Using POWRE to ADVANCE: Institutional Barriers Identified by Women Scientists and Engineers

In January 2001, in a statement released on behalf of the most prestigious U.S. research universities, administrators suggested that institutional barriers have prevented women scientists and engineers from having a level playing field in their professions. Also in 2001, the National Science Foundation (NSF) initiated a new awards program, ADVANCE, which focuses on institutional rather than individual solutions to empower women to participate fully in science and technology. Survey responses from almost 400 Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education (POWRE) awardees from fiscal year '97, '98, '99, and '00 elucidate problems and opportunities identified by women scientists and engineers. POWRE respondents consider balancing career and family the most significant challenge facing women scientists and engineers today. Based on these results, institutions must seek to remove or at least lower these and other barriers to attract and retain women scientists and engineers. The survey responses are grouped into four areas that form the basis for policy areas which could be addressed at the institutional level to mitigate the difficulties and challenges currently experienced by women scientists and engineers.