Seven Actionable Strategies for Institutions to Improve Gender Equity in STEM

Focus on Direct Financial Support

1) Implement flexible family care spending

This strategy would enable grantees to use award funds for family-related expenses, such as childcare and eldercare, that would allow individuals to travel to meetings, conferences, and workshops that may be important for early career advancement. These awards would be gender neutral and the Working Group has called for biomedical funders to implement this policy.

2) Provide “extra hands” awards

This recommendation suggests that grant making organizations and institutions set up gender-neutral award programs that would provide primary caregivers funding to hire technicians, administrative assistants, or postdoctoral fellows when they become primary caregivers.

Focus on Psychological & Cultural Change

3) Recruit gender-balanced external review committees and speaker selection committees

Organizations that fund research and convene meetings should assemble gender-balanced review and speaker selection committees. Research has shown that the presence of one woman on a speaker selection committee correlates with much higher proportion of invited female speakers. The Working Group believes that women on review committees would see similar results with a higher proportion of female applicants being awarded grants.

4) Incorporate implicit bias statements

To mitigate the subtle and unconscious gender biases that exist throughout society, and specifically in science, it is suggested that grant-making organizations include “implicit bias statements” into their external review processes.

5) Focus on education as a tool

Institutions, grant makers, and scientists must commit to education as a tool to make progress towards gender equality, for example, through hosting and providing training seminars, workshops, and discussions, and share these resources with the scientific and lay community as widely as possible.

Major Collaborative & International Initiatives

6) Create an institutional report card for gender equality

The IWISE Working Group recommended that a set of quantifiable criteria be analyzed to develop an Institutional Report Card for Gender Equality that would evaluate institutions on a specified set of practices resulting in a gender equality grade being assigned. Eventually, grant-making organizations should implement policies that would require potential grantee intuitions to maintain a certain grade to be eligible for funding.

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

The final recommendation suggests that funders, journals, and intuitions should partner with existing organizations to develop and expand existing, searchable databases of women in science, engineering, and medicine. These resources will make it easier for search committees, conference organizers, institutions, and others to easily identify women scientists for positions and activities such as speaking opportunities, participation in review committees, serving on advisory boards, and others.

Reference: “Seven Actionable Strategies for Advancing Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine by Smith K., Arlotta P., Watt F.M., The Initiative on Women in Science and Engineering Working Group, and Solomon S.L., Cell Stem Cell (2015)