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Women for Science: Actions for Science Academies. Johanna Levelt Sengers, USA Scientist Emeritus, National Institute of Science and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8320 Member, NAS, NAE Co-author, InterAcademy Council Advisory Report: “Women for Science” 2006

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women for science actions for science academies

Women for Science:Actions for Science Academies

Johanna Levelt Sengers, USA

Scientist Emeritus, National Institute of Science and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8320

Member, NAS, NAE

Co-author, InterAcademy Council Advisory Report: “Women for Science” 2006


IANAS Symposium, Mexico, April 19, 2009

academia mexicana
Academia Mexicana
  • One of the very few science academies that has a female president
  • Can be a very effective voice on behalf of women scientists and engineers
    • in Mexico
    • in IANAS
    • in IAP

Thank you, Professor Rosaura Ruiz, for inviting me to participate and give the introductory talk

  • Slow progress of women scientists

and engineers

  • The IAC report
  • The IANAS Round Tables
  • A great opportunity! Action items for Academies, IANAS, IAP
slow progress of women scientists
Slow progress of women scientists
  • Influx of women into the sciences has greatly increased
  • Women scientists are slow to advance
  • Few women at the top of the hierarchy
women scientists are slow to advance
Women scientists are slow to advance
  • “Leaking pipeline” - more women than men drop out after the PhD
  • Few women become tenured professors on science, engineering and medical faculties
  • Science academies: 5% women members

Implicit message: women not welcome as science, engineering and industry leaders

women in academies us
Women in academies, US

IOM: Institute of Medicine 21.3%

NAS: National Academy of Sciences 10.0%

  • Physics 3.1%
  • Chemistry 4.0%
  • Astronomy 12.4%
  • Genetics 22.5%
  • Psychology 21.9%

NAE: National Academy of Engineering 4.9%

US Academies keep statistics. Many others don’t

iac iap ianas

IAC – InterAcademy Council

Presidents of 15 science academies

Performs studies and writes reports on global issues

SET capacity building, African agriculture, WfS, energy

IAP – InterAcademy Panel

Presidents of all 95 science academies

Furthers coordination and collaboration of academies on issues related to global development and sustainability

IANAS – subset of IAP

InterAmerican Network of Science Academies

iac report first of its kind to target academies
IAC report – first of its kind to target academies
  • Academies represent the top of scientific achievement in their countries
  • Academies act as expert advisers to governments

Their example can initiate global change from the top of the science and engineering establishment


The IAC Report - Action for Academies

Three core subjects:

Ch.3 Enabling women’s access, participation, and careers - inclusive culture: best practice

Ch.4 Empowering women at the grass roots

  • essential to sustainable development

Ch.5,6 Actions for academies - Set an example of inclusiveness; advocacy

ch 3 inclusive culture best practice
Ch.3 Inclusive culture: best practice
  • All members of an organization, men and women, perform to the best of their ability
  • Leadership commits to diversity
  • Committee sets goals, benchmarks; keeps track of progress; works with leadership
  • Transparency in hiring, salary, promotions
  • Women included at all leadership levels
  • Mentoring, leadership training offered to all
  • Healthy work-family balance for all
ch 3 best practice vs gender equity
Ch.3 Best practice vs. gender equity
  • “Gender Equity”
    • But men are physically stronger
    • But women get pregnant and nurse infants
  • “Best Practice”
    • Benefits all employees and the organization
    • Does not imply that women need extra help
    • Allows for variation in capabilities and abilities
    • Considers work-family balance essential to optimum performance of all employees
towards inclusive culture some hard truths snide slide 1
Towards Inclusive Culture(some hard truths – snide slide 1)
  • Women talking to women: necessary, but not sufficient
  • 90% of tenured faculty at research universities are men
  • 95% of academy members are men
  • Men will have to be on board if the climate for women is to be improved
  • Academies have to learn to listen to gender experts
ch 4 women essential to development
Ch.4 Women: essential to development

A billion women in rural areas and in the slums of megacities the developing world

  • are responsible for health care, water, food, shelter, education, marketing……..
  • for development, it is essential that they receive education, have access to information, and get training in modern technology
  • women engineers and scientists are needed to transfer technology to their sisters at the “grass roots”

sustainable development is possible only if women “at the grass roots” are included


IAC Ch.4

Women civil

engineering students,

U. Maryland,

work with

tribal women

in Thailand on a sustainable wastewater system

for the Samli Clinic

a mexican example of including grass roots women in it
A Mexican example of including “grass-roots” women in IT

