Allan Fisher, vice president of Laureate Education, Inc., Carol Stoel, program officer in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Graduate Education, and Catherine Didion, director of the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine (CWSEM), welcomed the attendees of the workshop. They thanked both the group of scholars and professionals who have dedicated their time to understanding this topic, and Fisher and Didion thanked NSF for funding this project over the years. Fisher described CWSEM’s mandate, which is to coordinate, monitor, and advocate action to increase the participation of women in science, engineering, and medicine.
In his remarks, Fisher explained that the workshop presentations came from a group of scholars and professionals who have been working for several years on documenting, analyzing and interpreting the status of women in selected technical fields around the world. Examination of the three disciplines—chemistry, computer science, and mathematics and statistics—can be considered a first foray into collecting and analyzing information that can be replicated in other fields. The complexity of studying science internationally cannot be underestimated, and the presentations to follow demonstrate some of the evidentiary and epistemological challenges that scholars and professionals face in collecting and analyzing data from many different countries and regions.
A long-time participant in studying the representation of women in science, Stoel thanked earlier researchers for their work in this area. In the late 1960s and 1970s, there were only nine women college presidents in the United States, and they were all at Catholic women’s colleges. The number has increased greatly over the years. Stoel emphasized that “things come and go, and we need to figure out what is underneath the patterns so that we can preserve what has been accomplished and move forward.” The topics discussed in the workshop need to be acknowledged as important and need to be incorporated with appropriate international experiences.
Didion and Lisa M. Frehill, senior program officer at the National Academies, explained that this workshop builds on a project initiated several years ago by Willie Pearson, Jr., Cheryl B. Leggon, Daryl Chubin, and Shirley Malcom, which has expanded to include international colleagues. Throughout the planning of the workshop, Frehill commented, the planning committee provided opportunities for those working on the project to meet, discuss cross-cutting themes, make comparisons, and consider a large number of diverse source materials from many disciplinary traditions. Since 2009, the team of Lisa Borello and Sybrina Atwaters, led by Pearson at Georgia Institute of Technology, has compiled these sources and established an annotated bibliography, which continues to grow as the work progresses.
Frehill further noted that the workshop has brought together social scientists who study the social structures of gender, science, and technology; advocates of women’s participation in the disciplines under consideration who trained practitioners in those specific disciplines; and those who are involved in programs and policy work related to women’s participation in the sciences. The presented data provided a snapshot of the current status of women in the selected disciplines, as well as illustrate the methodologies by which data need to be examined to permit cross-national comparisons of women’s participation in science.
The workshop presentations provided an opportunity for dialogue about the issues that the authors have been pursuing in their work to date. Limited to 10 minutes, the presentations highlighted only some of the information contained in the presenters’ papers included in the summary (see Appendix E).