Plenary Panel IV:
Advancing Women Into Science Leadership
Marye Anne Fox (Moderator)
Chancellor, North Carolina State University
Our last contribution in the symposium is from Dr. M.R.C. Greenwood, the Chancellor of the University of California at Santa Cruz, a position she has held since July 1996.
As Chief Executive Officer, Chancellor Greenwood oversees a comprehensive teaching and research institution with combined undergraduate and graduate enrollment of approximately 11,000 matriculated students and an annual budget of $265 million. In addition to her position as Chancellor, Dr. Greenwood also holds a UCSC appointment as professor of biology.
From 1993 to 1995, Dr. Greenwood held an appointment as Associate Director for Science at the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President of the United States. In that position, she supervised the Science Division providing authoritative advice on a broad array of scientific areas in support of the President 's objectives.
ADVANCING WOMEN INTO SCIENCE LEADERSHIP
M.R.C. Greenwood, Chancellor
University of California, Santa Cruz
It is truly a great honor to join such a distinguished and insightful group of speakers today. I want to thank Bruce and the committee for taking on the topic of women in science as part of the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.
This is a first, and it should prove to be an important first for the Academy. I will be candid with you. Addressing the Academy on this issue is a challenging endeavor. Some of you know that I feel rather strongly about this topic. The strength of my convictions stem, at least in part, from the fact that I was raised as a scientist in an era that provided virtually no female role models. I did my Ph.D. at Rockefeller University where there were no tenured or tenure-track females on the faculty. There are still very few in the institution, yet in all honesty, Rockefeller provided me with a quality learning environment and mentoring environment, and an environment that built passion and challenged me to grow intellectually.
Thus, I try to be cautious about my attributions. Today, I will try to reflect on some of my own experience, but more important, I will focus on the current body of data and give you my perspective on how some of the data are changing.
Setting the Context: Women in Business and Government
The situation for women in the biological sciences, my specific topic for today, is somewhat better than the circumstances already described in computer science, mathematics, and the physical sciences. Indeed, the landscape for women in the biological sciences for quite some time has been better than in many other disciplines. Before exploring the ascendance of women in this area, though, let me take a moment to mention the context in which we discuss these issues.
Our nation, and our world, has been struggling with the challenges of women's participation in all arenas. During the past couple of generations, and during the most recent decades, in particular, the role that women have played in our economy, our society, and our culture has evolved dramatically. Professional opportunities for women have grown from relatively low-profile and gender-stereotyped jobs to positions that involve responsibility and leadership. Women have entered and become significant contributors in many of the careers traditionally dominated by men. They now receive more than half of all baccalaureate degrees and almost half of the doctorates, own more than a third of this country's businesses, and hold tremendously influential positions in the public and private sectors.
In the federal government, for example, women are now secretaries of cabinet departments and directors of federal agencies. Our nation has a woman as Attorney General, two women on the Supreme Court, and as a reflection of the unprecedented number of women who won elective office at the national, state, and local level, the media declared 1992 “Year of the Woman.” Unfortunately, some ground has been lost in some areas, but a precedent certainly has been set.
Women have entered the workforce and risen through its structure in unprecedented numbers and at a precipitous rate. While there still appears to be a durable “glass ceiling” in industry, academia, and government, the progress made by women and by the culture in professional settings is undeniable. In 1960, only about 7 percent of the nation's physicians were women. By the mid-1990s, women accounted for over 20 percent of that profession. In legal careers, the participation of women increased from about 5 percent in 1960 to about 25 percent in the mid 1990s. Positions for women in the media have also evolved such that we now find women reporting serious news, anchoring, and producing. In industry, as of 1996, nearly 8 million businesses in the U.S. were owned by women, employing over 18.5 million workers, and generating more than $2.28 trillion in sales. While women role models are still scarce in some areas, the progress already made is obvious. When I was in school these statistics and examples were unimaginable, but the female students currently in our colleges and graduate schools have been
raised in a society with female role models, a society that increasingly expects talented women to set high expectations for themselves.
In addition to the readily quantifiable contributions, such as sales and profits or number and quality of publications, women have influenced the culture of business, academia, and government, and in turn, the “culture” of women has been influenced as they have taken on new roles in society. There has been a tremendous impact of professional and working women on the family, on child rearing, and on lifestyle decisions. This impact is associated with such factors as new expectations communicated to girls and young women, expectations that now include elevated aspirations for both professional and personal life.
Perhaps the greatest impact, however, has been the influence of women on attitudes and behaviors in the workplace. Men now desire and demand more family-friendly working conditions so that they may participate more fully in their families and gain the depth of experience available in their personal lives. There has been increased attention across fields and settings to the impact of interpersonal dynamics and the respect for personal rights. Team building, communications skills, and other enhancements have become focal points of lifelong learning and corporate structure, all purportedly improving productivity and creativity in the workplace.
