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Seven Steps

While many women are succeeding in the sciences, they are doing it despite the challenges they face, including lower pay, fewer promotions, fewer grants, and less representation at conferences, write Susan Solomon, the CEO and co-founder of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, and her colleagues in Cell Stem Cell this week. She and her colleagues from the Initiative on Women in Science and Engineering Working Group and elsewhere present seven strategies to promote gender equality in science, medicine, and engineering.

"We wanted to think about broad ways to elevate the entire field, because when we looked at diversity programs across our organizations we thought that the results were okay, but they really could be better," Solomon says in a statement. "We've identified some very straightforward things to do that are inexpensive and could be implemented pretty much immediately."

Among the working group's recommendations are to allow the use of a certain percentage of grant money to pay for child care, elder care, or other family-related expenses so that researchers can more easily attend conferences and meetings, which the IWISE Working Group says is crucial for career advancement. Similarly, it suggests "extra hands" awards should be developed to enable new investigators who are also primary caregivers to hire additional technicians, administrative assistants, or postdocs.

The working group also advocates for more balanced representation of women on peer review and speaker selection committees — again, something they say is critical for career development — and says that funders and meeting organizers should adopt gender-conscious recruitment policies.

Solomon and her colleagues further say that grant makers should be conscious of implicit bias, and that they and scientific institutions should include gender awareness training as part of orientation programs.

Finally, they suggest that a sort of institutional report card for gender equality should be developed and that databases of women researchers should be created or expanded to make it easier to identify women for professorships as well as for speaking engagements and serving on company advisory boards.