Monday, June 23, 2008

AASWOMEN for June 20, 2008

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of June 20, 2008
eds. Joan Schmelz, Hannah Jang-Condell & Caroline Simpson

This week's issues:

1. Culture, Gender and Math

2. Gender Issues in Math/Science Education

3. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN

4. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

1. Culture, Gender and Math
From: John Parejko []

This article on the math and reading scores of girls in different
countries might be of interest to the list.  Short summary: 15 year
old girls do better compared to boys, in both math and reading (as
measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment), in
countries that are more gender equal (as measured by the UN and World
Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index).  In the countries with the highest
levels of gender equality, the "math gender gap" essentially

Another take away point is that, apparently, girls are better than
boys, in both math and reading, in Iceland...

2. Gender Issues in Math/Science Education
From: WIPHYS of June 17, 2008

WIPHYS [and AASWOMEN] subscribers might be interested in "Gender
Issues in Science/Math Education (GISME)" [Hake & Mallow (2008)].

This 11.8 MB compilation of over 700 annotated references and 1000 
hot-linked URL's provides a window into the vast literature on Gender 
Issues in Science/Math Education. The present listing is an update, 
expansion, and generalization of the earlier 0.23 MB "Gender Issues 
in Physics/Science Education (GIPSE)" by Mallow & Hake (2002).

Of course, Jeffry Mallow and I would be very interested in any 
comments any of you might care to make on GISME.

To access GISME, please click on 
< >, scroll to item 55, and then 
click on [GISME-5k-Part1.pdf] for Part 1 and [GISME-5k-Part2.pdf] for 
Part 2. 

The earlier "Gender Issues in Physics/Science Education (GIPSE)" 
[Mallow & Hake (2002)] can be found on the APS website 

3. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN

[Please remember to replace "_at_" in the below e-mail addresses.]

To submit to AASWOMEN:
 send email to
All material sent to that address will be posted unless you tell us
 otherwise (including your email address). 

To subscribe or unsubscribe to AASWOMEN
and fill out the form.

If you experience any problems, please email

4. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

Past issues of AASWOMEN are available at

Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Having children in grad school

A friend of mine sent me this article about women who decided to have children during graduate school. It being the Boston Globe, they naturally stuck to Boston area schools.

Having gone to a Boston area school for grad school and having had both my kids during my years there, naturally this article resonated with me. For me, having my kids during grad school made a lot of sense. As the article says:
Some women say having a child during graduate school is appealing because their schedules offer flexibility. They figure potential employers won't be concerned with how long it took them to get their dissertation done. And they know once they get hired as postdoctorates, they'll be too busy trying to get articles published in high-quality journals to have a child.

However, that isn't to say that it was easy. Heck, having kids is never easy, period.
"They want to know how this can work," Jaschik said. "They're trying to figure out: 'If I have a kid, am I never going to finish my dissertation? Will I never have a job?' "


"I want to have a career. I want to finish this," Mazmanian said. "At the same time, I love being a mom."

These are concerns that will never go away. Here I am, in my second postdoc, still wondering if I'll land another job. I am constantly torn by wanting to be both a good researcher and a good mother. And really, it doesn't matter when you have kids -- you will inevitably feel this sense of divided loyalties.

On a side note, I have to wonder why men never seem to have to face these issues. Sure, they don't have to deal with pregnancy and post-partum recovery, but surely they worry about childcare issues, too. Surely they love their children just as much as women do. Is it because they aren't allowed to admit how much they care? Is it because they delegate all that responsibility to the mothers? Is it because a mother who delegates that responsibility to the father is by definition a bad mother? Anyway, back to the main story...

There's a ray of hope:
[A student committee at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences] recommended that the school adopt a policy that would provide child-care assistance. It also recommended that Harvard let students take up to a one-year leave to care for a baby by enabling them to stop the clock on their dissertations, keep their health insurance, receive stipends, and, upon their return to school, provide them flexibility in course work and teaching positions.

That's awesome. I'm glad to see a prestigious school like Harvard setting an example by making it easier for grad students to have children.

However, I argue that this isn't enough. Most of my peers in graduate school weren't even married. Not that that necessarily precludes having children, but being in a stable, long-term relationship helps immensely. Not to mention that having children on solely a grad student stipend is financially infeasible. In fact, in astronomy at least, the prime child-bearing years seem to coincide precisely with the post-doc years.

What sort of policies does Harvard have in place for allowing their postdocs to take time off to have children? Does it make childcare arrangements accessible to postdocs? What provisions do the Hubble/Chandra/Spitzer Fellowships allow for maternity/paternity leave? How do hiring committees view publication gaps: is it better or worse to mention children?

The US already lags far behind most industrialized nations in terms of laws protecting maternity/paternity leave. The academic community could do a lot to make things better.