Women for Science

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  • Foreword

    Science and technology are fundamental to assuring humanity’s welfare and enabling continued improvements in length and quality of life. Yet there are shortages—in developed and developing countries alike—of the requisite skills. In recent years, science and engineering organizations, business enterprises, governments, and civil society institutions have increasingly recognized the global need for a larger science and technology workforce in general and for women’s full presence in it in particular.

    The science, technology, and innovation capacities of all nations will be strengthened through the greater participation of women in all aspects of science, engineering, and medicine. National academies of sciences, engineering, and medicine can perform an important role in this effort.

    In that spirit, in 2004 the Board of the InterAcademy Council formed an Advisory Panel on Women for Science. The co-chairs —Manju Sharma, President and Executive Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Research, Gandhinagar, and former Secretary of Biotechnology in India; and Johanna Levelt Sengers, Scientist Emeritus at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology —and their eight colleagues on the Advisory Panel represent a range of scientific and technological disciplines. The Advisory Panel members’ professional experience spans academia, government, and the private sector, and it embraces research, teaching, and management. Almost all of these distinguished participants are academy members as well.

    The result is this consensus report with a set clear recommendations and specific action items. It urges academies to assume a leading role in:

    • Fully including women in science and technology and advancing them into senior and leadership positions
    • Acting individually and jointly to engage the public, specifically women and girls, in the science and technology enterprise
    • Empowering not only professional women but also women at the grassroot levels in the rural and urban areas of the developing world.

    The InterAcademy Council and the Advisory Panel express their gratitude to L’Oréal (Paris), the Netherlands Ministry of Education, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and an anonymous donor for providing the financial support to conduct the study and distribute the final report, which calls upon academies to immediately begin taking action, as follows:

    First, the Advisory Panel asks academies to declare their intentions by formally committing to 'good management practice' —procedures designed to ensure the inclusion of women scientists and engineers—within all levels of their organizations and research institutes.

    Second, the Advisory Panel asks all academies to designate a dedicated member —or, preferably, a gender-balanced committee—to be responsible for gender issues within the organization. This committee’s duties should include proposing actions, collecting gender-disaggregated data, and monitoring and reporting progress —or the lack of it —to the president and council of the academy on a regular basis.

    Third, the Advisory Panel calls upon all academies to address the underrepresentation of women in their memberships by enlarging their membership nomination pools to include more women scientists and engineers, and to work to enhance the role of women as senior academy officials.

    This Women for Science report, with supporting materials, is freely available on the IAC website at http://www.interacademycouncil.net. In addition, the InterAcademy Council, in close partnership with the InterAcademy Panel for International Issues, will work to make sure that the messages in this important report receive the attention that they deserve —not only from the world’s academies, but also from the world’s scientists.

    If we are to spread science and its values around the globe, both in industrialized and developing nations, the full potential of all populations must be harnessed for scientific endeavors, and the science must belong to all citizens, whether male or female, rich or poor.

    Bruce ALBERTS
    Past President, U.S. National Academy of Sciences
    Co-Chair, InterAcademy Council

    LU Yongxiang
    President, Chinese Academy of Sciences
    Co-Chair, InterAcademy Council

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