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Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief (2020)

Chapter:Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief

Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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Proceedings of a Workshop


IN BRIEF

April 2020

Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors

Proceedings of a Symposium—in Brief

Careers in science, engineering, and medicine offer opportunities to advance knowledge, contribute to the well-being of communities, and support the security, prosperity, and health of the United States. Many women do not pursue or persist in these careers, or advance to leadership positions—not because they lack the talent or aspirations, because they face barriers, including implicit and explicit bias; sexual harassment; unequal access to funding and resources; pay inequity; and higher teaching and advising load, among others.

A 2020 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies), Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors, reviews the current state of knowledge of factors that drive underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) and provides an overview of existing research on policies, practices, programs, and interventions for improving the representation of women in these fields. On March 19, 2020, the National Academies held a virtual symposium (occasioned by COVID-19) to share key messages and findings from the report as well as hear from experts on the range of issues addressed in the study.

WELCOME REMARKS

Ashley Bear, study director and senior program officer, Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine, the National Academies, welcomed presenters and participants to the symposium and introduced Marcia McNutt, president, National Academy of Sciences.

Marcia McNutt discussed the focus of the symposium—to address key messages, findings, and recommendations from the recently released National Academies’ report, Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors. Despite decades of research, funding, and programs designed to address gender diversity in STEMM, women, particularly women of color, remain underrepresented in most fields. There are a number of underlying reasons for this, specifically bias, discrimination, and harassment, which limits women’s advancement in these fields in tangible ways. The new consensus study report further explores how to address these barriers in an effort to move beyond research to changing policy and implementing practices that can positively impact women in these fields.

McNutt concluded her remarks by thanking the study sponsors, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and L’Oreal USA, as well as the expert committee members, staff, reviewers, and consultants. She also recognized the significant intellectual contributions of another National Academies committee addressing this topic, the Committee on Understanding and Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Particular Science and Engineering Disciplines, led by Mae Jemison.


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Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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OVERVIEW OF KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES’ CONSENSUS STUDY REPORT

Rita Colwell, study chair, distinguished university professor, University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, presented select conclusions and recommendations from the 2020 National Academies’ report, Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors. Several key findings include:

  • Women—especially women of color—are underrepresented relative to their presence in the workforce and the U.S. population. This underrepresentation varies by career stage and discipline.
  • In fields such as physics, engineering, and computer science, disparities in participation are seen by the time students enter college.
  • In the fields of biology, medicine, and chemistry, women are near or above parity at the Bachelor’s level, but encounter barriers and biases that prevent equal representation at the faculty level and block advancement into leadership positions.

Bias, discrimination, and harassment are major drivers of the underrepresentation of women in STEMM, as noted in the report, and are often experienced more overtly and intensely by women of intersecting identities (e.g., women of color, women with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ women). While there are promising practices that can support White women in STEMM, more attention is needed to address the experiences of women of color, Colwell stated.

The report points to a common set of conditions that support successful institutional adoption of practices to address the underrepresentation of women, including: committed leadership at all levels; dedicated financial and human resources; accountability and data collection; and adoption of an intersectional approach. Government, in particular, can take specific action to promote transparency and accountability by requiring data collection and public reporting of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and by holding grantees accountable.

PATTERNS OF REPRESENTATION AND ADVANCEMENT IN DIFFERENT SCIENTIFIC, ENGINEERING, AND MEDICAL DISCIPLINES

Vivian Pinn, study committee member, founding director (retired), Office of Research on Women’s Health, NIH, introduced the panel discussion, posing some of the key questions that motivated the study. For example, why it is that despite the fact that women perform as well or better than men on standardized tests in mathematics throughout high school, and earn better grades in mathematics in college, they only make up about 20 percent of graduates and faculty in math intensive STEM fields? Pinn reiterated that bias, discrimination, and harassment, not a lack of aptitude, limit women’s participation in STEMM. Research also suggests that strong cultural stereotypes drive women away from these fields early in their education.

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FIGURE 1 Women’s representation and leadership in medicine.
Source: AAMC.

