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Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering
demic and nonacademic settings. However, although women have risen to the challenge of scientific, medical, and technical study and research, the nation’s academic institutions have not hired them for their faculties. The academy has a disappointing record. Institutional policies for attaining tenure are still based on a rigid apprentice system that assumes that a total commitment to an academic career is possible throughout one’s life. Women—and sometimes men who shoulder significant care-giving responsibilities—are still perceived to be “a bad investment.” Women also must deal with lifelong questioning of their ability in science and mathematics and their commitment to a career. As a result, women are underrepresented in science and engineering, particularly in the higher faculty ranks and leadership positions. Women scientists and engineers with minority racial and ethnic backgrounds are virtually absent from the nation’s leading science and engineering departments.
This needless waste of the nation’s scientific talent must end. In addition to considerations of equity that govern employment in other sectors of the nation’s workforce, the United States now faces stiffening science and engineering competition from other nations. We urgently need to make full use of all of our talent to maintain our nation’s leadership. Affording women scientists and engineers the academic career opportunities merited by their educational and professional achievements must be given a high priority by our nation.
The Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy formed our Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering and charged it to recommend methods for achieving that goal. The committee’s mandate was to gather and analyze the best available information on the status of women in academic science and engineering and to propose ways of putting their abilities to the best use.
Specifically, our committee was charged
To review and assess the research on gender issues in science and engineering, including innate differences in cognition, implicit bias, and faculty diversity.
To examine institutional culture and the practices in academic institutions that contribute to and discourage talented individuals from realizing their full potential as scientists and engineers.
To determine effective practices to ensure that women who receive their doctorates in science and engineering have access to a wide array of career opportunities in the academy and in other research settings.
To determine effective practices for recruiting women scientists and engineers to faculty positions and retaining them in these positions.
To develop findings and provide recommendations based on these data and other information to guide faculty, deans, department chairs, and