Pointing out that in APA's 108-year history, only nine women have been elected president of the association, APA President-elect Norine G. Johnson, PhD, said she is determined that during her tenure as president, women psychologists' voices will be heard more than ever before.
"Women's route to leadership is not a straight line," Johnson said. "They do experience barriers, and they haven't been trained to really know how to put their voice out and be heard. That can have an impact on their agendas."
Hoping to heighten women psychologists' presence within APA, Johnson helped organize a breakfast during APA's 2000 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., Aug. 48, for women who are incoming division presidents, state association presidents, task-force chairs and other leaders in APA's governance. The participants discussed ways women can share information and use one another as resources to ensure that women are recognized for their accomplishments. The meeting also provided a forum for the women to identify the issues that are most critical for APA to address during Johnson's presidency.
"It was very important to have a sense of connectedness to Norine Johnson as she takes the role of president," said Arizona State University psychologist Leona Aiken, PhD. "Much of how things get addressed--or don't get addressed--has a lot to do with informal networks, and I think Norine was opening access to her in a very important and broad way."
Psychologists who attended the breakfast made a number of suggestions, including that APA:
Increase funding for graduate student training and provide greater continuity for young psychologists as they move from student status to general membership, with particular focus on early career women and women of color.
Integrate international issues in all divisions and foster more interdivisional cooperation.
Upgrade guidelines for women in therapy.
Initiate an oral history on women APA presidents, highlighting women's achievements in scholarship and leadership.
Build more flexibility into APA's support structure--for example, by bolstering child-care facilities at the Annual Convention.
Expand opportunities for women in business and nontraditional psychology positions.
Send a strong message that science belongs at APA.
"It's valuable for me to know that there is a network of women out there who are interested and committed, and that they're willing to give energy to psychology issues," Johnson said. She said the meeting also highlighted ways for APA's organizational structure to allow more communication between divisions and directorates.
"There are mechanisms in APA to look at many of the issues these women leaders raised," Johnson said, "but they need much more attention, more funding and more organizational structure."
Johnson was also one of four women psychologists who spoke at the 22nd annual symposium on eminent women in psychology during APA's convention. Joining her were Linda Bartoshuk, PhD, of Yale University, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, PhD, of Columbia University, and Janet S. Hyde, PhD, of the University of WisconsinMadison. The panelists described the hurdles they have faced in male-dominated psychology departments, the difficulties of balancing career and family and the lessons they learned along the way.
"Make the most of chance encounters with different research scientists that come your way, because this can take you down all sorts of interesting paths that you never thought you would end up taking," advised Brooks-Gunn.
And, echoing the sentiments of the other panelists, she counseled, "Follow your interests and passions in research, even when people tell you that what you're doing may not be mainstream, may not get you tenure, may not get you the funding that you want."