Wednesday, January 21, 2015

President Obama: Childcare is a Must-Have

Left: President Obama in the middle of saying the word childcare, a word which would be greeted by a standing ovation, and which he would say a total of 7 times during his speech.  Right: Government taking an active role in subsidizing childcare in America is currently out-of-fashion, but it isn't a new idea.
I married into a family of State-of-the-Union watchers, and I have embraced the tradition of watching the address live. Yesterday, we managed to get the kids (mostly) in bed and (mostly) asleep by the 9pm start, and so my wife and I snuggled up to hear what the President had to say. 

Over the past decade, these addresses have been peppered with words like "terrorist", "war", "recession", and "unemployment". Then, just about 14 minutes in, I heard a different word: "childcare".

"Wait, what?" said Margaret. "Is this really happening?"

Then, yes, it happened. President Obama told us that childcare is a national economic priority:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Astro-Diversity: Post #1 – The Pipeline to Astronomy Degrees

Dr. Lisa M. Frehill [1] is an IPA at NSF in Strategic Human Capital Planning working as an Organizational Evaluation and Assessment Researcher.  Her home institution is Energetics Technology Center in St. Charles, MD, where she has completed science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce analysis and assessment and evaluation in support of the Office of Naval Research, the DoD STEM Development Office and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  A past NSF awardee, Dr. Frehill was the PI and Program Director of the ADVANCE: Institutional Transformation program when she was an associate professor of sociology at New Mexico State University. She is an expert on diversity in STEM and on program evaluation. A forthcoming volume (co-edited with Willie Pearson, Jr. and Connie L. McNeely) titled Advancing Women in Science: An International Perspective is due winter 2015 from Springer.  In her free time, Lisa enjoys hiking, yoga, visiting family and baking.

This is the first in a series of posts about diversity in astronomy. The idea for the series emerged from conversations with Dr. Joan Schmelz, who is serving as an NSF program officer in the Division of Astronomy on loan from the University of Memphis. Joan has been involved in issues for women in astronomy and is interested in being attentive to how to more generally increase the diversity of her field. 

This first post will provide a view of the pipeline into college and bachelor’s degree attainment in both astronomy and physics, which is an important “feeder field.” Future posts will look at U.S. astronomy degrees in greater detail.  This post relies on institutionally-reported data in the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) were accessed via the National Science Foundation WebCASPAR database tool. 

What does the STEM pipeline into college look like from a diversity standpoint?  The answer to this is a “glass half full/half empty.”  On the one hand, we have seen a significant narrowing of the sex gap in high school preparation in mathematics and sciences. Indeed, high school boys recently caught up with high school girls to earn an average of 7.4 credits in mathematics and science (Nord et al., 2011).  Girls (14 percent) and boys (12 percent) are equally likely to have taken a “rigorous” high school curriculum consisting of at least four years of English and mathematics (including pre-calculus or higher), and three years each of social studies, science (including biology, chemistry and physics), and foreign language.  These are important increases since 1990, when just 4 percent of girls and 5 percent of boys had taken a rigorous high school curriculum.  Science, not mathematics, continues to be a more important issue for girls.  An additional 15 percent of girls would have completed a rigorous curriculum by taking just one more science class, as compared to an additional 9 percent of boys.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Women of Color in Astronomy and Astrophysics

"Women of Color in Astronomy and Astrophysics" was a joint effort of the AAS Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA) and the AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA). It was written by Dara Norman, Jedidah Isler & Hakeem Oluseyi (CSMA) and Nancy Morrison, Caroline Simpson & Laura Trouille (CSWA). It is especially powerful because it describes strategies for overcoming the barriers that have kept the percentages of Women of Color in the sciences so low.
This document is part of the 2013 conference entitled, “Seeking Solutions: Maximizing American Talent by Advancing Women of Color in Academia.” It is reprinted here with permission from the National Academy of Sciences, Courtesy of the National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
Women of color (WoC) are at the intersection of race and gender. While they experience issues that arise for both women and minority groups, they are often overlooked in efforts on behalf of either category, to the detriment of their persistence in academia [1]. The next section of this article enumerates barriers that face WoC in astronomy, starting with those that particularly affect career establishment (early graduate student to postdoctoral) and moving to those that impact later career stages. Later sections describe steps toward solutions to these problems, measures taken by the American Astronomical Society (AAS), and lessons learned from academic programs.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Confessions of a Female Faculty Candidate

The below is an anonymous guest post submitted by an astronomer on the faculty job market for the first time.  

I am a woman in her early 30’s in astronomy, and this is my first time applying for faculty jobs. Here’s what I knew beforehand. I knew statistically that I’d be likeliest to “leak” from the research pipeline at this exact juncture: reaching up to barely touch the lowest rung of junior professor. I knew that women falsely identify limitations as lying within when they truly lie without: that Impostor Syndrome is especially rampant among us. And I knew the process would be fraught with rejection. Despite educating myself, I have been grappling with profound feelings of inadequacy that are very gendered. There are statistics of women leaving science at this stage, but a lived experience isn’t fully expressed with statistics: what does it feel like to be a woman grappling with this professional transition with all her might? My mental health provider had to remind me that there is a context for this struggle beyond my own scientific record and the scary academic job market. If I’m feeling this stuff, so are other women. It’s so hard to hang in there. She said, “if you could talk about this to other women at your same stage, what would you say? What would you like to hear?” I’d want to hear how it feels to other women, to normalize my own experience. My experience as a white, middle-class, cisgendered woman is a privileged one, and is not universal: distinct emotional costs exist for people residing at other intersections. My experiences are reflective of my social status, and ought to be read that way. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

CSWA: Survey on Workplace Climate

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) is conducting a survey on Workplace Climate. The CSWA wants to learn if  members of the astronomical community encounter negative language, or experience verbal or physical altercations on the basis of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability status, or race and ethnicity. The survey is designed to request information during the respondent's current position and previous position (if the respondent has changed positions within the last five years). This information is requested in order to understand if astronomers and planetary scientists encounter varying workplace climates at different stages of their career.

Please help us in our pursuit to better understand how workplace climate impacts the members of the astronomical community. Go to to complete a confidential survey. We appreciate your input and welcome participation from all members of the astronomical and planetary scientist community over the age of 18.

For attendees of the 225th Meeting of the AAS in Seattle, Poster Session 242.04. An Update on the NASA Planetary Science Division Research and Analysis Program (Christina Richey; Exhibit Hall 4AB) includes an update on the CSWA harassment survey.  Christina will be at the poster on Tuesday during regular poster hours.