Participant: I’m Mahin Khatami, president of Graduate Women in Science in Bethesda, Omicron chapter. I’m very glad you mentioned the importance of leadership for women. I think the impediments to professional women who want to achieve senior intellectual positions within a society, within government, or within universities can be very serious and are an important factor that needs to be considered within the system.
Nobody wants to rock the boat and end up in the sea, but when a woman is competing for seniority in an intellectually sensitive situation, the backlash against her and the retaliation against her can be very serious. The solution I have for this type of situation could be considered an intellectual protection committee.
Dr. Shaywitz: Important issues have been raised on a number of points. One is that all women are not the same and that we do need to look at the different needs of various groups of women.
Participant: I’m Deborah Carper, chair of the NIH Women Scientist Advisory Council. Dr. Morahan, I particularly wanted to emphasize one of the action plans included in your presentation: to develop the database of women scientists. At the NIH we just finished a report on leadership positions. Not surprising to us, we found that 40–50 percent of entry-level positions, the training grants, were occupied by women, and that as few as 5 percent of tenured positions were held by women. In particular we need to be able to recruit and to promote women scientists, and bring them in on search committees. To do that, we could compile a national registry or a database of women scientists, so that we could quickly go to this list. As it stands now, when we do a search or we’re asked to put women on a scientific council at the NIH, the women in each institute have to come up quickly, sometimes by the end of that day, with a list of 12–15 women who could serve on these search committees and boards of scientific counselors.
It’s imperative for us to consider in our action plan compiling a list of women scientists nationally and internationally, so that not only the women but also people working in the administrative areas can have access to a list of women scientists who would be willing to serve on these important positions that lead to our attaining senior leadership roles.
Dr. Morahan: I couldn’t agree with you more that we need higher visibility and a better network of women. A database is one way to help do that.