Screen grab from CNN for the OpEd by the authors of the PNAS study.
(*) In a paper just published in PNAS, Cornell professors W. M. Williams and S. J. Ceci have demonstrated conclusively that the process that all university departments use to hire new faculty is completely unrelated to the actual process they modeled in their study of fictitious faculty searches.
When the Harvard University Department of Astronomy undertook a recent faculty search, the Harvard faculty asked applicants to submit a CV, a list of publications, statements of research and teaching interests, and to arrange for confidential letters of recommendation. The department reviewed these materials, selecting a half-dozen applicants for interviews. Each individual visited for two days, during which time they delivered a colloquium, and met with faculty and students, including several dinner meetings. The faculty then convened for several hours to decide on whom should receive the offer.
Recent data on demographics and conversations with my NSF colleague, Lisa Frehill, opened my eyes to a somewhat surprising fact. Young women in astronomy (assistant professors, postdocs, students) from some racial and ethnic backgrounds (white and Asian) may have reached parity with their percentages in the US population!
The STATUS magazine article, the 2013 CSWA Demographics Survey, was open on my computer screen. In particular, Figure 1 shows that percentages of women at the level of assistant professor and younger are about 30% (within uncertainties). These percentages are similar to those described in the article, The 30% Benchmark: Women in Astronomy Postdocs at US Institutions. According to this article, which was based in part on data gathered by members of the Astro2010 Demographics study group,
-Graduate enrollment for women in US astronomy departments has risen from 25% in 1997 to 30% in 2006 (NSF-NIH Survey of Grad Students and Post-docs in S&E). -The percentage of Astronomy PhDs earned by women in the US has increased steadily from less than 20% in 1997 to almost 30% in 2006 (NSF Survey of Earned doctorates). -The success rate of women in both prize fellowships and individual postdocs is about 30%. -The percentage of women faculty at stand-alone astronomy departments in 2006 was 28% at the assistant professor level.
Today’s guest blogger is Sabrina Stierwalt. Sabrina is currently a L’Oreal For Women in Science Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Virginia. Her research uses multiwavelength observations of nearby galaxy mergers to understand the cosmological assembly history of galaxies. Her most current work focuses on low metallicity, merger-driven star formation and the subsequent enrichment of the ISM in interacting dwarf galaxies.
Astronomy research funding through the usual NSF and NASA channels is shrinking to the point that some agencies have considered capping the number of proposals a scientist can submit. Other programs, like NASA’s 2015 Astrophysics Theory program, are being cut altogether. As a predominantly longer wavelength astronomer, I also don’t typically benefit from funds allocated with my telescope time since I rely on ground-based radio facilities as my workhorses.
So as a postdoc on a (never ending?) quest to fund my research in the financial landscape before me, one thing became clear. It was time to get creative. That’s how I found the L’Oréal USA For Women in Science program.
Someone in biology or chemistry, however, would not likely consider this move creative. L’Oréal’s FWIS program is very well known and highly respected in many STEM fields. The US branch of the FWIS program has awarded $2.5 million to over 55 women since the grant program began in 2003. The larger, global L’Oréal UNESCO For Women in Science International Fellowship program began in 1998 and has supported more than 2,000 scientists in over 100 countries. AAAS, an organization more astronomers are likely familiar with, manages the peer review and selection process and administers the grants. Fellows are chosen for “their exceptional academic records and intellectual merit, clearly articulated research proposals with the potential for scientific advancement and … their commitment to supporting other women and girls in science.”
This guest post is composed by the organizers of the Inclusive Astronomy meeting.
The inaugural Inclusive Astronomy meeting is coming up in less than three months: June 17-19, 2015 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee! This meeting is being planned in response to the reality that marginalized people face -isms and -phobias which function as barriers to their participation in astronomy. As organizers, we are excited for this meeting and hope that it will be the first of many.
The content of the meeting is being organized under four broad topical areas:
Barriers to access;
Inclusion and access to power, policy, and leadership;
Creating inclusive climates; and
Establishing a community of inclusive practice.
Each broad area will contain plenary presentations, breakout sessions, and workshops. Some of the topics to be addressed are: intersectionality between racism, ableism, cissexism/transphobia, heterosexism, and sexism; campus/workplace climate; accessibility; addressing harassment and sexual violence on campuses and in workplaces; allyship; strategies for developing bridge programs; developing the skills to influence astronomy policy; and the societal boundary conditions that impact work toward equity and inclusion in astronomy. The plenary presenters include Chanda Prescod-Weinstein on intersectionality; Kenjus Watson on creating inclusive environments; Lydia Brown on disability justice, autistic self-advocacy, and the intersection of ableism with racism; David Helfand on why policy matters; Rachel Ivie on demographics; and a panel discussion by Ebony McGee, Casey Miller, and Richard Pitt on science identity in students, problems with the GRE, and stereotype threat.