This evening I attended an award ceremony where I was very honored to be given an award for service to women at my university. It is very nice to be recognized for the work that I do with the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) to support women in science fields and outreach to encourage girls to pursue science careers. It is also good for an academic's career to receive awards (although there is some disparity among the credit given for research vs. teaching vs. service awards, especially depending on the institution).
Admittedly, I played a large role in being selected for this award. I received notice about several awards for women from the university and the state a few months ago. I sent the information to my AWIS chapter listserv, suggesting that, as a woman's organization, we should be nominating people for them. One member suggested nominating me. As we looked at the information needed, they decided it would be best for me to complete the information since I know the most about what I do. So I compiled the information, answering each required question, while another chapter officer wrote up the nomination and got the supporting recommendations.
I think it is important for women to be willing to toot their own horns to get the recognition they deserve for their hard work. Sometimes this is hard to do, and may be part of why the number of awards for research given to women has not increased as the number of women researchers has increased. (The percentage of teaching and service awards given to women is more on par with their representation.) AWIS has recently received a grant to work with professional societies to ensure that women are recognized for outstanding research.
About a year ago, I asked someone to nominate me for an award that is given to an early career woman for research in my field every 3 years. While someone else was selected for the award last year, I will still be eligible in the next cycle and plan to ask to be nominated again. Of course it is important to be doing good research to be deserving of such awards, but it never hurts to remind other people what you are doing and why it is awesome!