Following on the heels of Next Wave's June feature focusing on the status of women in science, the 21 July issue of Science magazine includes three news stories on the same topic, which you can also find posted on Next Wave.
In "Diversity: Easier Said Than Done" ( Science, 21 July 2000, p. 378), Jeffrey Mervis writes about an upcoming report from the congressionally mandated Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development (CAWMSET). Convened in 1998 to find ways to redress gender and ethnic disparities in science, CAWMSET discussed their report's major recommendations during a 13 July hearing. Not least among these is the call to U.S. employers that they do what it takes to ensure that the country's scientific workforce reflects the demographics of the general population. In "NSF Searches for Right Way to Help Women" ( Science, 21 July 2000, p. 379), Mervis describes the National Science Foundation's somewhat fractious efforts to replace its recent "women only" grants with more politically correct funding structures that will still advance the cause of women scientists. And in an interesting twist to prevailing efforts to achieve across-the-board parity for women in science, Constance Holden ( "Parity as a Goal Sparks Bitter Battle"; Science, 21 July 2000, p. 380) writes about "contrarian" (and female!) scholars who argue that the dearth of female engineers and computer scientists reflects fundamental gender differences: Females, they say, are by nature more interested in people-oriented professions.
In addition to reading these stories from Science, please be sure to check out Kathryn Phillip's article, "Does it Matter?" from the pages of Next Wave UK. Phillips writes about a new book that examines why it should matter that women are underrepresented in scientific careers. The book suggests that the only argument likely to influence policy-makers is the economic one: It is a waste of scarce financial resources to train women who aren't then given the opportunities for gainful employment in science.