The Ascendance of Women in Science and Higher Education
Let me spend the remainder of my time focusing on the topic of science, and underscoring some of the critical issues for women in my own disciplinary area, the biological sciences. Our nation's leadership in all areas of science is, in part, dependent on how well we develop our available talent pool. To remain competitive on the international front, U.S. science must attract, educate, inspire, and retain the most talented and creative individuals available. We have made progress in a number of areas, including the increase of women entering the biological sciences, but we must examine the current status and emerging trends of inclusion in the sciences to determine where further efforts are most needed.
The Importance of Developing a Strong and Diverse Talent Pool
Data reported in Science and Engineering Indicators (NSB, 1998) offer an unsettling picture of the emerging U.S. standing when compared to other countries (Figure 9). According to these data, in the mid-1970s the proportion of U.S. 24-year-olds earning science and engineering degrees was about 4 percent, second only to Japan, which was granting NS&E degrees to about 4.7 percent of its 24-year-olds. By the mid-1990s, although the proportion of U.S. 24-year-olds receiving NS&E degrees had increased to 5.4 percent, most countries surveyed were out-producing the U.S. proportionately. For example, the U.K. conferred NS&E degrees to 8.5 percent of its 24-year-olds, South Korea reached a proportion of 7.6 percent, Japan and Taiwan were at 6.4 percent, and 5.8 percent of Germans of this age group received NS&E degrees, to name a few. Furthermore, the modest increase in U.S. production
appears to reflect a small rise of women and minorities pursuing some areas of NS&E coupled with a small reduction in the “traditional white male student.” Thus, while we are making some initial gains with underrepresented groups, we appear to be losing some of the established talent pool to other pursuits. The overall lag in U.S. student pursuit of science degrees when compared to many other nations is quite troubling, and the trends of underrepresentation of women and minorities in certain fields compounds the problem. To meet the challenges of the next century, we must develop a strong and diverse scientific workforce, one that has the greatest potential for developing new knowledge, pursuing innovation, and providing leadership.
Diversity of experience, perspective, and background can foster innovation and creativity. It is clear that the participation of women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups can offer great benefits to the scientific enterprise. There are numerous anecdotes illustrating the advances in science that have occurred when diversity has entered the research enterprise. For example, in the biological and medical sciences, the increase in attention to the likes of sickle cell, hypertension, and diabetes is often attributed to African American scientists and physicians posing new or more emphatic questions about these conditions.
Similarly, women have influenced research questions across a variety of fields. A recent anecdote from the field of neuroscience is illustrative (Figure 10). A few years ago, a study demonstrated that there are gender differences in language lateralization in the brain (see the cover story from the February 16, 1995 issue of Nature). This study broke with tradition. That is, in neuroscience, from the time of Wilder Penfield, it has been believed that in right-handed people, language processing is lateralized in the left cerebral hemisphere. In the recent study, however, Sally Shaywitz (a recent IOM inductee) insisted that the experimental protocol use a sample of female undergraduates as well as the traditional male undergraduates. The result is a landmark paper showing that while language processing is indeed lateralized to the left hemisphere for most males, in the majority of females it is processed bilaterally. This has tremendous implications for understanding brain function. It also is vital for the development of effective treatments, and suggests, for example, that men may be more resistant to certain treatments after a stroke while women 's bilateral processing may offer added adaptability and treatment possibilities for overcoming deficits. Obviously, there are numerous examples of the impact women have had on the conceptualization, methodological approach, analysis, and interpretation of research endeavors. Diversity of perspectives, interests, talents, and approaches, then, can lead to vital advances in science and technology.
Biological Science Degrees Awarded to Women
The challenges faced and lessons learned in the biological sciences provide an instructive model for other sciences (Figure 11). The information available is encouraging. Currently, about 60,000 individuals receive bachelor's degrees in biological sciences each year. With more than half of these degrees being awarded to women, it appears that the interest and entry
of women in this area is robust. Women's interest at the college level has been generally high for some time now. For example, in 1966, women received roughly one-third of these bachelor's degrees. By 1996, this figure had risen to over 50 percent.
In the Ph.D. pool, women have also shown a steady increase in their pursuit of the biological
sciences (Figure 12). In the mid-1960s, about 15 percent of the Ph.D.s in this disciplinary area were awarded to women. By contrast, the 1996 statistics suggest that women now receive over 40 percent of the doctorates. Thus, it is clear that women are interested in studying biological sciences, and they are demonstrating great persistence and success academically in these fields.