I have been told that many “grass roots” Mexican women have learned to operate sophisticated machinery in factories in N. Mexico that manufacture and assemble electronic computer products

iac report actions for academies
IAC report - actions for academies
  • Commit to including women fully
  • Increase female membership:
    • collect data on women membership - RTIV
    • keep track of progress and report yearly to membership, IAP
    • prepare lists of eligible women scientists -
  • Increase visibility of women scientists - RTIII
  • Remove barriers: establish best practice - RTII
  • Advocate with government for inclusiveness RTI
  • IAP (and IANAS!) to enable exchange between academies re best practice, successful actions
ianas round tables
IANAS – Round Tables
  • RT I. Gender and Public Policy in Education, Science and Technology
  • RT II. Removing obstacles to careers in SET
  • RT III Increasing visibility of women scientists in Latin America
  • RT IV Sex-disaggregated statistics for policy making
rt i gender and public policy in education science and technology
RT I. Gender and Public Policy in Education, Science and Technology
  • IAC report: Ch.2

Numerous examples of government action:

    • UN, UNESCO, US, Canada, UK, India, China, Japan

US: accent on accommodating a diverse workforce.

    • NSF addresses: diversity, mentoring, institutional climate

US Academies - (talk by Lilian Wu, RT II)

    • reports and workshops – flyers and samples
    • education and textbooks – flyers and samples
    • biographies of women scientists for teens - sample
    • women NAS members evaluate, on request,

institutional climate of science departments

    • measures to increase nominations of women
rt i encouraging women researchers
RT I Encouraging women researchers
  • Science Academies to invite proposals form female researchers, and work with Government Funding Agencies to give special consideration to proposals from women principal investigators.
rt ii removing obstacles to careers in set
RT II Removing obstacles to careers in SET

IAC Ch. 3

  • Mentoring, networking, leadership training:
    • happen naturally among male scientists - women scientists need access to the same support system
    • academy members to make themselves available for mentoring women scientists
  • Evaluate institutional climate for women
    • on request, women academy members evaluate and advise scientific institutes
rt iii increase visibility of women
RT III Increase visibility of women

What academies can do:

  • Invite women speakers at symposia
  • Academy Council, Boards, Committees to include women members
  • Academy books, pamphlets, websites show women scientists at work
  • Nominate women for prizes
  • Elect more women !!!
rtiii visibility latin american l or al laureates
RTIII Visibility – Latin American L’Oréal Laureates
  • 2002 Ana-Maria Lopez-Colomé, retina disease, UNAM, Mexico City
  • 2003 Mariana Weissmann, statistical physicist, Argentina
  • 2004 Lucia Medonça Previato, parasitic disease, Brazil
  • 2005 Belitta Koiler, solid-state physicist, Brazil
  • 2006 Esther Orozo, pathologist, National Polytech. Inst., Mexico City
  • 2007 Ligia Gargallo, polymer scientist, Chile
  • 2008 Ana Belén Elgoyen (Argentina), hearing specialist
  • 2009 Beatriz Barbuy, astronomer, Brazil

(Barbosa talk, RT II)

visibility l or al 10 years
Visibility – L’Oréal 10 years

Arriving at

Charles de Gaulle Airport


March 2008

visibility l or al 10 years1
Visibility - – L’Oréal 10 years




of fifty



on its


March 2008

Mariana Weissman


biographies of latina scientists
Biographies of Latina scientists?

Example of an IANAS project?

  • Collaborate with L’Oréal to collect the material on their Latin-American Laureates
  • Include Latina scientists working in US and Canada
  • Collaborate with NAS CWSEM to fashion this material into readable biographies (English and Spanish!) geared towards teenagers
visibility the internet
Visibility – The Internet

Academy websites must have a page on

  • Women’s science education, science careers and academy membership
  • Links to resources, international efforts on behalf of women scientists

IANAS, IAP websites must have a page on

  • Women’s science education, science careers
  • Female membership of all science academies
  • Examples of successful efforts to empower women scientists
  • Links to resources, international efforts to support women scientists
visibility the internet snide slide 2
Visibility – The Internet(snide slide 2)
  • The IAP web site presents no evidence that “Women for Science” was selected as IAP 3-year top priority in 2006. WfS is not among the topics that proposals are called for (No link to any IAC report!)
  • The very lean IANAS web site does present an announcement of the Symposium
rt iv statistics
RT IV - Statistics

Action items for academies

  • Keep record of female membership
    • by discipline; also for Council, Boards, Committees
    • present female membership data at annual meeting
    • make data available by a link on their website

Action items for IANAS, IAP

  • Request academies for sex-disaggregated membership data for the annual report
  • Make data available on the website
a great opportunity engage science academies
A Great Opportunity!Engage Science Academies

Round Tables to formulate action items

  • for participants’ science academies
  • for IANAS
  • for the InterAcademy Panel

Plenary Session to include these action items

  • under strategies for the future
  • for participants to take home
  • to submit them to academies, IANAS, IAP

Thank you for your attention!