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Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing their Numbers in the 1990s 6 STRATEGIC PLAN FOR INCREASING THE NUMBERS OF WOMEN IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING In his presidential address at the 125th annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, Frank Press emphasized the necessity for a cohesive science policy. Among issues that he cited as top priorities was the need to preserve the nation's human resource pool in science and engineering, in order to stave off potential shortages (Press, 1988). If the goal is to encourage more American students to pursue studies in the sciences and engineering, it will also be necessary to coordinate the many activities required. The rationale for a concerted effort was stated eloquently by Daniel E. Koshland, Jr. (1988): The threat of a serious shortage of scientific personnel looms in the years ahead.... If a shortage is a realistic scenario, ... it is important to find ways to employ underrepresented groups more equitably——for reasons of national interest as well as of equality. As the country expands into an ever-increasing technological base, the need for women and minorities in both academia and industry increases proportionally. It may cost some money, some effort, and some understanding, but the voyage to full equality can be even more exciting and worthwhile than the voyage into space. However, the evidence shows the female scientist or engineer to be only a marginal participant in the scientific and engineering (S&E) activities of the Nation. It also reveals that the situation is only improving slowly. Not only do female scientists and engineers represent a small proportion of the total technical and professional population, but their abilities and training are also often diverted from scientific activity.
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Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing their Numbers in the 1990s An important strategy for ensuring an adequate supply of U.S. scientists and engineers to meet pressing national needs in an increasingly global marketplace would be to increase the representation of women from all racial and ethnic groups in S&E careers. Based on findings presented in earlier chapters of this report, the Committee on Women in Science and Engineering believes the time has now come for analysis and evaluation of earlier and current research, substantial new research, and further implementation of successful interventions. First-Year Plan In 1992, the Committee will emphasize the following issues as it develops its plan of action: S&E Education Infrastructure: identifying educational programs that have been effective in facilitating the recruitment and retention of women in S&E careers, with emphasis on programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels of education; Intervention Strategies/Measurement: encouraging the development of reliable outcome measures to assess the specific contribution of programs that enhance the flow of women into S&E careers; and fostering the development of freer measures of labor force adjustment, including tracking the career paths of postdoctoral personnel;
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Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing their Numbers in the 1990s Career Patterns: developing a program of studies to facilitate the positive employment opportunities related to diversification in the workplace; and exploring issues related to the support infrastructure that makes it possible for women with family responsibilities to participate in the S&E labor force. Long-Range Plan The Committee has at its disposal a number of mechanisms with which to tackle these and other priority topics. The Committee may wish to: stimulate research on issues relevant to women scientists and engineers, by establishing study panels that can explore some subset of these issues in greater depth; monitor the progress of efforts to increase the participation of women in scientific and engineering careers, through workshops and conferences; brief appropriate officials on matters leading to the development of programs for women in science and engineering; and disseminate current data about the participation of women in science and engineering to broad constituencies in academe, government, industry, and professional societies, through the services available at the National Research Council. Activities associated with each of these actions are described below.
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Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing their Numbers in the 1990s Stimulating Research The Committee on Women in Science and Engineering stresses that all studies of women in science and engineering should explicitly consider data on minority women, whose education and employment opportunities are both similar to and different from those of white women. Bemuse the minority population has several subgroups, with quite different cultures, it is also important to study the differences in sociocultural and attitudinal factors among members of these groups: African-American, American Indian, Asian, and Hispanic. With that caveat, the Committee plans to undertake research on sex-specific issues: Recognizing the attrition that occurs at specific points in the S&E education/employment pipeline, the Committee will undertake research to determine effective modes of sponsoring and mentoring women scientists and engineers at all levels, from the undergraduate level through the postdoctoral level and in the professions. Although studies of these phenomena in the fields of education and business administration abound, little more than anecdotal evidence exists on the effects of mentoring on persistence or attrition in scientific disciplines. Information gathered from academe, industry, and the government should enable those institutions that have not yet implemented mentoring programs to learn from the successes of those who have taken such steps. Among suggestions for retaining women in science and engineering at various levels of the education/employment pipeline are the following: providing financial assistance (for example, forgivable loan programs for students to complete graduate degree pro-
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Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing their Numbers in the 1990s grams, grant-research programs to provide continuity between gaps in graduate support, and travel grants to attend conferences and to carry out research programs off campus) and equal access to scholarship resources; increasing the number and percentage of women with teaching and research assistantships; hiring junior and senior science majors to staff assistant positions; and increasing the number and percentage of women in science-related cooperative and intern programs (Connelly and Porter, 1978). These programs should be sensitive to sociocultural differences in order to attract and retain ethnic groups currently underrepresented in science and engineering. The Committee will undertake an evaluation to determine the access of women to such programs and their success in obtaining it. Using data already collected in national surveys of scientists and engineers (at all levels), the Committee on Women in Science and Engineering will study the degree attainment rates of women and men, particularly examining the transition from master's degree to doctorate, by field of study. Much anecdotal information has been put forward during the past five years about the negative influence of non-U.S. citizen faculty and graduate students on the recruitment and retention of female students in science and engineering, from the undergraduate through postdoctoral levels. With the increasing numbers of non-U.S. citizen faculty in some S&E disciplines, and as fewer U.S. citizens opt to pursue careers in these fields (and those who do make that career choice often prefer industrial employment), it is