Women in the Biological Sciences Job Market
Entry, participation, and success at various levels of education are certainly not the only critical indexes to consider. Once women complete their education, their career options and trajectories should be examined. We need to assess what opportunities are made available, what opportunities they pursue, and what obstacles or limitations appear to develop along the road to professional positions of leadership.
In academic careers, the trends for women in the biological sciences are quite encouraging (Figure 13). The percentage of tenured women, while still rather low, is climbing steadily. Even more promising is the rising participation of women in tenure-track positions. It is also evident that women in the biological sciences make up a large proportion of the more junior and less prestigious ranks of postdocs and “other academic” professionals, but there is no real trend here with women holding about 35 percent of these positions since about 1983 (although postdocs have grown a bit in this past year). Examining the trends of women in tenured and tenure-track positions, then, offers
some heartening interpretations. At first glance, it appears that there may be a significant underrepresentation of women in the higher academic ranks. The percentage of tenured women has slowly increased, from about 8 percent throughout the 1970s, to about 18 percent by 1995. While this percentage appears to be quite low, an historical analysis
suggests that it is not far below expectations. That is, 10-15 years earlier, women were only about 25 percent of the pool receiving doctorates in these fields thus becoming eligible to join the faculty ranks. Perhaps most important for predictions about the future of science is the upward trend of women in tenure-track positions. This number has steadily increased, from 15 percent in 1973, to just over 35 percent in 1995. This trend appears to indicate that more and more women are poised to take leadership roles in the biological sciences.
Examining the trends among faculty, collapsed across all S&E fields, sheds additional light on the issue of women's ascent in science (Figure 14, Figure 15 and Figure 16). The trends are certainly not as promising as those among biological sciences, but the news is still favorable. Here again is evidence of increased participation and leadership. That is, at each rank, there is steady growth for women in academia. The number of women at the assistant professor level is not far below expectations based on past Ph.D. award rates. Specifically, the percentage of women assistant professors has increased, from just under 10 percent in 1973, to over 30 percent in 1995. One could argue that the proportion of women
at the associate professor level, especially in the 1990s, is also approaching the proportionate number one might expect, with increases seen from just over 5 percent in 1973 to almost 20 percent in 1995. But the data on full professors gives me pause. Overall, there is an increase in the percentage of women holding full professor positions across scientific disciplines, but the rate of increase does not keep pace with expectations. In 1973, the participation rate of women as full professors was about 2 to 3 percent, but by 1995, the numbers had not even reached 10 percent, far below the number expected given the number of doctorates awarded. That is, the percentage of science Ph.D.s awarded to women has been at, or above, 25 percent since 1970 or before. Given the number of years that it takes to move from Ph.D. to full professor, and given that much of the growth can be attributed to the increases in biological and social sciences, it appears that we may be losing a significant number of women before they reach this level. Indeed, the numbers have actually dropped in fields such as engineering, and the steady growth in physical and mathematical sciences has not yet brought the numbers of women full professors to the 5 percent mark.
Science Leadership: Representation in the NAS
If one were to try to assess the success of women in attaining positions of leadership in science, National Academy membership is a most selective measure. It has been noted that the Academy is largely comprised of male scientists. Yet, judging the Academy based on the current gender ratios in scientific disciplines would not take into account the criteria for membership or the years of work necessary to become eligible. Instead, it seems reasonable to contrast the cohort of incoming members of the Academy with the numbers of women who received doctorates around the time that the average new members received their Ph.D.s.
The Academy provided me with some interesting data (Figure 17). In sum, the proportion of current NAS members who are women is quite similar to the percentage of science Ph.D.s awarded to women about 30 or more years ago, a time when many current members were receiving their doctorates. That is, it appears that women make up between 5 percent and 6 percent of each group. In some disciplinary areas, the percentage of women in the Academy, while still very low, seems to exceed expectations based on pre-1969 doctoral award data. Astronomy, for example, reportedly awarded about 3 percent of its Ph.D.s to women pre-1969, yet the NAS percent is above 5 percent. Genetics, on the other hand, illustrates the opposite result. Pre-1969, almost 25 percent of the doctorates were conferred on women. While currently, the NAS section has only about 17 percent women. Thus, while it might be expected that disciplines with large numbers of women would have higher rates of female membership to their NAS sections, the membership numbers are far closer to expectations once the historic data are taken into consideration.
Again, it is worth reiterating the more recent increases of women in a range of science disciplines, especially at the tenure-track and tenured level. Given these trends, one would expect women to make great gains in leadership activities and positions in upcoming years,
including membership to the National Academy of Sciences. There is promise that in the next 30 years there will be substantially more female leaders in many areas of science.
