Women in Science and Technology Policy Project

Project Summary

The purpose of this study is to examine the presence and influence of women in science and technology policy at the federal level.  While many studies examine the presence and influence of women in the conduct of natural science and engineering, none, to our knowledge, considers those in positions that influence science and technology (S&T) policy. Our goal is to look beyond numerical representation of women in these roles to better understand:

  • The positions individual women and cohorts of women hold within the S&T policy field;
  • How structures, culture and the “gender ethos” of government science and technology organizations affects the “spirit, aspirations, perceptions of, and opportunities for individual women” (Kenney, 1996); and finally
  • How the presence of women has an impact on the organizations and field within which they work.

The main proposition is that who makes decisions about science and technology policy matters, particularly since it can be argued that “scientific knowledge is negotiated...and its content depends on how negotiating authority is distributed.” (Cozzens and Woodhouse, 1995) Thus, this study investigates whether gender distribution among S&T policymakers affects federal decisions about scientific research and development, such as those concerning oversight of the results of science and technology or investments in S&T funding initiatives.

The study also examines organizational structures, attempting to discern relationships between female participation rates and influence in particular S&T agencies and the organizational structures and processes involved in policymaking at those agencies. As part of the study, we will quantify the changing distribution of male-female participation in leadership roles at S&T policy-making institutions using a descriptive personnel database.

We will use focus groups and interviews to gather qualitative evidence bearing on correlative and potentially causal relationships between organizational context, gender proportionality, and their influences on S&T policy production.

Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy

Humphrey School of Public Affairs
255 Humphrey School
301 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455