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Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing their Numbers in the 1990s imperative that this issue be studied systematically. The Committee will develop a study of this phenomenon. The Committee, perhaps in conjunction with federal agencies for which OSEP administers postdoctoral research associateship programs, will study the present status of postdoctorals by sex, race/ethnicity, and academic discipline, including: comparisons of fellowship versus research associateship appointments; quality of postdoctoral experience; size of stipends and the effects of stipends on beginning professional salaries, by field; length of time in postdoctoral appointments; and relation of postdoctoral experience to future permanent employment. Such a study should form the basis of a reexamination of postdoctorals in science and engineering in the United States, updating information reported in Postdoctoral Appointments and Disappointments (1981) and reporting the effects of such training on gaining permanent employment. Using present data on the underemployment of women in scientific and engineering careers, the Committee will study this phenomenon. One goal would be to devise strategies to reduce the differential between women and men. Monitoring Progress The Committee on Women in Science and Engineering will attempt to develop a model to project the magnitude of possible
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Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing their Numbers in the 1990s growth in the number of women in the various S&E fields in the next decade, using currently available data. This model could then be used by the S&E community to determine future manpower estimates and appropriate interventions for providing an adequate supply of scientists and engineers for the year 2000 and beyond. The Committee will encourage all segments of the S&E education and policymaking communities to develop effective strategies for involving S&E faculty in both recruiting and retaining students, in order to make individual members of these communities aware of the importance of sociocultural and attitudinal factors on decisions by students initially interested in science or engineering studies to switch to nonscience/nonengineering fields. Because larger numbers of women are moving into industry, where a great shortage of personnel is predicted, the Committee will assist the industrial sector in taking steps to accommodate women and in making their careers ''do-able" in the industrial context. Because the achievement and recognition of women scientists and engineers differs by country, the Committee on Women in Science and Engineering will examine government policies in the United States and abroad that have stimulated successful careers for women science and engineering, which in turn have increased the visibility of women scientists and engineers in universities, national laboratories, industry, and advisory posts. Briefings The actions of media leaders, university administrators, employers, scientists and engineers, and the research community influence the
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Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing their Numbers in the 1990s participation of individuals in science and engineering. Meetings convened by the Committee on Women in Science and Engineering involve members of these groups, whose actions could create or influence change to overcome the underrepresentation of women in science and engineering. At these meetings sessions will deal with: changing U.S. demography, decreasing interest of American students (male and female) in careers in science and engineering; sociocultural and attitudinal factors that militate against the recruitment of women into science and engineering; difficulties that women encounter at the professional level; and efforts by all parties to increase the participation of women in science and engineering by eliminating gender-related training and employment inequities. The Committee will work with the media and the larger scientific community to develop strategies by which they can improve the public image of science and engineering and increase the interest of young people in these fields. One such project might be the development of a teenage science series patterned after the Nancy Drew mystery theme. Dissemination of Information While recent research has led to a greater awareness of the factors affecting the recruitment and retention of women in science and engineering, this issue has many facets that warrant detailed study. Working with groups such as the Association of American Col-
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Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing their Numbers in the 1990s lege's Project on the Status and Education of Women, the Committee will develop a set of variables, such as the availability of mentoring and special scholarships and fellowship programs for women, to assess campus and corporate climate for women in science and engineering and to establish a database for these variables that may be accessible to individual and institutional researchers. Government subsidies or grants from private foundations for child care to undergraduate and graduate students and postdocs might also serve to recruit more women into scientific and engineering careers. The Committee will collect and disseminate information about successful programs to companies and academic institutions where child care considerations hamper employee recruitment, retention, performance, and morale. In some cases academe, industry, and government laboratories want to hire women professionals but claim to have difficulty identifying qualified women. The Committee will serve as a resource on highly qualified female scientists and engineers, relying on the Panelists File maintained in OSEP on individuals recommended to serve on the selection panels for the fellowship and associateship awards that OSEP administers. The biographical data include recent research topics. The doctoral surveys administered by NRC/OSEP are a valuable source of information on the characteristics and status of Ph.D.s. The Committee will use these data to analyze the status of women in science and engineering by field and by employment sector, in order to make the policy community more aware of the career paths of women in science and engineering, their rates of promotion and tenuring in academe, industry, and government service in
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Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing their Numbers in the 1990s comparison to men's; and possible differences between fields and sectors of employment. The Committee will also attempt to disseminate field-specific data on application/acceptance ratios for fellowships and associateships, by sex and race, in addition to the current data collected on enrollment and retention rates. In conclusion, the Committee stresses that while much is known about the participation of women in scientific and engineering careers and while we can derive great satisfaction over the improvements that have occurred in recent years, much remains to be accomplished. Deeper discussions of all issues delineated above should occur between practicing scientists and engineers, their professional societies, employers, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Congress, and the media, so as to meet head-on the challenges that face the United States in maintaining a competitive work force. The Committee views its role as that of a catalyst in bringing these diverse groups together in order to address the underparticipation of women in careers in the sciences and engineering.
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