A History of the Association for Women in Science

Sep 08, 2021

The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) was founded back in 1971 and is currently celebrating 50 years of gender equity and advancing the role of women in science. Their mission is to break down systemic barriers, and they continue to champion women in science. Today we’re going to discover the history behind this incredible organization and the impact they’ve made on society over the years.

How the Association for Women in Science was Founded

At the annual Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) meeting in 1971, the Association for Women in Science was founded. The Women’s Rights Movement inspired this organization’s founding, which aims to change the culture within science in regards to women and female leadership roles. The organization was initially organized by thirty-five women, and in September 1971, it was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization.

After an office was established within Washington, DC, and an executive director was selected, new chapters were organized throughout the country, welcoming members throughout the US. The founding co-presidents of the AWIS were Judith Pool and Neena Schwartz, and from the very start of the organization, they were involved in class action lawsuits and fought for the rights of women across the country.

The aim of the organization is to fight job discrimination, lower pay, and the isolation that many women feel within the industry. In regards to diversity awareness, inclusion, and equity, they aim to improved professional development, work-life integration and fight for fair compensation for women working within the industry.

What Does the Association for Women in Science Do?

The Association for Women in Science fights for equity for women within engineering, science, technology, and math. They strive to offer networking, career development, and leadership opportunities for women, which are often not available in organizations today. Throughout their research and thought leadership, they strive to benefit all women in STEM. The aim is for them to be compensated fairly and without the discrimination they so often face and for women to be well respected and recognized for their achievements within this field. They strive to offer role models for women aspiring to enter leadership positions while still enjoying the work-life balance we all need.

The company’s diversity awareness, inclusion, and equity statement reflects its values and mission statement. Since its founding in 1971, the AWIS strives to create an inclusive environment and community, and the board, membership, and employees all offer a wide range of experiences that women in the field can draw upon. Within the US, there are currently 7.4 million women working within STEM, and members of the AWIS are students, professionals, and leaders within the industry.

It’s believed that over 50% of AWIS members have doctorates, so the education and experience that its members can share with others in STEM is just incredible. To this date, there are 49 chapters of the AWIS in the United States. They encourage mentorship, leadership, and networking, as well as encouraging young women to consider careers within the field. While the culture within the industry has certainly shifted in recent years, it’s something that they are hoping will continue to develop in the future.

Major Achievements From the Association for Women in Science

AWIS activities currently focus on news and media distribution, public advocacy, and educational programs. They offer mentorship programs with leadership from top organizations and scholarship awards for women aspiring to work in STEM. AWIS also publishes materials that aim to share discussions on women’s issues within the industry and upcoming science programs. These include the AWIS Magazine, which is published quarterly, and the AWIS in Action! Advocacy and Public Policy Newsletter.

During the early days of the AWIS, the organization initiated a class-action lawsuit against the National Institutes of Health. This was in regards to their response to representation within the NIH grant review committees, and the result of this was a commitment to appointing more women within the organization and leadership. The AWIS also created the AWIS Education Foundation, which has since become known as the Educational Awards, which offers donations and award fellowships to recipients. The AWIS has been recognized over the years for its work within diversity awareness, inclusion, and equity, and in 1997, it was awarded the Presidents Mentoring Award.

In the last decade, the AWIS has awarded over 30 scholarships, which have helped to inspire women entering the STEM field. On top of that, they also created the Distinguished Doctoral Research Scholarship, which is awarded to a member whose research aims to make a huge contribution to the field. They also offer career re-entry scholarships, which help to encourage women who’ve taken a career break for more than two years to re-enter the industry. Their primary focus with all of these scholarships and the funding they offer is to retain and then advance women in science and STEM, which is something that is so often overlooked by other organizations and educational industries.

AWIS has also signed an open letter that declared that they stand against racial injustice. They offer members antiracism resources, which aim to help allies unlearn their biases. They also work alongside other societies to acknowledge the systemic racism within academia in the hopes of changing this culture for the better. As you can see, they are striving to make huge changes to the culture and leadership within science and STEM, and their work hasn’t gone unnoticed in the past year.

The Association for Women in Science offers women considering entering the field or already working within science and STEM the support they need to progress in their chosen career path. Working in science is something that more women are considering nowadays, but we still have a long way to go to see gender equality and equal rights within this field. Their work has encouraged thousands of women to enter the industry, supporting them on their journey with scholarships and funding. We encourage you to follow this organization closely, as they are constantly striving to keep up to date with the changes within the industry and can support you during your career in science.

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