speak at major professional society meetings is one type of recognition, but women are not well represented among symposium speakers and keynotes (Box 4-1).
Recognition of lifetime achievement by election to a high-prestige honorific society is a cherished honor. However, the numbers of women elected to such societies as the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, or awarded such prestigious honors as the Lasker Prize or the National Medal of Science have been small (Table 4-1).
Some organizations point to the low numbers of women who are “eligible” for honors and awards; to a first approximation, the nomination pool for lifetime achievement honors, such as election to an honorific society, is the cohort who received PhDs about 30 years ago. Indeed, the representation of women in that cohort is quite small. Recent classes of electees, however, have included younger people, and not all societies elect solely PhD recipients. A recent report from the InterAcademy Council (IAC) concludes that the disproportionately small number of women in the science and technology enterprise, particularly in leadership positions, is a major hindrance to strengthening science capacity worldwide.26 The IAC called upon all academies to address the underrepresentation of women in their memberships, in particular by implementing internal management practices that encourage and support women, and by influencing policy makers and other leaders to bring about broader change.
As with the tenure-track applicant pool (see Chapter 3), the nominee pool for honors and awards likely underrepresents the available pool of excellent women researchers. A case in point is the recent experience with the Pioneer Awards offered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (Box 4-2). In its first year, not only did the new program designed for early-career researchers not select any women, but all the awardees were well established and in middle to late career. In response to community concern, NIH took the time and energy to diagnose the problem, and found that several small changes in the program announcement and attention to the selection process changed the outcome greatly in the program’s second year.
One issue brought to the fore by the Pioneer Award was the difference in the number of women who self-nominated as opposed to those who were nominated by mentors or peers. It appears, as with hiring, that relying on
InterAcademy Council (2006). Women for Science. Amsterdam: InterAcademy Council, http://www.interacademycouncil.net/?id=11228. The IAC is an organization created by 90 science academies across the globe.