Advocacy Update

By Meredith Gibson, AWIS CEO

Advocacy is at the heart of our mission, which reads: AWIS champions the interests of women in science across all disciplines and employment sectors. Working for positive system transformation, AWIS strives to ensure that all women in these fields can achieve their full potential.

We believe that in order for women scientists to achieve their full potential, they must be treated fairly, must be able to work in a safe environment, and must be properly credited for their achievements. We use a number of strategies to monitor trends, raise awareness of inequities, and recommend changes.

Advocacy Activities

Part of our work involves collecting the voices of AWIS members through conversations and surveys. Your firsthand experiences demonstrate the current challenges that women scientists face and inform us about which areas to focus on. As we monitor research and legislative efforts directed at these challenges, we also share updates in our newsletters, on our website, and through social media.

On our website, we have curated data points and resources for AWIS members that focus on how to fight gender bias, racism, harassment, Title IX violations, and caregiving discrimination. These web pages outline the issues and their impact on individuals, organizations, or society. We also recommend action steps for individuals and for leaders of organizations, so that they can address these issues.

On key problems that affect women’s careers, AWIS may choose to issue a specific statement stipulating our stance, such as recent statements on racism, harassment, and women’s reproductive rights.

AWIS also participates in a variety of science coalitions, and this participation gives us the opportunity to see larger trends, to leverage our combined resources, and to exert greater pressure on governmental leaders to advance critical issues. For example, rather than having each organization write a statement or letter to policy makers, one organization will take the lead and give the others the opportunity to co-sign. (Review the recent advocacy actions that AWIS has taken, as well as the coalitions and committees that AWIS supports.)

President Joe Biden speaking on the White House South Lawn on August 9, 2022 at the signing of the Chips and Science Act of 2022. Photo by Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Last summer, AWIS signed a letter asking Congress to support the United States Innovation and Competition bill and the American COMPETES bill, which called for boosting science innovation and the economy. Through the federal legislative process, these bills evolved into the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. When the act passed, the White House invited us to attend the ceremony and witness President Biden signing the legislation, and I was thrilled to participate on behalf of AWIS. This incredible honor was due to the strength of our mission and to our collective voices. Throughout our history, AWIS has been invited to speak at the United Nations, before Congress, and at other national and international conferences and organizations.

New Advocacy Focus Areas

On a related note, thank you to everyone who participated in our recent advocacy survey. We asked you to rank several topics that relate to gender issues and a person’s career. Our survey reflected the following issues in order of importance to our members:

  1. Pay equity for women in science
  2. Equal recognition and advancement for women (promotions, awards, publishing, patents, etc.)
  3. Diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or disabled scientists
  4. Anti-harassment and anti-bullying
  5. Equal representation of women scientists (panels, media, ads, movies, images, etc.)
  6. Support for women’s reproductive rights or other health issues that impact careers
  7. Outreach to support/inspire girls in STEM
  8. Work-life integration policies, including paid parental leave and flexible schedules for caregivers
  9. Postdoctoral employment improvements
  10. Immigration and visas for women in science
  11. Support for women entrepreneurs

Your rankings will allow us to focus our efforts and energy in the upcoming year on the issues that are most important to you. Thank you for participating and for helping us set our goals for the days ahead.