Sometimes They Get it Right!

Sometimes They Get it Right!

Recently MIT Technology Review posted their 2014 list of “35 Innovators Under 35.”  The list recognizes young innovators doing exciting work that could shape the future of their field.  The editors of MIT Technology Review evaluated nearly 500 candidates nominated by the public and their own editors. The nominations were pared down to 80 finalists and then 19 judges rated the originality and impact of their work and selected the 35 awardees.

AWIS was thrilled to see that 12 (34%) of the recognized innovators are women.

It is, perhaps, no accident that the gender diversity of this list has increased incrementally over the past few years.  AWIS research has shown that the more diverse the panel of individuals doing the reviews, the more diverse the pool of nominees will be and so too those selected for recognition. In the case of the MIT Technology Review, the number of female reviewers has increased incrementally by close to 10% over the past few years

diversity judgesdiversity awardees





This outcome isn’t a surprise to AWIS members; we have been doing research and promoting the need for diversity in STEM awards and recognition panels for years.  In 2010, AWIS spearheaded the Advancing Ways of Awarding Recognition in Disciplinary Societies (AWARDS) Project, funded by an ADVANCE grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). AWARDS investigated the process of granting awards and prizes for scholarly achievement in 20 academic disciplines.  While the work and research focused on scholarly achievements, we believe the findings are relevant to awards programs universally.

AWIS has identified a list of best practices that organizations could use if they desire to improve the transparency and equity of their awards processes.   The list includes recommendations from start to finish in an awards program – from developing a diverse pool of nominees to ways to evaluate nominations more objectively.

Kudos to the MIT Technology Review!  If your organization’s awards program does not reflect this type of diversity, perhaps it is time to make some changes to your processes.  AWIS invites all to review the recommendations and resources available from the AWARDS project.  Innovation is possible!

Institutions without Family-Friendly Practices Risk Losing their Best and Brightest

One goal of every institution is to attract and retain the best researchers and faculty members. AWIS recently conducted the largest international survey of working researchers to study their approaches to work-life balance, career decisions, and career conflicts. AWIS surveyed more than 4000 researchers in both academic and corporate settings from 115 countries around the world.

We found that there is a distinct tug of war between the demands of the workplace and workers’ private lives. Of the people who are leaving jobs in the STEM fields, a shocking 64 percent of them are not leaving for a promotion or advancement. It isn’t a huge surprise when you consider that 83 percent of respondents said that on a weekly basis they work more than 40 hours and half of those said that work demands conflict with their personal lives multiple times each week. Employers, especially those in North America, who resist worker-friendly policies will struggle to retain the best workers, and therefore will be increasingly unable to compete effectively in a global economy.

The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) is working hard to reduce the loss of talented, bright women from the STEM pipeline. As a part of that effort, AWIS has partnered with two prominent scholars to create sustainable tools to help universities recruit and retain women in STEM. The resulting resources are cleverly called Tools for Change.

Last September, AWIS presented the first of a three-part webinar series on Best Practices for Family-Friendly Policies. Tools for Change partner, Dr. Mary Ann Mason, JD, has been in the forefront of the movement to encourage universities to develop family-friendly policies for close to 30 years. In fact, she headed up the effort that led the entire University of California system to adopt what was then (and may still be today), the most progressive set of family-friendly policies in the country.

If you didn’t get to participate in the webinar, Dr. Mason discussed five family-friendly practices all universities should focus on.

  1. Dual Career. Establish a dual career policy – and publicize it. If you are a large enough institution, dedicate a university official to handle dual career hiring. Another option is to provide centralized funds to help department fund positions for the second hire.
  2. Stop-the-Tenure Clock for Childbirth. Most universities have a policy for this. Best practices should also include options for fathers who provide care and should include a provision for those who need to care for elders or family members.
  3. Part-Time Tenure Track with Right of Return. The best practice allows pre-tenure faculty the right to return within a ten year time period and permits post-tenure faculty to directly negotiate a return time. Faculty at the University of California system may reduce percentage of their teaching and service obligations from full to part-time temporarily or permanently to accommodate family needs.
  4. Leaves. Standard practice for women is now 6-12 weeks of paid leave and up to a year of unpaid leave. Fathers should get up to 6 weeks paid leave and up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Another option is to permit parents who certify that they are doing half of the caregiving (some institutions use this for single parents or parents who are the sole caregivers for at least 20 hours during the work week) and extend to them a semester of teaching relief. Leave policies should also include provisions for elder care or care of other family members.
  5. Childcare. Having an onsite affordable childcare center for faculty, postdocs, and grad students, with space for infants, is a great recruitment incentive, especially if the institution offers guaranteed placement.

When institutions implement family-friendly policies everyone wins.

AWIS was able to bring this webinar to its members through its Tools for Change partnership and a grant from the National Science Foundation (#1106411). Click here to learn more about Tools for Change

AWIS Members who want to view this webinar on demand can click here.  Not an AWIS member or partner?  Click here to learn more about how AWIS can help you and your organization.


Careers and Children: 4 Things to Consider when you Work in STEM

Do you want to have kids? Can you keep your career? Why not?!

