Panel III focused on cross-cutting themes associated with women in science in a global context with three presentations: Lisa M. Frehill, senior program officer at the National Academies, discussed the roles of disciplinary societies in advancing women in the sciences; Daryl Chubin, director of the Center for Advancing Science and Engineering Capacity at American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), described exemplary programs; and Cheryl B. Leggon, associate professor at the School of Public Policy at Georgia Institute of Technology, in collaboration with Connie L. McNeely, professor of public policy at George Mason University, addressed policies that are presumed to be effective in enhancing women’s participation in sciences in a global context. The themes raised were expected to serve as catalysts for future research and programmatic efforts.
Lisa M. Frehill
The National Academies
Frehill began her presentation on the role of disciplinary societies2 in the status of women in the chemical sciences, computer science, and mathematics and statistics by introducing the theoretical foundations related to the emergence and development of disciplinary societies. Social theorists such as Georg Simmer, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and Karl Marx called attention to the functions of societal institutions and considered social networks as both a consequence and a potential source of large-scale societal change. In this context, the general functions of disciplinary societies include socializing new members, enabling collective actions of the members, and engaging in an array of normative functions, such as regulation of a profession or professional practices. Conferences, research, journals, community networking, policy work, and scholarships and awards are all mechanisms for implementing those important functions and for allocating resources.
The geographic scope of disciplinary societies can affect the extent to which they may become involved in policy and political issues. For example, the International Council for Science (ICSU), which has 113 multidisciplinary national scientific members, associations, and observers, is a federation of many smaller organizations. Such a structure has enabled ICSU to reach across a wide geographic spectrum in both soliciting information and calling for actions.
2 The term “disciplinary society” rather than “professional society” is used in this summary because in some international contexts the term “professional society” connotes a specific normative framework, that is, performing state functions of licensing or other certification of members.