AWIS History

The History of AWIS National, Established in 1971

Estelle Ramey, PhD
Founding Mother

The Association for Women in Science (AWIS), founded in 1971, is the leading organization that advocates on behalf of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to achieve business growth, social change, and innovation. We are dedicated to driving excellence in STEM by achieving equity and full participation of women in all disciplines and across all employment sectors. AWIS has helped guide Congress, the United Nations, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, institutions and other professional organizations on decisions and best practices to achieve gender diversity and positive system transformation in STEM. With a 50-year history of championing women in science and over 30 grassroots chapters, AWIS offers opportunities for professional development, recognition, and networking with members, allies and supporters worldwide.

1971
Founding

Inspired by the Women’s Rights Movement and fired up by frustration and injustice in their own personal careers, thirty-five women establish the Association for Women in Science, incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in New York State in September.

1971
AWIS Takes on NIH

AWIS et al. v Richardson and Marston—National Institutes of Health (NIH) is required to freeze appointments to study sections and advisory groups until women are given the chance to suggest names for the open positions. AWIS files suit against the NIH for underrepresentation of women.

1973
Moving on Up

Estelle Ramey, AWIS President, establishes the first national office of AWIS at 1717 R Street, NW, in Washington, D.C.

Estelle Ramey

1974
From Humble Beginnings

Mary Moller, Jeri Sechzer, and Anne Briscoe found the first AWIS chapter in Greater New York.

1975
Success on Two Fronts

NAACP and AWIS win a lawsuit against the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for discrimination in higher education on the basis of sex and race.

1981
Parity in Toronto

AWIS annual meeting convenes in Toronto in conjunction with AAAS’s annual meeting, to discuss the theme of building gender parity in math education.

1981
Presidential Proclamation

AWIS and other women’s organizations, prompt President Jimmy Carter to proclaim the first “National Women’s History Week.”

1982
Scientific Symposium

The first symposium on "Women in Science” meets in
Washington, D.C., to promote equal pay and status for women scientists.

1983
Together We Are Stronger

AWIS joins the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE), a group of nongovernmental organizations that works on a broad range of issues affecting the rights and opportunities of women and girls in education.

1987
Cosponsor

AWIS cosponsors a history of women in science symposium in Chicago at the AAAS annual meeting.

1988
At First Glance

Grants-At-A-Glance is founded as first comprehensive compendium of funding opportunities made available to AWIS members.

1992
AWIS Leads

AWIS spearheads the Environmental and Scientific Taskforces for the Coalition for Women’s Appointments which support over eighty organizations.

1994
NASA, DoE, and AWIS

AWIS cosponsors the “Taking the Initiative!” leadership conference with NASA, and the Department of Energy.

1995
AWIS at the UN

Accredited as a United Nations NGO, AWIS attends the “UN Fourth World Conference on Women” held in China, creating the first science and technology caucus for a UN Women’s Conference.

1997
Presidential Award

AWIS wins the Presidential Mentoring Award for supporting future scientists.

1999
CAWM-SET

AWIS Board Member is appointed to the Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology (CAWM-SET) report, published in July 2000.

 

1999
AWIS Testifies

AWIS staff testify in Congress on “The Advancement of Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development Act” (H.R. 3007).

2002
Grant Awardee

Sloan Foundation Mentoring Grant is awarded to AWIS for developing the Institutional Climate Assessment Survey and Model Academic Policies.

2005
National Conference

AWIS hosts the leaders of NSF and RPI (the former head of the Atomic Energy Commission) and publishes a report on overcoming the barriers that women face due to bias.

2005
Remarks and Rebuttal

Following remarks made by Harvard’s president, Lawrence Summers, AWIS launches media campaign in rebuttal.

2008
The Elsevier Grant

Elsevier Foundation grants AWIS an award to launch national Work/Life Balance Program.

2009
Nobel Laureate

Carol Greider becomes the first AWIS member to earn the Nobel Prize in Medicine for her work on telomeres.

2010
AWARDS

After winning the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE grant, AWIS’ AWARDS Project proves women are underrepresented among recipients of scholarly awards.

2011
40th Anniversary

Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of AWIS, in conjunction with the AAAS annual meeting, takes place in Washington, D.C.

2011
Hastings School of Law

AWIS partners with Hastings School of Law to compare the costs of implementing three best practice policies with the costs of a “leaky” pipeline.

2012
Top Mathematical Statistician as AWIS Spokesperson

AWIS announced the selection of Dr. Lee-Ann Hayek as AWIS spokesperson for the International Year of Statistics 2013 (IYSTAT).

2013
AWIS & Partners Lead Global Dialogue

AWIS, with more than 1,400 organizations in 111 countries, combine energies to promote the International Year of Statistics, a worldwide initiative highlighting contributions of the statistics field to finding solutions to global challenges.

