other university leaders; scientific and professional societies; funding organizations; and government agencies in maximizing the potential of women in science and engineering careers.
Our committee, composed of distinguished scientists and engineers who have attained outstanding careers in academic research and university governance, undertook its task with enthusiasm and dedication. As people who have held major administrative positions, committee members were able to put gender issues into the broadest context. In fulfillment of its mandate, the committee met in Washington, DC, on three occasions to examine evidence and consult with leading experts. We also conferred by conference call on numerous other occasions.
In December 2005, we hosted a public convocation with outstanding researchers to explore the impact of sex and gender on the cognitive and intellectual abilities of men and women and on the attitudes and social institutions that affect the education, recruitment, hiring, promotion, and retention of academic science and engineering faculty. Over 150 interested people from academe, government, private funding agencies, and other organizations listened to the presentations, enriched the discussion with questions and comments, and presented their research in a poster session.
The convocation speakers discussed a number of crucial and, in some cases, controversial questions in light of the latest research findings. What does sex-difference research tell us about capability, achievement, and behavior? What are the effects of socialization and social roles on career development? What role do gender attitudes and stereotypes play in evaluation of people, their work, and their potential? What institutional features promote or deter the success of female scientists and engineers? What are the overlapping issues of sex, race, and ethnicity? What else do we need to know, and what key research is needed? The convocation informed the thinking and research that underlie the committee’s final report; the proceedings with invited papers and poster abstracts have been collected into a workshop report, Biological, Social, and Organizational Components of Success for Women in Academic Science and Engineering, published by the National Academies Press.
During the committee’s February 2006 meeting, the committee heard presentations by nationally recognized experts on topics ranging from recent developments in employment discrimination law to programs and strategies used by universities and other employers to advance the careers of women scientists and engineers. At its March meeting, the committee reviewed and refined the report’s findings and recommendations. Throughout the spring, multiple meetings by teleconference permitted our committee to exchange views and information and to prepare our final findings and recommendations.