July 2001

Shaping Science Policy — International, National and Regional

Symposium on Women in Science

Discovering How Taxol Works

The Mind of a Child

Changing Course to a Career in Medicine

Working at the Nexus of Law and Science

New Factors in the Chemistry Equation

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Al Dorof, Editor

© 2003


Bryn Mawr College
A quarterly newsletter on research, teaching, management, policy making and leadership in Science and Technology

Bryn Mawr’s Symposium on Women in Science: Exploring Critical Issues and Opportunities
By Dorothy Wright

How can schools and colleges best use new learning technologies to advance girls’ interest and education in science? What strategies succeed in breaking through barriers to women in start-up technology businesses? How should colleges prepare women who are not majoring in science and math to succeed in a world where literacy in these areas is a necessity of modern life?

These are among the timely questions that will be addressed by Bryn Mawr alumnae, members of the Association of Women in Science, educators, public-policy makers and business leaders participating in a Bryn Mawr College symposium titled "Women in Science: Opportunities in a Changing Landscape," scheduled for October 26-27, 2001. Co-sponsored by the College’s Center for Science in Society, the symposium is designed to shed light on today’s issues and opportunities for women in science.

"It is not the same world it was 25 years ago, when there were almost no women pursuing advanced degrees and careers in the sciences," says Ruth Lindeborg, associate director of foundation and corporate programs at Bryn Mawr College, and the symposium’s key organizer. "Indeed women have transformed these institutions. But we are not where we should be today, as girls and women all along the pipeline disproportionately leave science education and careers. To facilitate change, we first need a better understanding of current issues and challenges for women in science education and careers."

Identifying Common Ground

Participants in the symposium will identify common ground through an opening panel discussion among five distinguished women working in various science settings, including traditional corporations, government research agencies and entrepreneurial start-ups. Moderated by Catherine Didion, executive director of the Association of Women in Science, the panelists will share their observations about their professional fields and workplaces.

"It is significant that this symposium is taking place at Bryn Mawr, which has fostered women’s interest in the sciences," Didion says. "In the past, many institutions have seen scientists as being born rather than created. Yet for young women, having an opportunity to explore all avenues of interest and to see role models — including women of color — is critical. I hope this symposium will discuss some of these traditionally nonsanctioned pathways."

Panelists will include Maria-Luisa Maccecchini, president and CEO of Annovis Inc.; Priscilla Perkins Grew '62, professor of geology and former vice chancellor, University of Nebraska; and Anne M. Thompson ’78, atmospheric chemist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

"The panelists will provide attendees with a view of the state of women in science and technology, identifying institutional changes and emerging opportunities — both where these have occurred and where they have not," Lindeborg says.

Workshops on Science Education and Careers

The symposium will offer eight workshops focusing on specific questions along two basic tracks — women in science education and in science careers. The workshops will be convened by Maria Pellegrini and Maxine Lazarus Savitz ’58, who will consider issues raised by panelists and elaborate on these questions. Pellegrini is program director at the W.M. Keck Foundation and former professor of biology and dean of research at the University of Southern California. A member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Science Board, Savitz is general manager for technology partnerships at Honeywell Corporation.

"The emphasis on workshops comes out of our goal to collect participants’ recommendations about practice and policy that can be applied in science education at the pre-college and college levels as well as in workplaces," Lindeborg explains.

The workshops will run through Saturday morning, after which participants will reconvene as a group to share reports on their deliberations.

Janice M. Hicks ’80

"I am looking forward to the BMC meeting as a way to brainstorm for new activities to help change the status quo," says Janice M. Hicks ’80, program director of analytical and surface chemistry at the National Science Foundation, who is one of the symposium’s planners. "Bryn Mawr is in a good position to provide leadership in educating academic administrators and leaders to create the kinds of changes needed to help advance under-represented groups in science. Perhaps we will find some catalysts for other segments — government, industry and professional societies — as well."

William Wulf

Among the highlights of the symposium will be a keynote address by William Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering. The symposium will close with a national policy perspective on women in science and technology.

Renewing Connections and Sparking Change

The symposium’s planners (see sidebar) believe the event will help current faculty and alumnae participants renew valuable connections. "We’d like the symposium to serve as a springboard for additional opportunities for alumnae to provide their professional expertise for the benefit of the departments where their training began," Lindeborg says. "We also hope to develop a professional affinity list to facilitate ongoing networking and discussion of women in science issues."

To facilitate beneficial changes in science education and workplaces, the symposium’s proceedings will be posted on Bryn Mawr’s Web site, followed by a paper-based publication for public distribution. "If we truly have a national agenda for increasing the number of people moving into the science and technology fields, we need concrete ways to promote women among them," Lindeborg says. "We believe the recommendations of our participants can facilitate change.

"Indeed we hope this is not the end, but the beginning of a conversation about these issues."

Symposium Planners Represent Broad Perspectives

Bryn Mawr Faculty

Paul Grobstein, Eleanor A. Bliss Professor of Biology and director of the Bryn Mawr College Center for Science in Society.

Rhonda Hughes, professor of mathematics.

Elizabeth McCormack, associate professor of physics.

Bryn Mawr Alumnae

Julie Sheridan Eng ’88, Lucent Technologies

Katharine Frase ’79, director, World Wide Applications, Interconnect Products, IBM Microelectronics Division.

Janice Hicks ’80, program director, Analytical and Surface Chemistry, National Science Foundation.

Toby Horn ’71, education and outreach coordinator, Fralin Biotechnology Center, Virginia Tech University.

Lori Perine ’80, president and CEO of Interpretech and former deputy technology adviser, White House Office of Science and Technology.

J. Pari Sabety ’77, director, Technology Policy Group, Ohio Supercomputing Center.

About the Author

Dorothy Wright contributes news and feature articles on science, technology, engineering and general interest topics to a variety of publications, including Civil Engineering, Engineering News Record and Bryn Mawr Now.

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