Increasing gender diversity in the STEM research workforce

Women experience substantial, gender-specific barriers that can impede their advancement in research careers. These include unconscious biases that negatively influence the perception of women’s abilities, as well as social and cultural factors like those that lead to an unequal distribution of domestic labor (1, 2). Additionally, sexual and gender-based harassment is a widespread and pernicious impediment to the retention and advancement of women in many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)–related fields (3). Although there is substantial evidence documenting systemic barriers that women face in scientific careers, less is known about how research institutions and funding agencies can best address these problems (see references below and in the supplementary materials). We outline here specific, potentially high-impact policy changes that build upon existing mechanisms for research funding and governance and that can be rapidly implemented to counteract barriers facing women in science. These approaches must be coupled to vigorous and continuous outcomes-based monitoring, so that the most successful strategies can be disseminated and widely implemented. Though our professional focus is primarily academic biomedical research in U.S. institutions, we suggest that some of the approaches that we discuss may be broadly useful across STEM disciplines and outside of academia as well.

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