Janis Orlowski, chief health care officer, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) discussed the representation of women in medicine, noting that, while in 2018, women made up about 51% of applicants to medical schools, there continues to be a significant lack of women serving in leadership roles in this field. In fact, over a 10 year period the representation of women in leadership positions in medicine did not increase more than 6 percent in any position, and in one position (assistant dean), it actually decreased by 2 percent (see Figure 1). There also continue to be significant gender differences in annual salaries for faculty working at academic institutions, even after adjusting for rank, specialization, and a variety of other factors.

Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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Gender bias has been identified as one of the drivers of gender disparity in academic medicine. Bias may also be reinforced by gender subordinating language or differential use of formality in forms of address. In one study that examined the use of professional titles, for example, women introduced by men at Internal Medicine Grand Rounds were less likely to be addressed by professional title than were men introduced by men.

David Miller, researcher, American Institutes for Research, described his research examining gender gaps in computing and engineering, noting that these gaps in terms of interest in these fields start early. For example, while 13 percent of high school aged boys indicate an interest in pursuing careers in computing or engineering, only 2 percent of girls indicate the same interest. Stereotypes about the culture of these fields, including the idea that those entering these fields are socially isolated or that these are not considered “helping” fields may contribute (Cheryan et al., 2015). Stereotypes around girls and their abilities may also feed into these gender gaps. Evidence suggests that children also learn these stereotypes early; a study of first graders reveals that children believe that boys are better at robotics and programming than girls.

Despite these barriers, women can and do join these fields later in their careers. In fact, in 2015, most college-educated computer science workers (55 percent) had no related degree and many had no STEM degree (29 percent). Other pathways for late entry include on-the-job learning and coding boot camps. However, despite these opportunities, among non-STEM graduates, women join computer science far less often than men (see Figure 2). More work is needed to understand how cultural and ability stereotypes vary across these STEMM fields.

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FIGURE 2 Percentage of non-STEM graduates working in computer science, by race and gender.
Source: AAMC.

Andrei Cimpian, associate professor of psychology, New York University, discussed research around why some STEMM fields are more diverse than others. For example, fields including biology have reached gender parity, while others, such as engineering, physics, as well as in some social science fields including music theory and philosophy, the number of women continue to lag.

Cimpian noted that fields exhibiting larger gender gaps have also been found to value “genius” and “brilliance” characteristics that are stereotypically associated with men. These stereotypes, combined with the differing emphases that STEMM fields place on brilliance, are associated with greater gender gaps in disciplines where “raw talent” is believed to be needed. Studies show that there is a strong relationship between the greater emphasis placed on brilliance by field and the percent of PhDs in that field who are women (See Figure 3). This also applies to underrepresented minority groups. For example, fewer African Americans complete PhDs in fields that are believed to require innate brilliance. This circumstance may be contributing to the underrepresentation of women, particularly women of color, in these fields. Cimpian added that a field’s emphasis on “brilliance” has been shown to result in lowering young women’s interest in that field and adds to their sense of being an impostor, affecting both recruitment and retention of women in these fields.

Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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FIGURE 3 Field-specific ability beliefs and the percentage of female 2011 U.S. Ph.D.s in social science and humanities.
Source: From Leslie et al., Science 16 Jan 2015: Vol. 347, Issue 6219, pp. 262-265 (DOI: 10.1126/science.1261375).

EFFECTIVE INSTITUTIONAL PRACTICES FOR ADDRESSING GENDER DISPARITIES PART I: EDUCATIONAL INTERVENTIONS, MENTORING, AND ROLE MODELS

Maria Dahlberg, program officer, Board on Higher Education and Workforce, National Academies, moderated the panel addressing strategies and practices that have proven effective in retaining and recruiting more women in STEMM. This includes research on curricular interventions, the importance of role models, and the positive impact of mentorship. Dahlberg noted that a lack of mentorship is of particular concern for women of color.

Renetta Tull, vice chancellor of diversity, equity and inclusion, University of California, Davis, discussed the importance of mentoring in improving the representation of women in STEMM. As described in the National Academies’ report, having mentors during college is one of the best predictors of women’s reported involvement in their STEMM major (NASEM, 2019). Finding 3-6 from the report is particularly relevant to the importance of mentoring in helping to develop connections that are critical to increasing the number of women in STEMM. Specifically, the report notes that the “lack of mentorship is a particular challenge for women in engineering, chemistry, and mathematics. Mentorship for women of color is particularly important, as underrepresented students in STEMM are less likely than well-represented students to receive formal mentoring.”

