The expansion of information technology has spurred tremendous growth in high-tech employment--but more often than not, those jobs are going to men. The percentages of women entering the science and engineering fields that would prepare them for such positions continues to be low.
"Women are not participating in large numbers, particularly in the leadership roles," says Mary Beth Kenkel, PhD, chancellor of the California School of Professional Psychology.
To look at that disparity and determine solutions, APA President Pat DeLeon, PhD, JD, has developed a "Women in Science and Technology" initiative, one of his top priorities for his presidential year. The initiative seeks to foster more involvement by women through two projects: a Women in Science and Technology Web page and a miniconvention on the topic to be held during APA's Annual Convention, Aug. 48, in Washington, D.C.
"We in psychology know something about development," says Kenkel an advisor to DeLeon on the project who has written telehealth and distance learning. "How can we better use it to mentor women?"
The Women in Science and Technology Web site aims at being an "electronic mentor" to help women seek visible leadership positions, whether in science, technology, business or industry. It will continue to develop through the year and include news and resources, information on career issues, profiles of women prominent in science and technology and links to other information sources.
"The goal is to give women the information, the pathways, the role models and the knowledge of practical steps to take to be in a position to assume leadership roles, no matter what stage in their career," says Merry Bullock, PhD, APA's associate executive director for science, who is among the APA staff shepherding the initiative.
The miniconvention, organized by the initiative's co-chairs, will feature national leaders in science and technology. Sessions include:
Technology and gender equity: What works?
The feminization of technology: girls, women and the information technologies.
Advocating for women in science: reflections from the front line.
Researching the status of women: methods for assessing and revising systems.
Diverse perspectives and contributions of women to science and technology.
The initiative will also track and work with other professional societies, such as the American Association of University Women and the Association for Women in Science, on fostering projects such as:
A national database of women who could serve on science and technology-related commissions and boards, or as speakers on those issues.
A yearly comparison of how different universities are doing at promoting women.
Guidelines on best practices in mentoring and networking for women.
Each element of the initiative, Bullock notes, will be coordinated with those parts of APA that have a long-standing focus on women, particularly the Office on Women's Programs and Div. 35 (Women).