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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Specific academy strategies must be employed to enlarge the pool of women who can be nominated for membership as well as for prizes, awards, and grants that the academy bestows. Raising the awareness of the membership of the need to diversify its ranks, and instigating more formal procedures such as mixed-gender search committees have been used with some success. Other measures adopted by some organizations include a special election for women candidates only and the exemption of qualified women from the numerical upper limit set for the year.
One direct and creative way of increasing the nomination pool of women is by giving preference to the election of younger members. The reasoning here is that the traditional average age of election reflects the gender composition of science and engineering departments some 30 years ago. But with the definite progress that has been made since then, a younger cohort will have a much better gender balance. This reality has been incorporated into the policies of the National Academy of Sciences, India; the German Academy of Natural Scientists, Leopoldina; and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, each of which has introduced a ‘young members’ category. About one-third of Leopoldina’s ‘young academy’ are women. In its first round of elections this past year, the Netherlands Academy selected 40 members of its new ‘young academy.’ Twenty of these members are in S&T-related fields, and 7 of the 20 are women.
Widening the pool by itself is only a first step; the people in that pool then need to be evaluated fairly. Awareness that women’s accomplishments are judged more severely than men’s, by women and men alike (Steinpreis et al., 1999), begins to reveal the additional obstacles that women have to surmount between being nominated and actually being elected.