2013
Presidential Inaugural Festivities

AWIS featured in Presidential Inaugural Festivities and invited to participate on a panel about the importance of mentoring in STEM.

2014
Aspen Institute

At “Filling the Skills Gap: The Untapped Resource,” AWIS partners with Aspen Institute to highlight dearth of women in advanced manufacturing.

2015
Ohio State University

AWIS and Ohio State University partner on 2015 National Summit on  Innovation and Entrepreneurship: A Roadmap for Inclusion.

2015
Capitol Hill Briefing

AWIS joins the American Astronomical Association for Capitol Hill Briefing: State of the Universe highlighting diversity in STEM.

2016
United Nations Address

AWIS President Ann Lee Karlon addresses the United Nations on the occasion of the First International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

2016
United State of Women Summit

AWIS represents #WomeninScience at the White House’s United State of Women Summit.

2016
STEM to Market

AWIS awarded prestigious $420,000 Inclusion Challenge grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to launch STEM to Market (S2M), a two-part program that provides entrepreneurial awareness, skills, and support to a diversity of STEM women.

2017
Women’s March

AWIS members around the country joins millions for the Women’s March.

2017
ARPA-E Partners

The United States government agency tasked with promoting and funding research and development of advanced energy technologies Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy partners with AWIS on Women in Energy event.

2018
Revolutionizing the STEM Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

AWIS releases groundbreaking signature report Revolutionizing the STEM Entrepreneurship Ecosystem.

2018
Innovation Summit Awards

As part of its annual Summit, AWIS launches an awards program to recognize individuals and companies that promote workplace equality, diversity and inclusion.

2018
‘Hidden Figures’ Congressional Gold Medal Act

AWIS endorses the bipartisan Senate bill to recognize Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dr. Christine Darden – the African American women mathematicians that contributed to the United States’ victory in the Space Race.

2018
Combating Sexual Harassment

AWIS endorses the House bill “Combating Sexual Harassment in Sciences Act of 2018,” which aims to understand and address sexual harassment in the sciences.

2019
The ARC Network

AWIS launches the ARC Network, the STEM equity brain trust, a priority initiative to create meaningful systemic change in academia.

2019
Equity in STEM Community Convening

The first ever Equity in STEM Community Convening, hosted by AWIS’ ARC Network, serves as a meeting space for researchers, practitioners, and change agents dedicated to creating equitable STEM workplaces.

2020
Pandemic Response

Science is in the spotlight, but shutdowns and social distancing take a toll. AWIS responds with its first virtual career fair and increases the frequency of member communications. AWIS membership embraces the move to an all-digital publication strategy.

2020
Antiracism Advocacy

Repeated acts of racial violence in the U.S. ignite global protests. AWIS issues a public statement against systemic racism, develops a robust Antiracism resource library, and creates discussion opportunities.

2020
New Programming

AWIS makes a strategic decision to reclaim its focus on women in science and strengthens member programming to address current social and professional challenges such as sponsoring a screening of the documentary Picture a Scientist and hosting a discussion on the harassment and implicit bias women in science continue to experience.

2021
50th Anniversary

AWIS celebrates the impact we have made over the last 50 years, connects with people and organizations that share our mission, and commits to continue championing women in science.

2021
Career Re-entry and Doctoral Scholarships

AWIS adds new scholarships to help advance and retain women in the STEM workforce.

2022
Systemic Gender Bias and Harassment

AWIS press release on Eric Lander’s resignation / More must be done to address systemic gender bias and harassment in STEM.

2022
LGBTQI+ Inclusion

AWIS signed a letter in support of the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act, which then successfully passed the House.

2022
Title IX

Title IX at 50 – a report by the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) of which AWIS is a member.

2022
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

AWIS Condemns the overturning of Roe v. Wade and establishes an Advocacy Task Force.

2022
White House Invitation

AWIS CEO Attends the signing of the CHIPS and Science Act at the White House.

2022
Member Awards

To ensure access, equity, and inclusivity, the annual awards are opened to nominations from AWIS members and the general public.

2022
New Virtual Community

AWIS establishes a private, online community for members to connect in discussion threads and inspire, mentor, and support one another. 

2023
Caregiver Support

AWIS supports the Global Call to Action led by Mothers in Science to implement policies which eliminate unconscious bias and ensure equal opportunities for caregivers at the most critical stages of their careers.

2023
Statement on Gender Bias

In response to a misleading headline in the Chronicle of Higher Education, AWIS clarifies that gender bias persists in the scientific workforce.

2023
Updated Strategic Plan

AWIS surveyed members and stakeholders to determine strategic priorities through 2026.