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Women in Science

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences will hold special elections in 2017 and 2018 to recruit 16 additional female scholars and scientists. Ten will be added in 2017 and six in 2018. Currently only 13% (72) of the Academy's 556 members are female. The Academy will proceed at the same time with its traditional election of 16 more members. It is unlikely that any women will be elected in the 'traditional' election. Even if all 26 newly elected members in 2017 were women, female membership in the academy would only increase to 17%.

The appalling remarks made by the current US president disparaging women in vulgar terms and dismissing climate change as a Chinese plot prompted the formation of a Women's Science group in the USA that had 10,500 adherents within weeks. The group hopes to develop into a global network for research support and to inspire young women to pursue science.

In 1985 the ACA found that the gender balance of its officers did not match that of its membership. To gain balance, two highly qualified women were run against each other for the office of president a few times in the next several years until such a ploy proved unnecessary. Members found that not only were women fine scientists, they were superior organizers, planners and workers. In 2017, 23% of ACA members were female and 27% of the attendees at the annual meeting in Denver were female. It is not easy to find or gather data on the gender distribution of crystallographers in the countries throughout the world. The list of attendees at the 23rd Congress and General Assembly of the IUCr in Montreal in 2014 included at least 23% women. I would welcome input on the gender distribution in different countries that might have a bearing on the future of crystallography. After its most recent election, four of the officers of the ACA council are women, President Amy Sargent, Vice President Lisa Keefe, Secretary Diana Tomchick and Treasurer Sue Byram.

The IUCr has complex procedures governing the election of members of the Executive Committee (EC) that are designed in part to preserve global and international representation. This is appropriate and laudable. In view of the fact that the composition of the EC has never had female representation commensurate with the percentage of women in crystallography in many countries of the world, perhaps the delegates to the congress could develop a policy that would assure gender balance on the EC, its delegations and its commissions. See articles here and here for more data.

For the past three years there has been only one woman on the 10-member EC. There is a real possibility that soon there will be no women on the EC. IUCr program committees, commission members, invited speakers and session chairs often fail to have compositions reflecting the percentage of women active in the field. The delegates to the General Assembly elect members of the EC. While delegations from many countries have no women members, others have a more equitable composition. Although well-qualified women (in terms of scientific accomplishments and service to crystallography) have been nominated for membership in the past, they were eliminated in early rounds of balloting. For the good of the IUCr, perhaps the women delegates to the next General Assembly should form a women's caucus before voting begins and adopt a strategy for electing women to membership in the next EC.

William L. Duax