Women for Science

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  • What the academies must do

    Chapter 5 directly addresses the academies, where women scientists and engineers presently form a small minority (typically less than 5 percent) of the membership. As with other kinds of organizations, the Advisory Panel recommends that in the academies themselves and in the research institutes that some of them manage, the fundamental approach for change be the adoption of good management practice. This implies a firm commitment by the president and council to inclusive practices and to putting gender issues permanently on the agenda. The Advisory Panel also recommends that each academy establish a diversity committee consisting of both male and female academy members. This committee should report directly to the president and council, helping them to develop the necessary policies and programmes.

    A high priority is enhancement of the pool of qualified women to be considered for nomination to membership. Further, each academy needs to work on achieving greater visibility of women scientists in the publications and educational materials it develops. Women must be invited to chair conferences and speak at seminars, and they must be appointed to panels and committees that the academy organizes.

    Academies that sponsor research need to give attention to the potential gender implications of proposed projects and their resulting publications. For example, do men and women researchers have equal access to grant money? In cases where a study could be influenced by the gender of the researcher, has the principal investigator made an effort to establish a gender-mixed team? Have the results been tested for differential impact on men and women, and are they free of bias? In addition, academies that evaluate research institutions need to include the working conditions of women scientists and engineers among their evaluation criteria.

    For monitoring the results of inclusive programmes initiated by an academy, it is essential that sex-disaggregated data be routinely collected and then reported at the academy’s annual meeting. For too long, the scientific establishment has dealt with the gender-equality issue essentially through the motto ‘No data, no problem'.

    The Advisory Panel recommends that, when interacting with their countries’ governments, academies advocate for full inclusion of women in science and technology through measures such as nondiscrimination legislation, a national office focused on women’s issues in science and technology, reform of textbooks and teaching materials, and the monitoring of girls’ and women’s progress.

    Of course, academies can act not only individually but jointly. In that regard, the Advisory Panel recommends that IAC and its parent organization the InterAcademy Panel for International Issues (IAP), adopt the following initiatives:

    •  Commit to good management practice in their respective operations.
    • Collect sex-disaggregated data from their constituent academies and report on these data at their annual meetings.
    •  Pay attention to gender issues in the studies they undertake.
    • Facilitate exchange of information between academies and other organizations about innovative and effective programmes for developing an inclusive culture.
    • Develop international partnerships to secure funding for women-in-SS&T programmes.
    • Make use of various means of communication, such as S&T-friendly radio and television programmes, for increasing the public understanding of science with particular focus on girls and women.

    Chapter 6, a summary, complements the other chapters —particularly Chapter 5—by reorganizing the report’s recommendations by academy function, in recognition of the wide variations between academies. Categories include academies as honorific societies, as advocates of global capacity building, as employers, as sponsors of research and evaluators of research institutes, and as national advocates for education. Coordinated actions for academies—for instance, through IAC and IAP—are also proposed.

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