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Disproportionate Awards for Women in Disciplinary Societies

Gender Transformation in the Academy

ISBN: 978-1-78441-070-4

Publication date: 6 October 2014



Multiple factors contribute to the attrition of women from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). A lack of recognition for scholarly contributions is one piece of the puzzle. Awards are crucial not only for recognizing achievement but also for making individuals feel that their contributions are valued. Additionally, awards for research are important for promotion to various levels within the academic hierarchy, including tenure and promotion. With a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) has been examining the ways in which women are recognized for their achievements by professional disciplinary societies.


Working with the leadership of scientific societies, we developed best practices to increase gender parity and the transparency of awards processes. These recommendations included using gender-neutral language for solicitations and letters of recommendation, increasing the nomination and selection pools, clearly defining and discussing the types of achievements being sought and evaluated, including women on nomination and selection committees (particularly as committee chairs), and educating the committees about implicit bias.


AWIS partnered with 18 different societies and has seen an increase in the transparency of awards processes leading to more equitable recognition since the project’s inception in 2010.


Professional societies play critical roles in scientists’ professional development, and their awards programs make powerful statements about values. When awards show a gender gap, the implication is that men and women are valued differently by the society. Thus, leaders of disciplinary societies should work to ensure that their recognition processes do not disadvantage women.




We have dedicated this chapter to the memory of Dr. Phoebe S. Leboy, whose driving energy and commitment underlay the entire AWARDS Project. We also are grateful for the support of Janet Bandows Koster of AWIS, who provided sage counsel throughout the project. This work was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation ADVANCE Program (#0930073).


Cadwalader, E.L., Herbers, J.M. and Popejoy, A.B. (2014), "Disproportionate Awards for Women in Disciplinary Societies", Gender Transformation in the Academy (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 243-263.



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