Women for Science: A Leadership Role for Academies

Presentation by
ohanna SENGERS Scientist emeritus, US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), USA.
Manju SHARMA, President and Executive Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Research, India

The world's academies of science, engineering, and medicine must take immediate action to help remedy the widespread, persistent and wasteful under representation of women in scientific and technical fields, says a 2006 report by the InterAcademy Council (IAC). The advisory report, Women for Science, is addressed primarily to the world’s academies, which received copies in June, 2006. Women typically make up less than 5 percent of an academy's members. As a start, the academies themselves need to implement internal management practices that encourage and support women, and influence policymakers and other leaders to bring about broader change. The report urges academies to formally commit to the full inclusion of women in their organizations, in any research institutes they manage, and throughout the S&T community. It recommends a management tool developed for accommodating diversity (be it gender, ethnic, or religious) to the advantage of an organization, and of all its members. “Good management practice” when women form a minority requires commitment from the top leadership, sensitivity to gender issues, clear criteria for promotions and awards, professional training and mentoring, and inclusion of women in formal and informal organizational networks. Among the recommendations are the following: Academies need to create a structure at the highest level that is responsible for addressing gender-equity issues, formulating and overseeing action plans, and monitoring progress.

Academies are encouraged to develop concrete ways to give visibility to women scientists, add female members and include women members in leadership positions. Given their prestige and alliances with governments, universities, and nongovernmental organizations, academies must play advocacy and leadership roles beyond their own doors. Academies are asked to support higher education of women in science, engineering, and industrial management, while advising governments to remove barriers to their education and employment. Furthermore, they must help to empower in S&T arenas not only professional women but also women at the grassroots level in the developing world. Academies are requested to establish and promote science and technology "knowledge centers," where women scientists and engineers can work with grassroots women of their own culture on technologies for local needs and applications, thus enabling science and technology capacity building. Academies need to pay attention to gender aspects of the research they sponsor, the studies they undertake and the reports they publish. Academies must act both individually and jointly. The IAC and IAP have begun to collect data categorized by sex from their constituent academies, so progress can be measured. IAC is initiating a website, where academies can exchange ideas about programs that have proven successful, and about initiatives they are taking. It will be developed in conjunction with professional and women’s organizations that have made their mark in promoting women for science and present links to relevant web sites. IAP member academies are urged to respond to the advisory report, and results from these responses will be presented on the IAC inaugurated website.

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Speakers’ profiles
Johanna (Anneke) LEVELT SENGERS,scientist emeritus at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, obtained her Ph.D. in physics at the University of Amsterdam. Her main professional interest is the behavior of fluids and fluid mixtures near critical points. Group Leader at NIST from 1978 to 1987 and a NIST Fellow from 1983 to 1995, she is past President of, and was the US representative to, the International Association for the Properties of Water and Steam. Member both of the US National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, Dr Levelt Sengers is a corresponding member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has received an honorary doctorate from the Technical University Delft, Netherlands, both US and international awards, and was the 2003 North American Laureate of the L’Oréal - UNESCO ‘For Women in Science’ Awards.

Manju SHARMA, President and Executive Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Research, , Gujarat, India and former Secretary to the Government of India for the Department of Biotechnology. Responsible for boostingbiotechnological  development in India, she set up many new research institutes and spread the educational network for biotechnology all over the country. She initiated major programmes for the inclusion of women in science and technology and has received honorary doctorates from many universities in India, as well as many national and international awards. She was the first female President of India’s National Academy of Science ,member, Board of Governors of the UN University’s Institute for Advanced Studies, member, Advisory Panel on Agricultural Biotechnolog, US Agency for International Development, Fellow of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS).