Ø During the deliberations of the two days of the Women in Science Conference held at the Library of Alexandria in October 2007, there was a general consensus from the participants to endorse the recommendations of the InterAcademy council report “Women for Science” as valuable tools for the empowerment of women in general and specifically on the scientific arena.
Ø The positive news that came out from the conference deliberations is that worldwide statistics show that more young women are pursuing their studies in science, more than 50% of youth receiving degrees in science are women, which is considered a major shift over the last 15 to 20 years. However, statistics also show that a leak in the pipeline occurs as a large percentage of these young women trend to drop out of their respective careers, as they reach the level of professors, CEOs or university presidents. (Review the Karolinska Institute graphs).
It was agreed that this phenomenon is a universal one that is independent of geographical, cultural or economic boundaries.
Acknowledging this problem, the participants agreed that steps need to be taken to rectify it.
Ø The importance of networking was particularly emphasized by all the participants during all the conference sessions. Networks of women leaders in research, who are helping people on the ground as in the agricultural research by Dr. Nina Fedoroff or the work of Jocelyn Webster in South Africa; finding ways to create more productive themes that will be then translated into the life of small skill farmers or in water in using high level scientific research to really change life. But we have to ensure that women pursuing such work are able to stay in their career and reach leadership positions.
Ø Mentoring was yet another issue that was given special emphasis. Mechanisms to provide appropriate mentoring are thought to be essential to empower women.
Ø Balancing family and work is a crucial issue to working women around the world. Enthusiastic young women now are entitled to have a career, while enjoying family life. Societal action needs to be taken to ensure that their children are well taken care of. The model of “Kill yourself to make it all happen” should stop. All society should work towards providing a better environment for working mothers. Private sector, Public sector as well as local governments should provide the infrastructure needed to assist women in pursuing their career.
Why should these sectors be enthusiastic to achieve these goals? because if they don’t involve women in work and in scientific research; they are crippling themselves from the start, by not taking the best of what is available. The private sector, the government, the academia have to help create an environment that makes work reasonably possible for women at all stages of their lives.
Ø Making use of new technologies and IT offers a great deal of more flexible working environment. It is not an alternative to being in the lab, but it could at least offer the option of flexible working hours.
Ø Child care: Governments should offer incentives for companies, universities to offer childe care. Models, like those in Scandinavian countries could be emulated, where people are also more productive. If mothers are all day worried about the well fare of their children, they will definitely be less productive.
Ø Addressing problems facing women through conferences, seminars and other venues is a means of highlighting the problem and emphasizing the need of immediate, appropriate solutions.
Ø It was agreed that there are more institutions and organizations around the world working on women’s issues. However, there is a fear that these organizations are not communicating with each other, nor are they having mechanisms to follow up on implementing and following up on their and others work.
Ø A “follow up” committee will be created to help address the above mentioned problems and to:
§ Try to create a hub, where institutions working on gender issues may be able to see each others’ work.
§ Help identify and highlight “Best practices” all over the world by governments, universities and academia.
§ Emphasize the importance of mentoring.
§ Highlight the importance of networking.