Realizing that the low representation of women in science and engineering is a major hindrance to global capacity building in science and technology, the IAC formed an Advisory Panel on Women for science with the mandate to review previous studies, provide examples of effective projects already implemented, and issue a set of actionable recommendations addressed particularly to the world’s science and engineering academies.
The recommendations and action items developed through the work of this Panel are presented in this report and are grouped around three themes:
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Nevertheless, some national academies have begun to support efforts to increase the numbers of girls who study science or engineering and to help advance women’s careers.
India, which traditionally has had formidable cultural barriers that prevented women from succeeding in science and technology, three national academies—the Indian National Science Academy, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Indian Academy of Science—have helped initiate a profound change in attitude regarding women’s participation. Working jointly, they convinced the Indian Government that it was urgent to take actions, and fund initiatives, to improve opportunities and working conditions for women scientists.
In addition, the Indian National Science Academy has helped establish websites that provide networking opportunities for women scientists. And in its recent report Science Career for Indian Women (IINSA, 2004),, which presents extensive data on women’s movement through the education pipeline, it offers recommendations not only for increasing the numbers of girls entering science and technology but for alleviating the heavy familial burdens and professional constraints faced by women scientists and engineers. It is also noteworthy that the country’s National Academy of Sciences has achieved gender parity on its Council.
In the United Kingdom, the Royal Society of London funds several types of grants that facilitate the careers of women with a Ph.D. in science who also have familial responsibilities. The U.K. Royal Academy of Engineering supports re-entry grants after a career break—as prompted for example by raising a family. It also supports a variety of youth education programmes, in which about 30 percent of the participants are girls. Both organizations support the Athena project, which aims to promote the careers of women in science and technology in U.K. universities and research institutions and increase the number of women in high-level positions. In 2003, the Royal Society helped produce the Athena good practice guide for inclusion of women faculty at U.K. universities (Athena Project, 2003).
The Royal Society, as well as both the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) have made concerted efforts to increase the nomination pool of qualified women, with the result that the numbers of women in their memberships have grown.
Both American academies, in their educational materials, target girls— the NAE sponsors the Engineergirl website and the NAS introduced the iwaswondering website—and they publish biographies of prominent women scientists and engineers. The NAE has also distinguished itself by organizing a symposium on diversity in the workplace, with speakers from a dozen major U.S. corporations that presented a strong business case for diversity. The resulting report describes successful diversity programmes, in several companies, that deserve to be applied more widely (NAE, 2005).