made a difference for many reasons. Her presence helped to change the norms of the organization, if not the normative behavior of its members. As the gender composition of the AAAS membership changed to include more females, the priorities and interests of the new members had a significant impact on the organization. The larger female membership base also facilitated access to more talent to fill higher leadership positions, which improved the gender diversity in leadership roles and encouraged change in the organization.
To effectively increase gender diversity in science and technology, the role of data is critical: “We cannot operate off of what we do not know.” She called for data that are disaggregated by field, subfield, race, sex, and geographical location. With appropriate data disaggregation, a clear understanding of why diversity issues are different in one location compared with another will arise and lead to informed action.
Many organizations, such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO), have advocated for disaggregated data, as have countries such as Brazil and South Africa that have historical issues related to minority advancement. However, it seems to be more difficult to get disaggregated data from some European countries where there appears to be current ethnic equity problems, and governments do not want to deal with these problems.
Malcom also commented on the discussion concerning career “choice” and “interest.” The term “choice” does not always apply in cross-national contexts, and new ways of thinking or new terminology may be necessary. “We have been living in a context where the jobs and the education have been structured to fit males’ lives. So what does that [structure] look like … if we imagined the lives of people who want to have a life? I think that imagining a different kind of context is what is hanging us up. We have the current models and we cannot imagine other models.”
She noted that in many cases imagining a new and different model was restricted by the belief that the current model is correct, or is the only model. For example, Malcom argued a case for the possibility of half-time jobs and half-time tenured positions, which would challenge structural norms. To encourage diversity, she challenged female scientists and engineers to imagine different structural contexts and make changes proactively. Over time, societies have modified their behavior, such as the networking opportunities formally provided at professional meetings. A good example is that of “smokers.”1
We have been living in a context where the jobs and the education have been structured to fit males’ lives. So what does that [structure] look like ... if we imagined the lives of people who want to have a life? I think that imagining a different kind of context is what is hanging us up. We have the current models and we cannot imagine other models.
Malcom talked about the GenderInSITE Initiative started by several international groups, including the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World, the Gender Advisory Board of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development, and
1 “Smokers” were informal gatherings of colleagues to exchange ideas and network. In some cases, faculty at academic institutions would hold “smokers” and, in other cases, they might be held in conjunction with professional meetings. The term “smoker” is derived from the prevalence of smoking as a very common habit in the 1950s-1970s; many of those who attended these meetings were likely to smoke at the meetings. The term also has an intellectual reference to the emergence of ideas, akin to a fire that is stoked by many people.