Mentoring should be intentional and strategic, stated Tull. Mentors should develop a concrete plan focusing on how mentees will meet their goals, including how and when they will spend time with them. There are a number of strong mentorship programs that provide examples, including at the National Society of Black Engineers and the National Science Foundation.

Mentorship is particularly important during times of uncertainty, for example during the current COVID-19 crisis, stated Tull. The fears and uncertainty that we are all experiencing can be overwhelming; we all need reassurance about our future. Mentors provide just that; encouragement that is uplifting, particularly during a time of tremendous stress. Mentoring programs are designed to develop connections, to encourage social and emotional growth, and provide ongoing career support for mentees so they succeed in STEMM.

Amanda Diekman, professor of psychological and brain sciences, Indiana University Bloomington, discussed research related to understanding who engages and persists in STEMM fields. Communal motives have been endorsed more frequently by women and girls, yet STEMM fields are not often seen as providing opportunities to serve the broader community. However, when opportunities serving the community through STEMM fields are highlighted, women have shown more interest in these fields. Changing belief systems to support the idea that STEMM offers opportunity to serve the community can be achieved by harnessing role models to show representation of different identities and values. There is also a need to encourage growth-oriented approaches and highlight how STEMM can support communal goals to bring broader representation to these fields.

Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH PERSPECTIVE ON THE UNDERREPRESENTATION OF WOMEN STEMM

Introduction of NIH Director

Janine Clayton, director, office of research on women’s health, NIH, discussed the importance of the symposium topic to NIH, a sponsor of the study, and introduced Dr. Francis Collin, Director of NIH. Dr. Collins has been a key champion for women in STEMM. Under his leadership, Collins proposed actions and policies to promote a safe working environment for women, supported system-wide culture change around increasing women in STEMM, and spoke out against all male panels at speaking engagements. Clayton noted that Collins and his attention to inclusiveness has challenged others to take action to support women in science.

Address by NIH Director

Francis Collins, director, National Institutes of Health, noted that the recent National Academies’ report will guide the agency as it works to increase the number of women in STEMM. NIH has taken related action on many fronts, for example, by developing an NIH working group to promote entry, recruitment, retention, and sustained advancement of women in biomedical and research careers. The agency also developed its first permanent Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity in 2014. The number of senior level women in institutes and centers has also increased dramatically; 5 of 6 directors are women. Both the extramural and intramural programs have also developed policies and programs in support of women. With the creation of the NIH’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the agency is increasing transparency and equity across its centers.

Increasing diversity is not just the nice thing to do, stated Collins, it is essential to increasing productivity in STEMM. The progress of science depends on it. NIH has taken a number of actions but the agency has more to do. While the overall trend of more women in STEMM is moving in the right direction, but it is not sufficient.

EFFECTIVE INSTITUTIONAL PRACTICES FOR ADDRESSING GENDER DISPARITIES PART II: RECRUITMENT, RETENTION, AND ADVANCEMENT

Gilda Barabino, study committee member, Daniel and Francis Berg Professor and dean, the Grove School of Engineering, The City College of New York, moderated the session, noting that improving gender diversity in STEMM will require systemic action and further research. While we do know enough to start taking action today, there continue to be research gaps, including those discussed in the report related to understanding strategies and practices to support improved recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of intersecting identities.

Joan Williams, distinguished professor of law, Hastings Foundation Chair, and Founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, discussed evidence-based practices to address bias in academia, including new approaches to bias training. Williams noted that that these efforts do not address the cognitive bases of bias, but focus on whether people can recognize bias in everyday workplace interactions. Women face a number of biases in the workplace, including the need to “prove-it again,” where women feel they need to repeatedly prove themselves to get to the same level as male colleagues or pushback for behaving assertively (Williams and Dempsey, 2014).

