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AWIS was founded in 1971 at the annual meeting of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).With grant support and members' dedicated time and effort, AWIS has successfully built a strong and powerful network to influence advocacy undertook mentoring activities to reach the largest possible number of young women. AWIS joined key groups working toward full inclusion and recognition of women across the spectrum of sciences and technology.

70s-80s: Organize, Build and Advocate

90s: Mentoring, Networking and Advocacy

2000s Onward: Renewal and Growth


The 70s and 80s - organization-building and advocacy

  • Established an office in Washington, DC, with an executive director;
  • Built chapters across the country and recruited individual members; created the AWIS Educational Foundation to receive donations and award fellowship;
  • Published the AWIS Newsletter (later AWIS Magazine) with stories on policy issues and career development; created and maintained a Directory of Women in Science, to document the depth and breadth of their expertise and serve as a source of candidates for jobs, appointments, and awards;
  • Participated in lawsuits to enhance the professional environment for women in science, including successful suits to have NIH include more women on peer review panels and to have the government enforce hard-won protections such as Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity;
  • Persuaded a leading publisher to withdraw a new edition of a medical textbook that addressed male students with erotic photos of women;


The 1990s - mentoring activities, international networking, and domestic policy involvement

  • Encouraged chapters' outreach to students in their communities, through small grants and resource materials
  • Published A Hand Up, Women Mentoring Women in Science, to serve as a paper mentor for those not reached directly by AWIS members; this best seller was later translated into Spanish (a 2005 edition is now available)
  • Won a Presidential Mentoring Award for Creating Tomorrow's Scientists: Models of Community Mentoring
  • Received accreditation as a UN Non-Governmental Organization and attended the 4th World Conference of Women, where AWIS created and co-chaired the first science and technology caucus for a UN Women's Conference
  • Responded to many international inquiries, extending efforts to help women abroad
  • Became a founding member of The Global Alliance, in collaboration with AAAS and WEPAN AWIS continued its networking activities to enhance the education and work environments for women in science
  • AWIS established itself as a major player in political processes that affect women in STEM.
  • Played an instrumental role in developing the legislation that established the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology (CAWMSET) and successfully nominated AWIS President as member
  • Received an ADVANCE Leadership Award from NSF for Academic Climate Study
  • Joined the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, a group that advocates for science on Capitol Hill and with the National Academy of Sciences

    2000 and beyond - renewed commitment to networking and advocacy

  • Joined other groups to petition Congress to strengthen the application of Title IX to STEM departments in academe.
  • AWIS President appointed to the National Leadership Council of Building Engineering and Science Talent (the organization established to ensure implementation of CAWMSET recommendations).
  • AWIS President invited by People to People Ambassador Program to lead delegation to China Continued advocacy to enhance the environment for women in science.
  • Executive Director and Board Members participated in media interviews and wrote letters in response to remarks by Harvard President Larry Summers.
  • Published Washington Wire (bimonthly e-newsletter) with timely alerts on science policy and women in science analyses.
  • Received grant to undertake study of issues facing those in full-time non-tenure-track academic positions.

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