Women in Science and Engineering at Research Universities: Lessons of the Past, Prospects for the Future


Thursday, April 14, 2005, 16:00pm


In 1991, the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Standing Committee on the Status of Women (which I chaired at the time) released a report entitled, "Women in the Sciences at Harvard: Part I: Junior Faculty and Graduate Students." The report drew attention to the fact that Harvard was having difficulty in attracting women to the sciences at all levels, from graduate students through senior faculty. A companion memo reported on discussions with undergraduate women in science. These reports identified specific factors that lead to the dearth of women in the sciences and made concrete recommendations aimed at improving the environment for women students and faculty. In the last several years, many other universities have examined the climate for women in science and have instituted changes aimed and increasing the numbers of women in science.

Today there is growing national concern that we as a society were not doing enough to recruit and retain women scientists. Although progress has been made in the last fifteen year, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in almost all fields, the number of women scientists in the academy and in leadership positions has not climbed dramatically. In this talk, I will revisit the findings and recommendations of these reports, discuss the need for "constant vigilance", and indicate some directions for future change including a better understanding of the social and cultural factors that lead to underrepresentation of women in the sciences.

Marie desJardins

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