The decision to have children is deeply personal. For women at the beginning of their careers, it can also be a very intimidating decision. Pregnant African American woman

Having children takes an investment of time and money. Many women pursuing STEM careers decide to put off having children until they have received their highest degree, completed a post-doc, or have been hired to a faculty position. Contrary to conventional wisdom, putting off having children until a woman is in her late 30s and 40s does not put her in a fertility crisis (an article in The Atlantic does an artful job of discussing this topic). In fact, the media often uses “graphic headlines but without the science to back it up,” says Kirstin Roundy (AWIS member since 2011). “And then it becomes an urban legend.”

“Women in the STEM fields and women in general do not have to sacrifice their career or desire for children. It’s amazing how society has forced this idea that if a woman wants a high position, then she must sacrifice having children or vice versa,” commented Denise Bronner (AWIS member since 2012). And indeed, although women face many more obstacles to their career advancement when they have children than men do, it does not need to be an either/or situation between career and children.

In order to successfully have children while also seeing your STEM career progress, here are 4 things to consider as you make decisions in your life:

1. Is there such thing as “perfect timing?” As the old adage goes, there’s never a perfect time to have a baby. That may be true, but what’s the best time? The final 6 months leading up to your PhD defense is not likely to be a good time; neither is your first month as a full professor. But if you’re waiting for “downtime” in the lab or more money, you’re unlikely to find it.

2. Who will do what? If you have a significant other, it’s a good idea to get on the same page about who will do what with regards to child rearing. Who will get up in the middle of the night when Young Einstein cries? Who will pick her up from daycare? What if you both have a conference to attend at the same time? How will you both fit in time to work, exercise, and eat? This might be the eureka moment when you realize that budgeting for a house cleaning service would be helpful.

Asian Baby3. What are your institution’s policies? One quick way to throw a career off track is to not understand and follow an institution’s policies. Many companies offer daycare and many grants cover childcare expenses — learn what’s available to you!

4. What if you need to take action? It’s a bum deal that women in STEM careers can be discriminated against or unfairly treated when they become pregnant, while a new father often faces no such issues. Before you have children is the best time to decide how you both, as a unit, will handle these issues. Are you both comfortable speaking to the Dean or going through the proper channels if there’s job discrimination? If not, what is the best way to handle potential issues? Veering from the old saying slightly, a good defense is good planning and forethought.

Do you have any other ideas to add to the list from personal experience? Speak up in the comments below!

If you’re not a lucky person and feel like you never win anything, then you don’t have to rely on contests to join AWIS. You can join right now and without even being a lucky person, you get all the awesome benefits that members do!

Images: Pregnant womanbaby

The importance of gender balance for editorial teams






Written by:  Ylann Schemm | Senior Corporate Responsibility Manager, Elsevier

The journal Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces (COLSUB) operates at the intersection of Physics, Chemistry and Biology and has a team of editors that is rather unusual for those fields.  The journal has four editors – two women and two men – each with their own areas of expertise. We asked them how it felt to have a gender-balanced team within relatively male-dominated disciplines.  Are there benefits to be had or is it essentially a moot point?

Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces papers have applications for the medical, Colloids Book imagepharmaceutical, biotechnological, environmental, food, and cosmetic fields. The journal is rapidly growing in terms of citations and articles submitted and downloaded. The gender-balanced editorial team comprises: John Brash, McMaster University, Canada; Hong Chen, Soochow University, China; Dganit Danino, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel; and Henk Busscher, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, The Netherlands.

Here’s what COLSUB’s editors had to say:

  • The 50-50 situation is preferable because people feel more natural in a mixed environment which is more representative of real life. However, our field is definitely male dominated, so this is pretty unusual.
  • The actual work of managing the journal is not handled any differently, but there is an element of fairness in having a gender-balanced team.

???????????????????????????????The COLSUB editors: (l-r) John Brash, Hong Chen, Dganit Danino and Henk Busscher.

  • We’re just missing out on talent if we don’t represent and include women scientists.
  • A balanced team can make it easier to convince a publisher to take a certain course of action. Women have a different way of negotiating which can be more effective than the “head butting” you often get in all-male environments.
  • No doubt about it: it’s definitely good for a journal’s profile and women editors often contribute a great deal to the journal’s visibility by doing more outreach at conferences etc.
  • We’ll know gender balance is complete when you don’t have to have these kinds of discussions any more.
  • Last, but not least, it makes our meetings more fun!

And their publisher, Rob van Daalen…

As a publisher in Chemistry I am responsible for 15 journals and for Rob Van Daalenmost of my journals, women editors represent a minority. I have noticed a change in the Colloids and Surfaces Bteam since the team became gender balanced. Cooperation, collaboration, and communication are often seen as female strengths and I definitely see this in our meetings. Decisions and consensus are reached in a more harmonious way.”

But why exactly are gender-balanced editorial teams important?

