Environmental Factor, April 2008, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
RAISE Recognizes the Contribution of Women Scientists
By Robin Arnette
Two scientists with a similar background on paper - a strong publication record, adequate teaching service and an exceptional history of training young scientists, for example - should have about the same chance of receiving a merit-based award or being awarded tenure. However, according to a national study, if review committee members know that one of the applicants is a woman, her chance of winning the award or gaining the promotion decreases dramatically. Gender bias is a reality in the world, especially in science, but a group of women scientists hope to change that.
According to its Web site, the Recognition of the Achievements of Women in Science, Medicine and Engineering (RAISE) Project is "a campaign to increase the status of professional women through enhanced recognition of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine." The RAISE Project (http://www.raiseproject.org/index.php) highlights the fact that awards and prizes are important as recognition for scientific achievement. Despite the marked rise of women receiving M.D.s and Ph.D.s in science, the disparity between scientific awards given to men and women still exists. In a study of almost 800 awards and prizes in science, technology, mathematics and medicine, The RAISE Project has established that over 55 percent have rarely, if ever, been given to women. Such analysis confirms the reality of gender bias and is the impetus for a wide ranging effort to improve the success of professional women.
On March 10 Stephanie Pincus, M.D., founding director of RAISE with the technical assistance of Florence Haseltine, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Center for Population Research at NICHD and co-founder of the Society for Women's Health Research(http://swhr.org/) , presented "RAISE-ing the Status of Women in Science" in Rodbell Auditorium. Pincus and Haseltine said biases persist when it comes to rewarding women for their scientific accomplishments, and they encouraged everyone in the audience to nominate a woman for one of the awards listed on the RAISE Web site. The RAISE Project is sponsored by the Society for Women's Health Research.
When asked to comment after the program, Sharon Hrynkow, Ph.D., associate director of NIEHS and leader for NIEHS's first month-long series of events marking Women's History Month said, "Women at early stages of their careers need to understand the value of formal recognition, how to nominate and how to be nominated. This insight will carry them at every stage of their path, and this is why the RAISE project is so important." Hrynkow was pleased that the audience included several male colleagues, including NIEHS and NTP Acting Director Samuel Wilson, M.D., whose support and encouragement for Women's History Month events, she said, was outstanding.
Acting Deputy Director of NIEHS and NTP William A. Suk, Ph.D., M.P.H., said it was encouraging that the numbers of supportive scientists were on the rise, but more could be done. "What I don't see is a truly concerted effort on the part of all scientists to mentor and encourage young women scientists starting at an earlier age," Suk said. "NIEHS should try to emulate the outstanding mentoring programs that occur across the country."