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THE ROLE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN DEVELOPMENT



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THE ROLE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN DEVELOPMENT

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Women in Academic Science and Engineering in the United States: Challenges and Opportunities GERALDINE RICHMOND Uniersity of Oregon A s the global economy becomes increasingly more technological, it is important that we recruit and employ science and engineering talent from all sectors of our population, regardless of gender, race, or creed. In many countries, discriminatory practices have limited the participation of many groups in the global science and engineering enterprise. In the United States, women are increasingly majoring in science and engineering fields, and more women are earning graduate degrees in these fields. However, women are underrepresented in a number of important fields. In biological sciences, women earn almost one- half of the undergraduate and graduate degrees, whereas in engineering, women earn less than 20 percent of undergraduate and graduate degrees. Though progress toward the goal of parity in the workforce has occurred in recent years, it has been too slow. Women scientists and engineers continue to experience greater difficulty building academic careers than men of comparable training and background, with the greatest discrepancies at research-intensive universities and at the higher academic ranks. Bias against women and caregivers has long existed in universities, particularly for women who enter stereotypically male occupations such as science and engineering. In addition, women must contend with practices and policies that appear neutral but that disadvantage women compared with men. Though in many cases the advantages that males receive are small, they nonetheless accumulate over time into large differences in recognition and prestige. In U.S. universities, women’s representation decreases with each step up the tenure-track and academic leadership hierarchy. In most fields, the decrease is out of proportion to Ph.D. degree production even 10 or 15 years ago. Increas- ing representation is not just a matter of catch-up time. Proportionately fewer 1

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20 THE ROLE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN DEVELOPMENT women apply for tenure-track positions in science and engineering. In most sci- ence and engineering fields, women are under-represented on university faculties with respect to the number of Ph.D.’s produced. Isolation is a major problem for all women in academic ranks, and it results largely from their small numbers, particularly for women of color. In short, women scientists and engineers in the United States from minority racial or ethnic backgrounds must contend with obstacles even more severe than those of their white colleagues. While there is increasing representation of minority women in undergraduate and graduate programs, their numbers do not come close to their representation in the general population. In 2004, African Americans earned only 2.5 percent of all doctorates in the biological sciences and only 4.5 percent of engineering doctor- ates. African American women earned the majority of these doctorates, and yet, these women are less represented in academic faculties than are African American men. Minority women are almost completely unrepresented on faculties of sci- ence and engineering at research universities. In 2002, there were a total of 94 African American, 53 Hispanic, and 3 Native American female faculty members in the top 50 science and engineering departments. In the top 50 computer science departments, there were no African American, Hispanic, or Native American ten- ured or tenure-track women faculty. With the exception of one African American full professor in astronomy, there were no female African American or Native American full professors in the physical science or engineering disciplines sur- veyed. Minority women are the victims of two problems: racism and sexism. The many programs that have been developed to focus on women in the past 30 years have ignored the specific concerns of women of color. This issue has recently motivated the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in the United States to conduct a study to determine the status of women in science in U.S. research academic institutions and to study why the representa- tion of women in sciences and engineering is so low relative to men. The NAS Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy responsible for the study appointed a group of scientists and academic leaders to the Committee on Women in Academic Science and Engineering: A Guide to Maximizing Their Potential. As a member of that committee, I have been asked to relay to the attendees of this meeting the major findings and recommendations found in that study. The following charge was given to the committee: 1. Review and assess the research on gender issues in science and engi- neering, including innate differences in cognition, implicit bias, and faculty diversity. 2. Examine the institutional culture and practices in academic institutions that contribute to and discourage talented individuals from realizing their full potential as scientists and engineers. 3. Determine effective practices to ensure women doctorates have access to a wide range of career opportunities in academe and in other research settings.

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21 WOMEN IN ACADEMIC SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN THE UNITED STATES 4. Determine effective practices for the recruiting and retention of women scientists and engineers in faculty positions. 5. Develop findings and provide recommendations based on these data and other information the committee gathers to guide the faculty, deans and department chairs, academic leaders, funders, and government officials on how to maximize the potential of women science and engineering researchers. In September 2006 the committee released its report (Committee on Maxi- mizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, 2007). Several findings in the report are described below: • Studies have not found any significant biological differences between men and women in performing science and mathematics that can account for the lower representation of women in academic faculty and leadership positions in science and technology fields. • Compared with men, women faculty members are generally paid less and promoted more slowly, receive fewer honors, and hold fewer leadership positions. These discrepancies do not appear to be based on productivity, the significance of their work, or any other performance measures. • Measures of success underlying performance evaluation systems are often arbitrary and frequently applied in ways that place women at a disadvan- tage. “Assertiveness,” for example, may be viewed as a socially unacceptable trait for women but suitable for men. • Structural constraints and expectations built into academic institutions assume that faculty members have substantial support from their spouses. Anyone lacking the career and family support traditionally provided by a “wife” is at a serious disadvantage in academia, evidence shows. Today about 90 percent of the spouses of women science and engineering faculty are employed full-time. For the spouses of male faculty, almost half are similarly employed full-time. The report offers a broad range of recommendations at all levels in academia. According to the report, if the committee’s nearly two dozen recommendations were implemented and coordinated across public and private sectors as well as various institutions, they would improve workplace environments for all employ- ees while strengthening the foundations of America’s competitiveness. A brief overview of several recommendations from that report follows. UNIVERSITIES University leaders should incorporate the goal of counteracting bias against women in hiring, promotion, and treatment into campus strategic plans, the report says. Leaders, working with the monitoring body proposed by the report, should

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22 THE ROLE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN DEVELOPMENT review the composition of their student enrollments and faculty ranks each year and publicize progress toward goals. According to the report, universities should also examine evaluation practices, with the goal of focusing on the quality and impact of faculty contributions. In the past decade, several universities and agen- cies have taken steps to increase the participation of women on faculties and their numbers in leadership positions. However, such efforts have not transformed the fields, the report says. The committee emphasized that now is the time for widespread reform. PROFESSIONAL SOCIETIES AND HIGHER EDUCATION ORGANIZATIONS The American Council on Education should bring together other relevant groups, such as the Association of American Universities and the National Asso- ciation of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, to discuss the formation of the proposed monitoring body, the report proposes. In addition, honorary societies should review their nomination and election procedures to address the underrepresentation of women in their memberships. The report also recommends that scholarly journals examine their processes for reviewing papers submitted for publication. To minimize any bias, they should consider keeping authors’ identi- ties hidden until reviews have been completed. GOVERNMENT AGENCIES AND CONGRESS Federal funding agencies and foundations, in collaboration with professional and scientific societies, should hold mandatory national meetings to educate university department chairs, agency program officers, and members of review panels on ways to minimize the effects of gender bias in performance evaluations, the report says. Furthermore, these agencies should come up with more ways to pay for interim technical or administrative support for researchers who are on leave because of caregiving responsibilities. Federal enforcement agencies—including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); U.S. Departments of Education, Justice, and Labor; and various federal civil rights offices—should provide technical assis- tance to help universities achieve diversity in their programs and employment and encourage them to meet such goals. These agencies should also regularly conduct compliance reviews at higher education institutions to make sure that federal antidiscrimination laws are being upheld, the committee said. Discrimination complaints should be promptly and thoroughly investigated. Likewise, Congress should make sure that these laws are enforced and routinely hold oversight hear- ings to investigate how well the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Energy, and Labor, the EEOC, and science agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of

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2 WOMEN IN ACADEMIC SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN THE UNITED STATES Standards and Technology, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administra- tion are upholding relevant laws. REFERENCE Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine. 2007. Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.