Last week, in Washington D.C., four women led a scientific press conference announcing the historic outcome of the National Ignition Facility’s December 5 experiment. They were Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy; Arati Prabhakar, Presidential Science Advisor; Jill Hruby, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration; and Kim Budil, Director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Quite properly during the press conference, all eyes were on NIF and its technical achievements, while few took time to call attention to the gender of the four leaders. Now, however, we would like to take a moment to acknowledge it as a sign of social progress.

A couple of generations ago, it was rare for a woman to play a senior management role in American science. Dixy Lee Ray, who led the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1970s, was a notable exception. Today, that is no longer true. Women are increasingly accepted as leaders in all parts of society, including science. We see that as a healthy sign of progress.