Awards are external markers of achievement and recognition, and are important for job satisfaction and career advancement in academic professions. After receiving recognition, awardees provide inspiration for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals and for those aspiring to an academic career. However, marked gender disparities in rewards and recognition have resulted in a climate that hinders advancement of women and impairs their retention as STEM leaders.
The AWARDS Project is funded by a three-year ADVANCE grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is designed to investigate and improve the process of granting awards and prizes for scholarly achievement in academic disciplines. For more information about the NSF-ADVANCE Program, read about the ADVANCE Program Workshop 2010.
In the first year of the project, we collected and analyzed data on the demographics and history of awards and prizes in academic disciplines. Towards the end of the first year of the project, we convened seven disciplinary societies at a workshop in Washington, D.C. to discuss the problem of implicit bias throughout the process of granting awards and prizes for research and scholarly contributions to STEM fields. In the majority of disciplines investigated, there is a marked underrepresentation of women among recipients of scholarly awards which cannot be explained by the underrepresentation of women in the field.
In most societies, the proportion of female scholarly award winners is smaller than the proportion of female PhDs awarded 20-40 years ago, female full professors in the field, and female award-winners for service to a society.
AWARDS Workshop 2012
In the third year of the grant, eleven new societies joined the AWARDS Project and AWIS hosted a second workshop for both new and pioneering societies to learn about successful efforts to increase the number of women winning scholarly awards.
The following presentations were given at the second AWARDS Workshop in Alexandria, VA on May 20-21, 2012:
The pioneering societies gave presentations on their successes and challenges in advocating for changes to awards policies and practices within their societies and provided the following PowerPoint slides:
After the workshop in June 2010, when representatives from each society learned about implicit bias and discussed ways to improve their awards processes, they have been busy formulating and implementing plans for change. See the American Chemical Society's journal, C&E News for an article about the project, entitled Achieving Recognition Equity by ACS AWARDS Co-Chairs Eric Bigham and Vicki Grassian [Chemical & Engineering News, 88(44), November 01, 2010].
In May 2011, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) invited the AWARDS Team to present our findings at their summer meeting, and as a result have signed onto the project as our newest enthusiastic members. In January 2012, we attended the Joint Mathematics Meeting in Boston, presenting these data to mathematicians in an effort to encourage certain societies to re-engage with the project and spearhead efforts to improve their recognition of women for scholarly achievement.
We have developed a series of webcasts that is designed to educate disciplinary society members (specifically awards selection committees) about the importance of awards and the effects of implicit bias on the process of selecting scholarly award winners. If you are a member of a participating society listed below, click on the link below for access to the webcasts:
If you are not a member of one of the above societies, please click here to view the AWARDS Webcasts.
Why do you exclude women-only awards? Couldn't we just get more women nominated for awards, and that would fix the problem? Could it be that men are just doing better research than women?
We answer these questions and many others related to our data, methodology, and concepts that we encounter regularly when talking to people about the AWARDS Project in this comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document.
Several of the pioneering societies have drafted internal best practices documents, and we have also synthesized a few key points to remember when evaluating the awards processes of one's own disciplinary society. It is important to remember why societies give awards in the first place. For example, is there a role for young investigator awards in recruiting and encouraging early career researchers to stay active in the discipline? Click here for a brief overview of best practices for scholarly awards, and we encourage you to perform your own self evaluation!
Letters of Recommendation and Solicitations - Gendered Wording
Adjectives used to describe potential candidates in awards solicitations and nominees in letters of recommendation can influence perceptions about what an award winner should "look like". When awards solicitations contain male-associated words, for example, women are less likely to consider themselves eligible for the award, and are less likely to be nominated. Similarly, letters of recommendation for men are typically longer, with more ability, standout, and research words; while letters for women are shorter and contain more teaching and grindstone words, in addition to references to personal attributes.
When writing letters of recommendation for women, it is important to keep these associations in mind and purposefully use standout, ability and research words to describe qualified female candidates. Awards solicitations that contain many male-associated words may inherently discourage women from applying or being nominated, and this should be taken into consideration when reviewing awards solicitations for gendered wording and possible bias.
Gray, M. and B. Ghosh-Dastidar. "Awards for Women Fall Short" AmStat News October 2010. [Download PDF]
Bingham, E. and V. Grassian, Co-Chairs, ACS AWARDS Action Group. "Achieving Recognition Equity" Chemical & Engineering News November 1, 2010: 34. [Download PDF]
Lincoln, A.E., Pincus, S.H., Leboy, P.S. "Scholars' awards go mainly to men" Nature Correspondence January 27, 2011 Vol 469:472. [Download PDF]
Popejoy, A.B. and P.S. Leboy. "AAS and the Under-recognition of Women for Awards and Prizes" American Astronomical Society (AAS) Newsletter July/August 2011 Issue 159:18-19. [Download PDF]
Holmes, MA., Asher, P., Farrington, J., Fine, R., Leinen, M.S., Leboy, P.S. "Does Gender Bias Influence Awards Given by Societies?" EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union Nov 22, 2011. Vol 92 No 47:421-422. [Download PDF]
Popejoy, A.B, Leboy, P.S., Crowley, J., Cook, P. "Investigating the Gender Gap in SIAM Prizes" Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) News (December 2011). [Download PDF]
Lincoln, A.E., Pincus, S.H., Bandos Koster, J., Leboy, P.S. "The Matilda Effect in Science: Awards and Prizes in the US, 1990s and 2000s" Social Studies of Science April 2012 Vol 42 No 2:307-320. [Abstract]
Popejoy, A.B., Leboy, P.S. "Is Math Still Just a Man's World?" Journal of Mathematics and System Science 2012 Vol 2:292-298. [Download PDF]
Leboy, P.S., Madden, J.F. "Limitations on Diversity in Basic Science Departments" DNA Cell Biol 2012 Jul 9. [Download PDF]
For more data on the representation of women among winners for scholarly awards, Dr. Erin Cadwalader at the Association for Women in Science.