For example, to address the “prove-it again” bias, Williams noted that bias workshops can be held with a small group of participants to encourage them to actively consider how this bias can play out in the workplace and what role they could plan in “interrupting” it. Williams added that two powerful ways to interrupt prove-it-again bias, includes pre-committing to specific requirements, such as reminding people of criteria and requiring evidence and increasing accountability.

Bias interrupter workshops also work to challenge the bias that women have to behave in masculine ways in order to be seen as competent and behave in feminine ways to be seen as likeable, also known as the “tightrope bias” (Williams, 2015). This bias often results in women taking on additional office housework or service work. Other effective mechanisms to counter this bias include establishing a rotation so that women are not the only ones responsible for office housework or keeping track of who is taking on these activities.

Williams added that www.biasinterrupters.org has a number of open-sourced toolkits that can be used by organizations to address these and other biases in the workplace, adding that if you have a diversity problem, it is probably because bias is constantly being transmitted through your basic business systems. Metrics are critical for understanding and solving these issues and or measuring progress.

Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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She also discussed the importance of addressing sexual and pregnancy harassment in the workplace. This includes evidence-based workshops that have been held to address sexual harassment.

Williams added that most campuses still do not have a student parental leave policy—even though roughly one quarter of undergraduates and one third of graduate students are parents. Without a policy, students must rely on the generosity of their professors and administrators, and that has resulted in many students graduating late—at great personal and financial cost—or even being forced to drop out entirely, all because they needed few weeks to recover from birth. Williams presented model student leave policies at the University of California that includes paid leave for birthing parents and leave, particularly guaranteed readmission. Student accommodations are also important, for example having the right to express breast milk.

In addition to the parental leave and pregnancy needs, Williams added that postdocs have very specific needs and unique funding situations. To address the needs of parents in academia, Williams discussed the importance of a designing a faculty parental leave policy and caregiving leave policy. In general, the worker with pregnancy-related impairments should be entitled to at least the same level of accommodation as any other similarly situated worker—regardless of the source of the impairment.

Elizabeth Travis, associate vice president for women and minority faculty inclusion and Mattie Allen Fair Professor in Cancer Research at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, began by noting that if you want success in leadership, you need more than mentoring, you need a sponsor. We have been mentoring women for a long time and yet this has not translated into more women in leadership positions, stated Travis.

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FIGURE 4 Differences and similarities between mentorship and sponsorship
Source: Elizabeth Travis, MD Anderson.

Sponsors serve an important role in expanding their protégé’s career vision, identifying career stepping stones, and serving as an advocate. Sponsors have power and use their public support to focus on their protégé’s advancement. There are clear differences between mentorship and sponsorship; mentorship offers personal and professional support while sponsorship is concrete advocacy for advancement (see Figure 4). Organizations can support sponsorship by recognizing it as a nontraditional form of leadership, building a sponsorship culture, and being intentional about the program, setting targets and tracking outcomes. Travis noted that sponsors should look for protégé’s with different management skills, believe in their potential, and give honest feedback.

MD Anderson, Travis noted, took a number of actions to increase representation of women in leadership roles, including developing a faculty leadership search committee policy to ensure that search committees and candidates are inclusive. Travis noted that sponsorship is also not just for leadership roles, but can be important to scientific review committees, advisory and editorial boards, among others.

OVERCOMING COMMON INSTITUTIONAL BARRIERS TO SUSTAINABLY IMPLEMENTING EFFECTIVE POLICIES, PRACTICES, AND STRATEGIES: THE IMPORTANCE OF LEADERSHIP AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Alex Helman, program officer, Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine, the National Academies, moderator, stated that the panel would address common institutional barriers to sustainably implementing effective policies, practices, and strategies, and offer guidance on how such barriers can be overcome. Helman added that leadership and accountability are critical in driving and sustaining positive change, along with the need for an intersectional approach to ensure that efforts to improve equity and diversity benefit all women.

Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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Tasseli McKay, social science researcher, division of applied justic research, RTI International, provided an overview of highlights from focus groups held in support of the National Academies’ study. The focus groups addressed topics including mechanisms to overcome barriers to implementing research-driven policies and practices and improving organizational climate as well as how to center around intersectional life experiences. Participants represented a range of different disciplines as well as varied institutional contexts, for example, public, private, and research and non-research institutions.

