New Report Challenges Educators, Policy Makers and Industry Executives to Advance Women and Girls

Contact: Doug Gavel
Phone: 617-495-1115
Date: July 17, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC - A new report released today finds that although women and girls have made significant progress in the sciences over the last two decades, their gains have stalled - and in some cases eroded - in some areas. The report, Balancing the Equation: Where Are Women and Girls in Science, Engineering and Technology?, also analyzes programs that have helped to advance women and urges systematic change to invite and retain more women and girls in science, technology and engineering. Among the programs highlighted in the report is the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Balancing the Equation was released by the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW) at a news conference in Washington, D.C.
Balancing the Equation notes myriad reasons to advance women in the sciences, including the economic imperative to increase the technological and scientific literacy of America's workforce. Equally important, the report says, are the perspectives women bring to the sciences, often leading them to different decisions on allocating research dollars, targeting drug testing protocols, and developing technology to benefit communities.
The report analyzes strategies to attract and retain women and girls in science and technological fields. It finds that efforts to open up scientific study and work have created new opportunities for women and minorities - but those efforts have been sporadic and disjointed. The report calls for a national commitment to remove the persistent barriers and glass ceilings facing women and girls in the sciences.
A member center of the National Council for Research on Women, WAPPP was founded in 1996 to focus on women's role within the public policy process: as initiators of the policy agenda, as decision-makers in the process, and as clients affected by the outcome. Professor Jane Fountain directs the Women in the Information Age Project, which is affiliated with WAPPP at the Kennedy School. The project conducts research and develops policy options to increase the participation and leadership of women in IT. It spans education, research, and business. The project website is www.ksg.harvard.edu/witia. Fountain's forthcoming book, Women in the Information Age, analyzes the barriers girls and women face in the information society, details innovative programs that work to lower those barriers, and recommends a range of policy options to foster societal change.
"By having the Women in the Information Age Project affiliated with the Women and Public Policy Program we are mining the important contributions that women/girls have to make to the sciences and technology," said Victoria Budson, WAPPP's Executive Director. "Balancing the Equation is calling much-needed attention to the need to institute programs like ours across the country."
"This is a critical moment for the nation," said NCRW Executive Director Linda Basch. "In the last few decades, we have learned how to increase women's and girls' participation in science and technology. Now we need to use that knowledge. Change is possible, if complex - and certainly worth the effort. What is good for women and girls is also good for men and boys, and good for the country. We simply cannot continue to overlook the contributions of half our population. If we do, our society, our nation and our world will suffer."
Balancing the Equation finds that women and girls excel in environments that encourage hands-on research, include mentoring and role models, and link science, technology and engineering to other disciplines and real world applications. It provides a blueprint to help leaders make the culture of scientific enterprise inclusive and advance institutional change, and an extensive resource guide to help educators, business leaders and policy makers promote women's and girls' advancement in the sciences. The report finds that:
Women constitute 46 percent of the workforce in the U.S., but hold just 12 percent of science and engineering jobs in business and industry.
There has been a marked decline in women's participation in college-level computer science study. In 1984, women earned 37 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees. In 1999, women earned fewer than 20 percent of computer science degrees. In 1996, women earned 53 percent of undergraduate degrees in biology and 46 percent of degrees in math and statistics, but just 19 percent of physics degrees and 18 percent of engineering degrees.
From 1975 to 1992, three-quarters of African American women receiving Ph.D.s in biology came from historically black institutions. In 1999, 56 percent of Advanced Placement test takers were female, but 90 percent of computer science test takers and 78 percent of physics test takers were male. Less than ten percent of full professors in the sciences today are women, despite the fact that women have been earning more than one-quarter of the Ph.D.s in science for 30 years. Balancing the Equation calls for systemic change and a long-term commitment by top leaders at all levels to advancing women in the sciences, beginning in kindergarten and continuing throughout women's careers.
The National Council for Research on Women is a working alliance of 95 university-based research centers, national policy organizations, and educational coalitions.
Copies of Balancing the Equation are available for $22.00 plus $4.50 postage and handling from NCRW, 11 Hanover Square, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10005. All orders must be prepaid. For Visa, MasterCard, and American Express orders, call NCRW at 212/785-7335 or fax credit card information to 212/785-7350.
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NOTE: Review copies of Balancing the Equation are available to media and reviewers from Gretchen Wright at 202/371-1999.

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