One approach to documenting the status of women in academic science and engineering is to combine quantitative data collection (see Chapter 3) with qualitative information obtained from faculty, students, and university leaders. For example, the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) created a Web-based interactive toolkit of surveys, literature, Web links, and guidelines to help universities to evaluate the climate for women on their campuses.78 At the request of department chairs, confidential surveys are used to query faculty and students on department demographics, gendered practices and policies, and the climate for women. Departments are also asked to provide enrollment data. After collecting that background information, a panel of respected scientists who are familiar with climate issues meets with faculty, students, and administrators to discuss their views about the status of women in a department. The panel then makes recommendations based on the information collected and helps the department to implement them.

We must grow our women leadership ranks. We must help our women and our men fit their lives into their work and their work into their lives, so that we can keep our pipeline robust. With women comprising nearly 50% of the labor force, we can’t succeed in the marketplace unless we attract and retain a representative share of women at all levels of our organization, including partner, principal, and director.

—Jim Quigley, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte and Touche, USA, LLP (2005)79

The AWIS program was based on a site visit program established by the American Physical Society (APS) to evaluate physics departments. The goal of APS was to identify and intervene in both the generic and specific problems commonly experienced by women and minority groups in physics departments.80 After a visit, a team submitted a written report of its findings, including suggestions for improvement, to the department chair. In turn, the department chair was asked to describe in writing actions taken to remedy the problems. Women’s committees in professional societies have been a powerful force for change (Box 5-9).

A number of universities have used a similar approach internally. For


CJ Didion, MA Fox, and ME Jones (1998). Cultivating academic careers: AWIS project on academic climate. AWIS Magazine 27(1):23-27,


Deloitte and Touche (2005). Why Flexible Work Arrangements Are not the Answer: The Case for Career Customization (internal document).


American Physical Society. Improving the Climate for Women Site Visits.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement