and applied in a biased manner (usually unintentionally). Characteristics that are often selected for and are believed, on the basis of little evidence, to relate to scientific creativity—namely assertiveness and single-mindedness— are given greater weight than other characteristics such as flexibility, diplomacy, curiosity, motivation, and dedication, which may be more vital to success in science and engineering. At the same time assertiveness and single-mindedness are stereotyped as socially unacceptable traits for women.

  1. Academic organizational structures and rules contribute significantly to the underuse of women in academic science and engineering. Rules that appear quite neutral may function in a way that leads to differential treatment or produces differential outcomes for men and women. Structural constraints and expectations built into academic institutions assume that faculty members have substantial spousal support. The evidence demonstrates that anyone lacking the work and family support traditionally provided by a “wife” is at a serious disadvantage in academe. However, the majority of faculty no longer have such support. About 90% of the spouses of women science and engineering faculty are employed full-time; close to half the spouses of male faculty also work full-time.

  2. The consequences of not acting will be detrimental to the nation’s competitiveness. Women and minority-group members make up an increasing proportion of the labor force. They also are an increasing proportion of postsecondary students. To capture and capitalize on this talent will require revising policies adopted when the workplace was more homogeneous and creating new organizational structures that manage a diverse workforce effectively. Effective programs have three key components: commitment to take corrective action, analysis and utilization of data for organizational change, and a campus framework for monitoring progress.

    To facilitate clear, evidence-based discussion of the issues, the committee compiled a list of commonly held beliefs concerning women in science and engineering (Table S-1). Each is discussed and analyzed in detail in the text of the report.


The United States can no longer afford the underperformance of our academic institutions in attracting the best and brightest minds to the science and engineering enterprise. Nor can it afford to devalue the contributions of some members of that workforce through gender inequities and discrimination. It is essential that our academic institutions promote the educational and professional success of all people without regard for sex, race, or ethnicity. So that our scientists and engineers can realize their greatest potential, our academic institutions must be held accountable and provide evidence that women and men receive equitable opportunities, resources, and support. Institutional policies and practices must move from

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