and intervention, policy is not developed in a vacuum, but rather in a broader context shaped by political, economic, and cultural forces. Consequently, policy is not static; policy is the product of various interconnected and interdependent dynamic factors and processes. Furthermore, because “one size does not fit all,” a policy that is promising in one context may not necessarily be promising in another.
Accordingly, we consider various aspects of policy as they relate to one another and, by so doing, provide a means for systematically comparing and categorizing policy goals and provisions cross-nationally and over time. From these systematic comparisons, we identify a range of policies that show promise in the context of individual countries and regions. From these policies, we search for common patterns and characteristics, and also note differences relative to situational or contextual conditions. Our discussion of promising policies is based on the premise that policies address issues as well as problems—and that all issues are not problems. Therefore, policy can address what is working as well as what is not working. Thus, framed as plan, rationale, and intervention, and with particular attention to encouraging female STEM participation, promising policies reflect a process that can be delineated in terms of six general analytical dimensions: issue identification, statement, data, gender mainstreaming, institutionalization, and diffusion.4
Problem and Issue Identification
To maximize effectiveness, policy must be based on a clear specification of a problem or issue, including the scope of the issue and the magnitude of its ramifications. Most essentially, there should be an indication of the segment(s) of the population that the policy is meant to impact and in what way(s). Problem and issue specification must be carefully crafted and articulated to capture the essential policy traits and features and to channel them to frame the issue accordingly. This task is especially essential in light of different legal and cultural contexts and applications across and within countries, which leads to some basic questions that must be considered. For example, to what extent do policy goals and projections intended to increase female representation in science and technology also include references to their increased presence as decision-makers and evaluators—positions that function as social and professional arbiters and community gatekeepers?
Promising policies couple the policy statement to policy implementation. Clear specifications of objectives provide directives for implementation and promising policies focus on actions that are goal-oriented. Moreover, along with guidelines for action, they establish targets rather than quotas. Enhancing women’s participation—i.e., mainstreaming women’s participation—in all aspects of the sciences and technology requires continuous and rigorous monitoring over time. Therefore, the policy statements characteristic of promising policies delineate deadlines for specified progress, and emphasize the obligation to report the extent of
4 Our approach is informed by that of the Building Engineering and Science Talent (BEST) initiative, a public—private partnership dedicated to building a stronger, more diverse U.S. workforce in science, engineering, and technology by increasing the participation of underrepresented groups. BEST applies its knowledge of program effectiveness in STEM to support efforts to build capacity at the local, state, and federal levels. Available at http://www.bestworkforce.org.