In discussions regarding ways to overcome leadership barriers related to women in STEMM, focus group participants reported the need to encourage vocal support from presidents, provosts, and deans (particularly through advocacy from trustees); give equity-related roles institutional prestige or assign them to those in respected positions; ensure department and committee chairs offer formal and informal guidance and support for equity work; and plan for continuity of equity work in leadership transitions, stated McKay.

Regarding overcoming resource-related barriers for individuals doing this work, common themes included sustaining effective university-wide work with university funding; allocating school- or department-level funding for specific trainings; improving leave policies associated with extramural funding; and providing funding or teaching relief for equity-related work, among others.

Centering around intersectional experiences in addressing underrepresentation was also addressed. Mechanisms for addressing barriers that disproportionately affect women of color include ensuring workload equity and developing specialized approaches to improve representation, among others. Expanding understanding of, and commitment to intersectionality, educating faculty and leadership about intersectional experiences, and engaging intersectional analysis when developing or selecting strategies for advancing representation and equity were also discussed.

Frank Dobbin, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University, discussed his research on the effectiveness of faculty diversity programs through an analysis of efforts at 600 universities between 1993 and 2015. Results indicated that among the most common practices to address diversity in universities, putting faculty in charge (e.g., faculty taskforces), making faculty accountable (e.g., diversity managers and practice review), giving faculty protégés, for example, through mentoring programs, were considered effective.

Least effective practices included efforts to change the minds of faculty through mandatory diversity and harassment training or through grievance procedures. In fact, mandatory harassment training had negative effects on black women and Asian women; voluntary training had some positive effects, primarily associated with the fact that people were not forced to participate (see Figure 5). Grievance procedures had negative effects on almost all groups (see Figure 6).

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FIGURE 5 The Least Effective Practices for Addressing Diversity Include Mandatory Training.
Source: Frank Dobbin.
Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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FIGURE 6 Grievance Procedures are Ineffective for Addressing Diversity.
Source: Frank Dobbin.

Dobbin added that initiatives that put faculty in charge, for example, efforts related to developing race/ethnicity taskforces (see Figure 7) or working to target women or minorities for recruitment had largely positive impacts on all groups. Making faculty accountable, through hiring diversity staff or reviewing start-up packages, had largely positive impacts on all groups, as was efforts related to improving work-life balance. Any action at the intuitional level to improve work-life balance had a positive impact of keeping women in the pipeline, stated Dobbin.

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FIGURE 7 Efforts that put Faculty in Charge are Effective in Addressing Diversity.
Source: Frank Dobbin.

Darla Thompson, project director, SEA Change Biomedicine, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), discussed work by AAAS to address the issue of the underrepresentation of women in STEMM, adding that achieving true reform in the higher education system requires commitment and funding at the institutional level.

As noted in the National Academies’ report, leadership transitions are a point of vulnerability for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. Often, the programs are not institutionalized and thus vulnerable to disruptions or discontinue altogether. Without building that capacity, or changing the systems underpinning such efforts, interventions will not be effective in the long-term.

Thompson discussed the Athena Project, which began in the United Kingdom in 1999, to address gender disparities in STEMM. The program was very successful and AAAS used it as a model to develop its “STEMM Equity

Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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Achievement” or SEA Change program. SEA Change membership allows an institution to publicly commit to strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion within STEMM on campus. SEA Change membership is comprised of key activities, including an institute; the SEA Change Community, where stakeholders convene to build partnerships and collaboration; and the SEA Change Awards, a voluntary recognition system where colleges and universities, as well as their schools and departments, can be acknowledged for their work in supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Thompson added that the SEA Change process is currently being adapted for medical schools and academic health centers in collaboration with the NIH.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: HOW SOME HAVE DRIVEN CHANGE

Billy Williams, study committee member, vice president for ethics, diversity, and inclusion, American Geophysical Union, moderated a session focusing on examples of institutions that have adopted programs and practices that improved the representation of women in STEMM.

Joan Y. Reede, dean for diversity and community partnership, Harvard Medical School, discussed diversity efforts at the medical school, including through the development of its minority faculty development program and its Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, which provides programs ranging from K-12 teacher professional development through leadership and faculty development. A significant stakeholder partnership component is key to success, which includes collaboration across sectors and academic levels, through a variety of fellowship programs. One example includes the Commonwealth Fund Fellowship, whose goal is to prepare physicians to become leaders in transforming health care systems to improve the health of vulnerable populations.

Reede noted that their work highlighted the need for flexibility in programming; engaging community as vehicle for affecting participant outcomes; willingness to cross disciplinary boundaries; and attending to career development coupled with mentoring and skill attainment; and finally, continuous tracking, monitoring, and evaluating of efforts.

Abdalla Darwish, presidential professor, Dillard University, discussed successful efforts at the university to increase the number of women in their STEMM programs, particularly in graduating minority women in physics. Increasing the number of women of color in STEMM fields at Dillard meant addressing a number of challenges, including the need for intensive skills polishing and addressing testing skills issues, etc. Dillard University supports student mentoring by faculty members; mentoring and continuous funding have contributed to the success of the University in increasing representation. Over the last 15 years, Dillard University’s physics department has produced more than half of the African American women graduating in physics.

Williams discussed how professional societies, particularly activities of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), play a role in driving culture change around the underrepresentation of women in STEMM. Women and non-US residents are a growing percentage of the AGU membership, added Williams, noting that since 2000, the percentage of women of color have grown from 15 percent to 30 percent of membership in 2015. This is particularly important given that racial and ethnic diversity in earth and space sciences is relatively low.

Williams noted that some of AGU’s efforts to increase diversity include publicizing honors and awards data and providing resources and public recognition to women. Another example includes the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM; AGU was a founding member and 123 professional societies have joined to date with the intent of addressing harassment. The NSF’s Inclusive Graduate Education Network is also an important contribution as it advances the physical sciences through increased representation of underrepresented minorities in graduate education. Through these efforts and others, Williams noted that we can collectively take action to increase diversity in STEMM.

REMARKS FROM THE STUDY SPONSORS: THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH AND THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Janine Clayton, director of the office of research on women’s health, NIH, thanked the Academies for their report on promising practices in addressing the underrepresentation of women in STEMM. The NIH has made significant progress by implementing a broad range of policies and programs to address this issue. This commitment is reflected in Goal 4 of the NIH Trans-NIH Strategic Plan: to “promote training and careers to advance science for the health of women.” However, Clayton added that more work needs to be done and the Academies’ report will inform the agency’s efforts moving forward, including understanding what works and what doesn’t.

Since 1992, NIH has created programs to directly target barriers experienced by women in science, for example a 2007 effort to fund research on causal factors and programs 9 and programs in 2018-2019 to develop the Pathway

Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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to Independence (K99/R00) Award eligibility extension for childbirth and the Early Stage Investigator (ESI) status extension for childbirth.

Additionally, several new programs were launched to support women during critical life events, including the Promoting Career Continuity for K Awardees, designed to minimize women’s departures from the biomedical research workforce, and the Promoting Career Continuity for RPG Awardees, also designed to provide sustained independent research support to women. The NIH has also taken active steps to change the culture to end sexual harassment.

NIH has also been developing institutional programs to address the need for a sustained culture change around equity in STEMM. Clayton reiterated the Academies’ report’s emphasis on the importance of committed leadership, data-driven accountability, and tangible rewards, resources and recognition in fully addressing the need for diversity, inclusion, and equity. As discussed in the report, the solution will require coordinated efforts from many stakeholders. Clayton added that everyone has a responsibility to create an inclusive environment for women.

Suzi Iacono, head of the Office of Integrative Activities, National Science Foundation, discussed the agency’s interest in this issue, specifically gaining a deeper understanding around gender disparity in STEMM fields. While current NSF funding rates for early career women are higher than men (27.8 percent vs 24.2 percent), continuing to focusing on early career women is a primary area of focus for the agency.

NSF as an agency has worked significantly to address the issue of the underrepresentation of women in STEMM. For examples, the agency’s Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE) is a congressionally mandated advisory committee that provides advice to the agency on policies and activities to encourage full participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in STEMM. The CEOSE’s biennial report has and will greatly inform the work of the agency.