All of the data on education and academic employment taken together offer reason for celebration mixed with reason for concern. Certainly, there are many fields of science in which women show an enduring interest, from the time they enter college until the time they retire from long and fruitful careers. There are other areas, however, in which women seem to leak out of the pipeline, after receiving their bachelor's degrees and at many points along their career paths. Leakage from the pipeline is a costly loss of talent, especially when women leave science careers after substantial investments of time, education, funding, and other resources have been dedicated to them and by them.
The most difficult problems, in fact, may be the types of issues exposed in the MIT report already discussed today. The MIT study was so astonishing in part because it illuminated the situation for women at equal status to their male counterparts, at an undeniably elite institution, and at an institution that takes such pride in its female faculty's accomplishments and contributions. One of the most compelling findings of this study, as you have heard from other speakers today, is that the productivity of these women increased precipitously after the university took steps to correct the inequities. As has already been noted, the interventions could thus be seen as economically sound investments as indicated by such factors as the amount of additional indirect cost money that came into the institution because of the increased productivity.
Employment of Female Biological Scientists Across Sectors
Finally, it is worth examining the professional opportunities available to, and pursued by, women in the biological sciences. While there has been much talk recently of the “overproduction” of Ph.D.s, it is equally clear many talented young scientists in all demographic groups are finding nontraditional careers to be rewarding, both financially and intellectually, and they are enjoying the challenges of bringing their disciplinary knowledge to new (and possibly more appreciative) venues. This trend is already evident in the growing interest in industry jobs, and novel career paths are emerging in other sectors as well. I recently learned, for example, that the USDA is the largest single employer of veterinarians in the world. Despite the fascinating job opportunities, however, USDA is recruiting veterinarians from Southeast Asia. There are other new and emerging careers for women biological scientists in government. Positions, from state health officers to policy analysts, are opening and they seek highly trained personnel who have a depth of understanding of science coupled with an interest in societal questions and public policy.
The most common career choice for women in biological sciences is education, and as already noted, women account for an increasing percentage in this sector. In the past 20 or so years, as new opportunities have emerged in other sectors the percentage of women in industry and government has also risen (Figure 18). Specifically, the percentage of women in education has doubled from 1973 to 1995, growing from about 13 percent to about
28 percent, while the comparable growth in women's participation in industry has tripled from around 7 percent to near 23 percent. Similarly, women increasingly have found a home in government, with participation rates increasing substantially from about 10 percent in 1973 to just over 25 percent a couple of years ago.
One reason that women may be choosing careers in industry in increasing numbers is the clarity of corporate structure and the less ambiguous conditions of employment. In many respects, employment in industry is less mysterious than academia. Furthermore, the corporate environment has often made more accommodations to needs in such areas as family leave and child care than we have made in academia. We in academia are losing talent to other professional careers in part due to our neglect of changes in work culture.
Regardless of the new and growing interest in alternative careers, the pervasive attitude in many academic departments continues to be that the only meaningful career for graduates is a career in academia, especially tenured positions at R-1 institutions. Indeed, the pejorative and stigmatizing attitudes towards alternative careers at times seems to be intractable.
Showing True Leadership
More than half of the students attending college and receiving bachelor 's degrees are now females. If we cannot secure, from that incredible pool, a cadre of talented women interested in scientific fields, then we will be left to fill our disciplines with talented students from the countries that are showing a growing interest in the sciences. As has been said so many times, one of the great assets of the
United States is our vast and diverse human resource. Rather than “weed out” students and discourage them from enrolling in science classes, we must encourage and inspire them when they are young. We must encourage their creativity and curiosity. And we must nurture their careers so that the most talented and skilled scientists emerge to lead the next generation.
We are at a crossroads in our nation. This is a time when we need the voice and guidance of leadership. Over the past few years, we have developed a new understanding and new insight into the obstacles to entry and the factors contributing to attrition of women in the sciences. We have also gained a deeper appreciation of the consequences of losing talent. The issue of women's full participation in science and engineering is no longer as it was when I first developed my interest in this topic. It is no longer a simple issue of discrimination against women. The issue has become more complex. We must now look at the interaction of factors that influence whether students are attracted to fields of science, and factors affecting whether they persist in their studies and careers rather than abandon the sciences to pursue other careers.
I hope we will reach the day when we no longer hear that the “first woman” has been elected or appointed to a coveted and influential post or made a notable contribution to a previously all-male endeavor. Science has always fueled economic growth and innovative advancements for society. Science has done this, in great part, through human creativity, innovation, collaboration, and tenacity. It is now for the science leadership to ponder and discuss how best to protect and develop the human resource to ensure a future that will benefit us all.