New National Academies Report on Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in STEM, Emphasize Challenges to Women of Color and Marginalized Groups

Apr 20, 2020

by ASME.org

The National Academies’ Committee on Increasing the Number of Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM) has released a new report on Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in STEMM fields. The report analyzes what factors drive the underrepresentation of women in STEMM, makes recommendations on how to increase diversity, and evaluates why promising practices have not been implemented by more institutions. While the Academies have released an array of reports on this topic, this report differs as it takes a more targeted look as to why women of color and those in underrepresented populations experience greater bias when pursing a STEMM career.

The report makes recommendations to Congress and the federal agencies, in addition to education institutions. It emphasizes the important role of public policy in addressing underrepresentation of women in STEMM, citing that “Congress, the White House, and government agencies have both the capacity and the obligation to assume an important catalytic role in incentivizing the creation and implementation of policies, programs, and strategies to mitigate the biases and barriers currently undermining the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in science, engineering, and medicine.” The authors find that while education institutions are the primary bodies for carrying out activities that will lead to more diversification in STEMM fields, it is policymakers who have control of the powerful levers that often encourage innovation and action.

The report calls on policymakers to drive transparency and accountability, recommending that “The legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government should work together to increase transparency and accountability among federal agencies by requiring data collection, analysis, and reporting on the nature, impact, and degree of investment in efforts to improve the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in STEMM, with an emphasis on existing efforts that take an intersectional approach.”  To this end, the report suggests that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) should lead an effort to catalog federal efforts aimed at increasing diversity in STEMM.

The authors also recommend that “federal agencies should hold grantee institutions accountable for adopting effective practices to address gender disparities in recruitment, retention, and advancement and carry out regular data collection to monitor progress.” The report then lists specific actions that the federal government should take to achieve this end, including carrying out an “equity audit.”

For more information and to view the report in its entirety, please visit: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25585/promising-practices-for-addressing-the-underrepresentation-of-women-in-science-engineering-and-medicine

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