 

It’s a pleasure to be here in Brussels. 

As a quick introduction, I’m the Deputy Director General of the European Broadcasting Union — EBU — which is based in Geneva, Switzerland. 

And what we do, in a nutshell, is help people understand why it’s important to have strong, independent public service media—such as RTBF and VRT. 

The EBU has always had close links with Brussels, and we still have a significant presence here. 

But more importantly, Brussels symbolizes the progressive, democratic values that define the European Union, public service media, and the EBU itself. 

And when you consider the city’s many universities, research institutes, and science parks, it’s the best possible setting to screen this important co-production: Women of Sciences.

Before I go on, I want to say a big thank you to our guests of honour:

-    Lidia Brito, Assistant Director General for Natural Sciences at UNESCO
-    European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová. 
-    and Laurence Rosier, President of the Women in Science Committee, at the Wallonia Academy for Research and Higher Education

The presence of these distinguished guests speaks to the relevance and the urgency of the themes we’re here to discuss.

I also want to thank Jean-Paul Philippot for his untiring commitment to public service media, as evidenced by RTBF’s leadership role in this project. 


So, let’s talk about Women of Sciences.

Let me just say up front: I’m not going to stand here telling you that the EBU believes diversity, equity and inclusion are important. Of course it does. 

Nor am I going to talk about how vital it is to get girls interested in STEM careers. 

These are established facts of which we’re all aware.
What I do want to highlight is how this co-production illustrates the unique contribution to society that public service media make. 

I believe that ‘Women in Sciences’ should stand as a proud flagship collaboration for the EBU and its members—not just those that brought it to life.

Why do I think that?

Firstly, because this project passes the public service test with flying colours. 

These are high-quality documentaries that educate, inform, and entertain. 

And I’ll add a fourth word to that list, which is inspire.  

Because these six films also have the power to inspire girls towards science and technology.

And with great power comes great responsibility—as Voltaire said before Spider Man’s uncle plagiarized it. 

What I mean is that public service media can, and therefore must responsibly exercise their power to influence positive change. 

The continuing gender imbalance in STEM is an urgent issue that affects us all. 

We can’t safely harness the benefits of AI and frontier technologies, tackle the climate crisis, or make game-changing strides in medical research without the equal contribution of women. 

Our job, as public service media, is to highlight what’s possible, celebrate female role models, and explain that anyone who keeps girls from realizing their potential is doing grave harm to humanity’s collective future. 

The second reason why this project should be considered a flagship collaboration — it could only have happened in Europe.

Nowhere else in the world will you find so many national broadcasters pulling in the same direction on this scale, in pursuit of the same goals and values. 

Because while RTBF, the BBC, LRT, ORF, Rai, and SWR serve distinct national audiences, they’re united by their public service mission, which is predicated on these six values: 

•    universality
•    independence
•    excellence
•    diversity
•    accountability
•    innovation

And finally, Women of Sciences is a triumph of the co-production model.

As the home of the Eurovision Song Contest—the mother of all co-productions—we LOVE co-productions at the EBU. 

They’re an economically expedient route to high quality, relevant content that enhances public service media’s offer and strengthens their legitimacy.

What do I mean by that?

Well, when EBU Members pool resources, they’re combining their strengths. 

They can create richer, more compelling original content that captures a multitude of voices. 

Also, the process of co-producing is itself an educational one. 

When international media professionals work together, they learn from each other, they swap ideas and opinions, and in the end, create better television.

Not to mention that as part of the EBU’s collaborative co-production network, broadcasters increase their bargaining power, gain access to a wealth of content created by their peers, and can increase the international reach of their own programmes. 

What’s not to love? 

Thank you for listening – enjoy the screening. 

Relevant links and documents


Jo Waters

Head of Content Communications