Have you seen the involvement or role of women and minorities in science fields change over the past couple decades?
Definitely. I just see a lot more in science generally
and in my own field of astrophysics in particular, just a lot more women
coming into science and doing very, very well – just being extremely
Here at the National Science Foundation (NSF), I’ve hired a lot of women into senior roles.
… I just hired them because they were the best people in the applicant
pool. … But I think the face of NSF has really changed in recent years,
there’s a lot of female leadership. And I see that everywhere.
The head of the National Academy of Science is, for the
first time, a woman, and the head of the [Association of American
Universities] is a woman, so we’re all over the place! And they’re all
doing extremely well and I think bringing a different kind of approach
and background to science – science research, science policy and science
What kind of impact do you think having all
these women in high-level science positions is having on young girls
who are not being encouraged, or who aren’t sure if they want to go into
I think the strongest initial form of encouragement tends to be that
you’re inspired to do something, and then it helps to be encouraged, but
it started with inspiration. So if you’re not aware that something
exists, you can hardly be inspired by it.
I think a big part of the role that scientists are taking
on now is to reach out to the public and talk about what they do and
why they enjoy it and why it matters and what the benefits are to the
public and also to themselves – what they get out of it. And the more
that they can reach people, that we can all reach people, that have not
had the opportunity to know about science and what a great career it is
and how enjoyable and inspiring it is, the better.