Heads of research agencies from nearly 50 countries — large and small, with developed and emerging economies — adopted a Statement of Principles and Actions Promoting the Equality and Status of Women in Research at the Global Research Council's fifth annual meeting last month in New Delhi (see go.nature.com/1yqtyg).

According to a report commissioned by the Science and Engineering Research Board of India and Research Councils UK, which hosted the meeting, women make up only 11% of full science and engineering professors in the European Union, less than 25% of academics in Asia and less than 5% of researchers in some Middle Eastern countries (see go.nature.com/1uywmgu). The report echoes statistics from the US National Science Foundation, of which I am director (see go.nature.com/1rpvmrk for the Science and Engineering Indicators).

At the meeting, we gained greater awareness of long-standing historical obstacles to women's participation in certain fields, and of the importance of including gender considerations in research design and outcome analysis. Each of us came away with a firmer idea of the opportunities to lead within our jurisdictions, and in a wider policy context.

The national research heads agreed to “expect and encourage improved equality and diversity policies and practices” within their respective research provinces, and recommended a list of actions. These included diversity training, recognizing unconscious bias, implementing family-friendly policies and creating pathways for women to rise to leadership positions. We agreed to collect follow-up data and make them available for comparative analysis.

Only by supporting the best talent — wherever it hails from — can we truly encourage and support research with the greatest academic, economic and societal impacts. Ensuring global equity for women in research requires that we each make a personal commitment to action.