The InterAcademy Council (IAC), composed of the presidents of 15 prominent science academies, has produced two reports on building science and technology capacity throughout the world—and particularly on creating a strong foundation of science and technology in each of the developing countries.
But to achieve these objectives, the participation of women will be essential. Regarding, for example, the important goal of sustainable agriculture, the current practitioners in developing countries—most of them rural women—urgently need to become partners when modern scientific methods and technologies are introduced. Similarly, as women provide so much of the education and family care in the burgeoning megacities of the developing world, progress cannot be made without enhancing their skills and resources. Meanwhile, the full range of talents, perspectives, experiences, and skills of women scientists and engineers must be marshalled to advance the science and technology enterprise itself, as well as to act as conduits for inspiring and teaching their less formally educated sisters —literally, billions of them —at the grassroots.
Realizing that the low representation of women in science and engineering is a major hindrance to global capacity building in science and technology, the IAC at its annual meeting in January 2004 initiated a short-term project for helping to remedy that situation. The IAC formed an Advisory Panel on Women for science with the mandate to review previous studies, provide examples of effective projects already implemented, and issue a set of actionable recommendations addressed particularly to the world’s science and engineering academies. The reason for choosing these specific targets is their likely multiplicative effects. Through their high prestige and alliances with governments, universities, and nongovernmental organizations, the academies can play a unique advocacy and leadership role in initiating enlightened actions and in accelerating processes that in some quarters, public as well as private, have already been set in motion.
Thus the principal purpose of this report is to advise academies. It unabashedly takes the practical approach of women for science, namely, that including women’s talents, perspectives, and skills will enrich the scientific enterprise and will be an utter necessity in global science and technology capacity building. It is not a new study and does not present new research. Within the tight scope of an advisory report, it presents a limited overview of the extensive literature on the subject. And although it does not claim that academies are better suited than existing science and technology and women’s organizations to remedy the underrepresentation of women in science, it does see them as playing a unique, prime-mover role. In that spirit, the report presents recommendations specific to academies that are designed not just for these institutions themselves but for much wider—indeed, global —impact.
Members of the IAC