Monday, August 31, 2015

When Misogyny is a Symptom of Narcissism

Today's guest blogger is Anonymous. Anonymous has a PhD in chemistry and recently completed a postdoc at an unnamed national lab. She is leaving science after realizing that her interests lie elsewhere, but it’s all good. She’s interested in community organizing, the bugs in our neural programming, and the ways we transform our painful experiences into growth and value.

We hadn’t been friends for very long. In retrospect, a few warning signs had been quietly visible, but I generally don’t go into friendships expecting toxic behavior. Which is why it surprised me when, over lunch, he explained to me how I’d gotten into college.

“Maybe it’s because you’re a female.”

Surprise and anger rose inside of me, but since we were friends, I decided to reply very carefully. “What do you mean by that?”

“I’m saying that soooometimes, women and minorities are held to a lower standard in admissions.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Astronomer to Data Scientist, Three Years Later

In August 2012, I began my first job as a data scientist. I handed my completed dissertation to my committee on a Friday and the following Monday I started work. Leaving academia (and astronomy) was not an easy decision for me. I remember starting that first day thinking: "Well... if this doesn't work out, I guess I'll reapply for post-docs again next year." It ended up working out better than I could have imagined. I wrote several posts about this transition during my first year working as a data scientist, but I thought I'd reflect and talk about what it has been like working as a data scientist, now that I am further along in my career.

Much of what I said in my post Astronomy vs Data Science continues to hold true today, and so below I will simply add some new perspectives now that I have a bit more experience in the field. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fierce Conversations

In my new role as Director of Citizen Science* at the Adler Planetarium, much of my time is spent in 'managing' - setting goals, determining how we'll reach those goals, pursuing grants, managing grants, mediating relationships within the group, across departments, and with external partners, etc. In seeking management advice that resonated with my personality and background, I had some difficulty until a friend recommended:
"Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time", by Susan Scott
I'll admit, as with most advice books, I skimmed through the fluff and much of the anecdotes. But each chapter has worthwhile specific advice and 'tasks' to test out new ideas. I was surprised by how empowered I felt by the advice that emphasized how I could take advantage of my strengths (being a good listener, asking questions rather than immediately providing answers, being diplomatic, bridging relationships, etc.) to be the most effective in my role. Somehow seeing it in print gave me permission to be myself and play on my strengths. The book also highlights that you don't need to know everything and have all the answers. In fact, it's beneficial to relationship building and empowering for team members to know you're authentically including their voice and insight in decision making. This probably seems obvious to you, but as a relatively junior person stepping into a management role, part of me felt that to prove myself worthy, I needed to immediately have all the answers and a crystal clear vision (or at least appear to). I can imagine I'm not alone in that feeling. 

In thinking about my reaction, I wonder whether management books tend to have gendered, career-stage reactions. Does the management style advice offered by this book typically resonate more with more junior women? Are there others in this genre that you'd recommend?

Friday, August 21, 2015

AASWomen Newsletter for August 21, 2015

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of August 21, 2015
eds: Daryl Haggard, Nicolle Zellner, Meredith Hughes, & Elysse Voyer

This week's issues:

1. The SEP in Astronomy
2. My Impressions: The IAU XXIX General Assembly
3. Status magazine for June 2015 is published
4. Practical policies can combat gender inequality     
5. Astronomer Celebrates Female Scientists’ “Special Natural Gift for Caring and Educating” 
6. Job Opportunities
7. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
8. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
9. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The SEP in Astronomy

In his 1982 novel Life, the Universe, and Everything, Douglas Adams described the SEP.
The following is a thinly veiled transmogrification of his text.

“I think,” said the First Astronomer, “that there’s an SEP at work in our field.”

He pointed. Curiously enough, the direction he pointed in was not the one in which he was looking.

“A what?” said the Second Astronomer.

“An SEP.”

“An S ...?”

”... EP.”

“And what’s that?”

“Somebody Else’s Problem.”

“Ah, good,” said the Second and relaxed. He had no idea what all that was about, but at least it seemed to be over. It wasn’t.

Monday, August 17, 2015

My Impressions: The IAU XXIX General Assembly

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) XXIX General Assembly (GA) took place from August 3-14 in Honolulu, Hi.  In addition to a high-level scientific program, the GA included 4 Women’s Lunches and several Mentoring Events organized by the IAU Women’s Working Group (through Chair Francesca Primas) and the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (through me).  The events were highlighted throughout the two weeks in the IAU GA newspaper.  It was a busy two weeks, and this recap will include some key notes, highlights, and even a few concerning points from the IAU GA.

Preliminary results from the CSWA Survey on Workplace Climate that were recently presented at the IAU GA.  Note, the total number of respondents to this survey was 426.