Seven strategies to advance women in science

Although girls are outperforming boys in education, this doesn’t seem to be the case if you look at university directories for women in science, engineering, and medicine.

In the March 5 issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell, the Initiative on Women in Science and Engineering Working Group, a collection of more than 30 academic and business leaders organized by the New York Stem Cell Foundation, present seven strategies to advance women in science, engineering, and medicine in this modern landscape.

1. Implement flexible family care spending

Make grants gender neutral by permitting grantees to use a certain percentage of grant award funds to pay for childcare, eldercare, or family-related expenses. This provides more freedom for grantees to focus on professional development and participate in the scientific community.

2. Provide “extra hands” awards

Dedicate funds for newly independent young investigators who are also primary caregivers to hire technicians, administrative assistants, or postdoctoral fellows.

3. Recruit gender-balanced review and speaker selection committees

Adopt policies that ensure that peer review committees are conscious of gender and are made up of a sufficient number of women.

4. Incorporate implicit bias statements

For any initiative that undergoes external peer review, include a statement that describes the concept of implicit bias to reviewers and reiterates the organization’s commitment to equality and diversity.

5. Focus on education as a tool

Academic institutions and grant makers must educate their constituents and grantees on the issues women face in science and medicine. For example, gender awareness training should be a standard component of orientation programs.

6. Create an institutional report card for gender equality

Define quantifiable criteria that can be used to evaluate gender equality in institutions on an annual basis. For instance, these report cards may ask for updates about the male to female ratio of an academic department or the organization’s policy regarding female representation on academic or corporate committees.

7. Partner to expand upon existing searchable databases of women in science, medicine, and engineering

Create or contribute to databases that identify women scientists for positions and activities that are critical components for career advancement.

Abstract of the paper:

Achieving gender equality in science will require devising and implementing strategies to overcome the political, administrative, financial, and cultural challenges that exist in the current environment. In this forum, we propose an initial shortlist of recommendations to promote gender equality in science and stimulate future efforts to level the field.

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