We asked the CEO of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), Janet Bandows Koster, to weigh in on why gender equity or parity on editorial teams and boards is important. She said: “In a nutshell, diverse groups make better decisions and produce higher quality science.  A 2013 study published in Plos One demonstrated that a gender-heterogeneous, problem-solving team generally produced higher quality journal articles than a team comprised of high-performing individuals of the same gender. In addition, publications produced by gender-diverse working groups received 34 percent more citations than those produced by all male teams.

Janet Bandows Koster recently co-auJanetthored Equitable Solutions for Retaining a Robust STEM Workforce: Beyond Best Practices  addressing work-life integration issues faced by those in STEM careers. It features 12 case studies from the Elsevier Foundation’s New Scholars program.

Equitable SolutionsPreliminary findings from a recent AWIS study also indicate that gender and ethnic diversity on award nomination and selection committees lead to more equity in the scholarly award process. And other studies have shown that women who are outnumbered by men in a group are much less likely to speak their mind. The statistics are quite staggering here: women speak 75 percent less than men when outnumbered by men, which means you’re losing out on the kind of diversity which has been shown to improve decision-making and, ultimately, the science produced.”

Koster continued: “I’d also like to point out that the equal representation of women on boards is important because men often have an elevated status in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) based on implicit bias. We’ve found that a conscious effort must be made to balance committees and boards as it won’t happen on its own.”

With these insights from AWIS, we turned to see what other publishers are doing to balance their boards. Emilie Marcus, CEO of Cell Press, explained: “At Cell Press we aim to be vigilant about implicit bias. Whether we’re looking for the right speaker for a conference or an editorial board member, we want excellence and diversity and the best way to achieve that is to identify selection criteria for quality that don’t stack the deck in favor of a particular career stage, geographical location or gender.  At Cell, 75 percent of our in-house editors are women, and in our external editorial board, the ratio of men to women is roughly 75-25.

Emilie Marcus“When I became the Editor-in-Chief of Cell 14 years ago, you definitely saw a recognizable trend at the flagship journals – all the top editors were male. That is beginning to change now.  I am a very strong proponent of diversity leading to better decision making and, ultimately, better science. Once any decision-making group becomes too skewed towards one of these elements, it becomes entrenched and unconsciously exclusionary.  This then becomes very hard to change, and leads to a group that is less agile and responsive to new influences. And that’s when you risk compromising the science.”

At Elsevier, we have long been working to improve gender equality within the academic community through initiatives such as The Elsevier Foundation. You can read more about the Foundation’s activities and other relevant projects in the category dedicated to Women in Science on Elsevier Connect. We aren’t alone. In a 2013 article, Gender progress (?)Nature shone a spotlight on its gender equity record. In the News & Views section, the proportion of female authors had increased from 12 percent in 2011 to 19 percent in 2013. The proportion of women appearing in profiles by Nature journalists had increased from 18 percent in 2011 to 40 percent in 2013. But the number of articles by women in their World View section remained low at 12 percent, as did the overall number of women reviewers at 13 percent in 2013. Unfortunately, they have no quick fixes to share, only the lessons of driving awareness and taking active steps to ensure gender balance whenever feasible.



Equal Pay Day 2014

equal-payAs an organization, we empower women to seek equal treatment in all manners under the law. AWIS supports our members whether it is negotiating for equal pay, helping them get employers to comply with workforce standards such as access to lactation facilities and maternity leave, or giving them the tools they need to handle any other instance where gender based discrimination remains a problem. One of the lingering issues AWIS members face is unequal pay for equal work. Women make up half the workforce and are 40% of the primary breadwinners in this country, but women working full-time still only earn 77 cents on the dollar made by a man (the gap has closed by only 18 cents over the past 50 years). Some of this is due to career choices, but even when all other differences are taken into consideration, some of the gap cannot be explained by anything but discrimination.

Today, April 8, is Equal Pay Day, symbolizing the extra number of days into the following year a woman must work to equal a man’s pay for the previous year. Gender discrimination in pay is a smaller issue in STEM than it is for many other fields, but it is still an issue nonetheless. Helping teach women to negotiate more effectively is not sufficient to end this discrimination. Women executives at the highest levels of S&P 500 companies, presumably some of the most gifted negotiators in the world, still make 18% less than their male counterparts. If they can’t close the gap at those levels with that kind of talent, how can anyone reasonably expect women to do so at lower levels when it is still a fireable offense at many companies to even try to find out what their other colleagues earn? Secrecy is one of the biggest impediments to fair pay; if people can’t ask how much others are making, they cannot reasonably be expected to empower themselves to close the gap.

President Obama will be signing two executive orders today to encourage transparency and thus reduce gender based wage discrimination. One order will prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their salaries, though this only effects companies that get government contracts and funds. The other order is a presidential memorandum instructing Labor Secretary Tom Perez to create new regulations requiring federal contractors to report data on salaries, broken down by sex and race, to the government. Lastly, he will make a speech encouraging the senators to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which they are voting on today. This bill contains similar provisions to the executive orders.

What can you do to help? In less than two minutes of your time, you can ask your members of Congress to support the Paycheck Fairness Act. This link will send a letter of your own or a form letter to your representatives based on your address. It shouldn’t require espionage and subterfuge for women to make sure they are being paid fairly.

Image Credit: Chairman Media