Through these and other related efforts, Iacono stated that the agency has identified the importance of intersectionality in increasing gender diversity in STEMM; funding more women will not address this critical challenge. Similarly, Iacono also acknowledged the significant data collection challenges, particularly given the small number of women of color and disabled women in these fields. To address these, data should be collected and reported in a way that more fully captures the experiences of women of color, disabled women, and others, in these fields. The agency is taking action on these issues through several of its programs, for example investment in the SEA Change program and in research. Moving forward, Iacono noted that partnerships, particularly with other agencies such as NIH, will be key as the agency works to address the report recommendations.

CLOSING REMARKS

Ashley Bear reiterated several key themes discussed throughout the day, including supporting culture change around women in STEMM, increasing institutional and organizational accountability, and the importance of leadership in furthering women in all areas of STEMM. Bear concluded by noting that the National Academies is planning to conduct further dissemination activities related to the report, including town hall discussions, among a variety of other efforts, to ensure that the findings and recommendations are impactful and drive change on this issue.

DISCLAIMER: This Proceedings of a Symposium—in Brief was prepared by JENNIFER SAUNDERS as a factual summary of what occurred at the meeting. The statements made are those of the rapporteur or individual meeting participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all meeting participants; the planning committee; or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

PLANNING COMMITTEE: RITA COLWELL, (Chair) [NAS], Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health; former Director, National Science Foundation; former Chair, National Academies Committee on Women in Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; GILDA A. BARABINO,[NAE], Daniel and Frances Berg Professor and Dean, The Grove School of Engineering, The City College of New York; current member, National Academies Committee on Women in Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; MAY R. BERENBAUM, [NAS], Swanlund Professor of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Editor-in-Chief, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; current member, National Academies Committee on Women in Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; VIVIAN W. PINN, [NAM], Founding Director (retired), Office of Research on Women’s Health, National Institutes of Health; former member, National Academies Committee on Women in Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; BILLY WILLIAMS, Vice President for Ethics, Diversity, and Inclusion,

Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
×

American Geophysical Union; STAFF: ASHLEY BEAR, Study Director, Senior Program Officer; ALEX HELMAN, Program Officer; and TOM RUDIN, Director of the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

REVIEWERS: To ensure that it meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity, this Proceedings of a Symposium—in Brief was reviewed by RACHELLE HELLER, The George Washington University; DIANA LAUTENBERGER, Association of American Medical Colleges; and MURIEL POSTON, Pitzer College.

SPONSORS: This symposium was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and L’Oreal USA.

For additional information regarding the activities of the Committee on Increasing the Number of Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM), visit www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/increasing-the-number-of-women-in-stemm#sectionCommittee.

Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25785.

References:

Cheryan, S., A. Master, and A. N. Meltzoff. 2015. Cultural stereotypes as gatekeepers: Increasing girls’ interest in computer science and engineering by diversifying stereotypes. Frontiers in Psychology 6:49-49.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. The Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25568.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25585.

Williams, Joan C. 2015. The 5 Biases Pushing Women Out of STEM. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/03/the-5-biases-pushing-women-out-of-stem.

Williams, Joan C. and Rachel Dempsey. 2014. What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know. NYU Press. www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qgbd2.

Policy and Global Affairs

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Copyright 2020 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25785.
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Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors: Proceedings of a Symposium–in Brief Get This Book
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Careers in science, engineering, and medicine offer opportunities to advance knowledge, contribute to the well-being of communities, and support the security, prosperity, and health of the United States. Many women do not pursue or persist in these careers, or advance to leadership positions - not because they lack the talent or aspirations, but because they face barriers, including implicit and explicit bias; sexual harassment; unequal access to funding and resources; pay inequity; and higher teaching and advising load, among others.

A 2020 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies), Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors, reviews the current state of knowledge of factors that drive underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) and provides an overview of existing research on policies, practices, programs, and interventions for improving the representation of women in these fields. On March 19, 2020, the National Academies held a virtual symposium to share key messages and findings from the report as well as hear from experts on the range of issues addressed in the study. This publication highlights the presentation and discussion of that event.

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