Women for Science
Authoring Institution
Release Date
June 1, 2006

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  • Advancing women in S&T careers and at the grassroots

    Chapter 3 considers programmes —aimed at increasing the numbers of women progressing through science and engineering education, training, and careers—that have been developed by governments, professional organizations, corporations, universities, and even some academies. Such programmes cover enhancement of women scientists’ and engineers’ visibility, the importance of role models, access to mentoring and networks, and initiatives that provide earmarked resources to women in launching their careers or reestablishing them after a family-related break. Academies, individually and jointly, are requested to support ongoing programmes of this sort and to develop measures of their own that give opportunities and recognition to women scientists. It is worth noting, however, that good management practice, once implemented, will eliminate much of the need for special programmes because their provisions will have been built into the organizational structure, thereby benefiting all employees.

    Chapter 4 advocates for academies’ help in engaging grassroots women (who live and work in developing countries, often without the benefit of much formal education) in global S&T capacity building. This perspective—unique to reports of this type —is nevertheless complementary to IAC’s visions for creating a better world. Just as a country’s capacity building requires the development of an S&T cadre, it also requires the mobilization —the engagement and empowerment—of the country’s citizens. This report argues that the billions of individuals at the grassroots around the world must be enabled to apply the fruits of science and technology, such as useful tools, products, and services, for the benefit of their countries’ economies while improving their own lives. Such engagement cannot occur while excluding half of the human race, let alone the half that does the majority of daily hands-on work. Therefore women in the developing world’s villages —rural townships and urban enclaves alike—must become engaged in the application of modern technologies.

    The chapter goes on to sketch the three-pronged process needed for this engagement. First, access to and quality of primary and secondary education for girls must be dramatically improved while teacher training, especially in mathematics and science, receives urgent attention. Second, large numbers of women scientists and engineers must be educated at specialized research centres. Third, these women must form cadres that are dispersed from centralized institutes to local knowledge centres. Preferably indigenous to the local culture, these skilled cadres then transfer modern technology to local women while building on their traditional skills and experience.

    The chapter then takes up the vital issue of improvement of public understanding of science and technology, both in developing and developed countries. To truly embrace it, academies may sometimes have to take their events and programmes out into the field —into communities that may well be remote —rather than limit their venues to university campuses or research institutions. Such public engagement programmes, in addition to transfer-ring knowledge, also enable the full cross-section of society to be involved in the social and ethical discussions that lead to better-informed policy. And, not least, such programmes raise awareness of the opportunities of working in science and technology.

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