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    A C A D E M I A

    GENDER EQUITY: PROMISES MADE Brighter future for women scientists pledged by nine research universities

    ON JAN. 29 , MASSACHUSETTS Institute of Technology convened a daylong Presidents Workshop on Gender Equity in Academic Science & Engineering. Taking part were

    S C I E N C E

    It's A Metallic Aromatic Na Na


    DELOCALIZED molecular orbital gives aromatic character to the square planar AlA2~ anion in the pyramidal Al4Na~ molecule.

    T hey may not smell like aromatics, says Lai-Sheng Wang, but some new planar metal clusters appear to have the characteristics necessary to extend that appellation to them.

    The molecules consist of a square planar aluminum anion, Al42", capped by a cation of lithium, copper, or sodium. The anions have two delocalized electrons, following the [An + 2) rule for aromaticity. Their flat shape-borne out by theoretical calculationsand unusual stability are also aromatic traits [Science, 291,859 (2001)].

    Wang, an associate physics professor at Washington State University, and collaborators created the gas-phase metal molecules by vaporizing aluminum alloy targets with a laser and gleaning the structures via photoelectron spectroscopy.

    Metal aromatics are a relatively new chemical curiosity. Beginning in the mid-1990s, a group led by research chemist Gregory H. Robinson at the University of Georgia found good evidence for aromaticity in cyclic gallium compounds, which had organic ligands and were synthesized in bulk.-ELIZABETH WILSON

    presidents, chancellors, provosts, and 25 women professors of nine top research universities.

    The outcome: a statement pledging the universities to work to remove barriers facing women faculty. The presidents said: "Institutions of higher education have an obligation, both for themselves and for the nation, to fully develop and utilize all the creative talent available. We recognize that barriers still exist to the full participation of women in science and engineeing.,,

    They agreed to work toward: "A faculty whose diversity

    reflects that of the students we educate. This goal will be pursued in part by monitoring data and sharing results annually

    "Equity for, and full participation by women faculty This goal will be pursued in part by periodic analysis of data concerning compensation and the distribution of resources to faculty

    "A profession, and institutions, in which individuals with family responsibilities are not disadvantaged."

    And they agreed to reconvene next year to "share the specific initiatives we have undertaken to achieve these objectives."

    The statement was signed by David Baltimore, president, California Institute of Technology; Harvey V Fineberg, provost, Harvard University; Charles M. Vest, president, MIT; Harold Shapiro, president, Princeton University; John L. Hennessy, president, Stanford University; Robert M. Berdahl, chancellor, University of California, Berkeley; Lee C. Bollinger, president, University of Michigan; Robert

    L. Barchi, provost, University of Pennsylvania; and Richard Levin, president, We University

    "It was remarkable and important that this group could come together not just to acknowledge the problem of gender bias in the sciences but also genuinely to commit to finding solutions," comments one workshop participant, Jacqueline K. Barton, professor of chemistry at Caltech.

    Impetus for the workshop was provided by a four-year-long study of gender inequities undertaken by MITs Committee on Women Faculty in the School of Science. The study, begun in 1994 at a time when the School of Science had 15 tenured women and 194 tenured men on its faculty, led to a report issued in 1999 documenting the existence of gender inequities and a pledge by university leaders to reverse decades of discrimination (C&EN, March 29,1999, page 6.)

    "Cautiously optimistic" is how another workshop participant, Alanna Schepartz, professor of chemistry at Yale, describes her reaction to the agreement. "In my opinion," she says, "the most important goal for these institutions is to increase the number of women at the rank of full professor." These women act not just as role models for younger women, but "their collective presence deters the more subtle types of discrimination that resulted in the marginalization experienced by many women at MIT," Schepartz says.

    The meeting also made it clear, she adds, that "each institution needs a watchdogsomeone trustworthy who can check, on a case-to-case basis, whether space, salary and what I refer to as 'the perks of the profession' are distributed on the basis of merit alone."

    Schepartz is looking forward to next year's meeting when the nine university presidents "will all have to tell us what they actually did and what happened. Then it will be really clear who is serious and who is not."JANICE LONG

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