Friday, July 31, 2009

AASWOMEN for July 31, 2009

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of July 31, 2009
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. Postdocs - Named vs. Unnamed

2. Mentoring Sessions at Jan AAS Meeting

3. Longitudinal Study Session at Jan AAS Meeting

4. Most Inspirational Woman Astronomers?

5. Inventing Equal Opportunity

6. Software Engineer III - Green Bank, WV

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

8. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

1. Postdocs - Named vs. Unnamed
From: Joan Schmelz []

I have been pondering the gender-related data from the upcoming Astro 2010 demographics report, especially the named postdocs. I've been given special permission to discuss this issue before the actual report comes out. This shows that ~30% of these positions have gone to women for over 10 years.

Do women have a similar success rate for 'unnamed' postdocs?

We have done some quick analysis with the available 2007 data for the postdocs here at CfA, and find pretty good numbers. We were wondering how to expand this comparison.

Would anyone be interested in looking at the postdoc data for their home institution? If so, we might be able to put together something for the Women in Astronomy III conference.

As mentioned in last week's issue of AASWOMEN, Women in Astronomy III will take place Oct 21-23, 2009 in College Park, MD.

Early Registration is now open and abstracts are due by Aug 31, 2009. For details, please see:

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2. Mentoring Sessions at Jan AAS Meeting
From: Dara Norman [dnorman_at_]

The two special sessions on "Mentoring Astronomers: Students to Faculty" are scheduled for 90 minutes on the morning and afternoon of Wednesday, 6 January 2010. Note that this is DURING the regular AAS meeting, i.e this is not a pre-meeting workshop.

Whether formal or informal, mentoring relationships are an important part of every scientist's career through graduate school, job searches, and the tenure process. Yet despite its obvious importance, mentor development is often left to chance rather than given the attention and dedication required to be a truly effective mentor. Professional resources exist that can be very useful for mentor development.

The CSMA and CSWA are sponsoring two special sessions devoted to an exchange of information and best practices on mentoring as part of the January 2010 AAS meeting. The primary goals of these sessions are to 1) provide information and best practices about mentoring and its effectiveness in encouraging successful scientists, and 2) to provide a mini-workshop to discuss and practice implementing these mentoring techniques. Each session provides unique and practical information for those who attend only one, but are complementary and most effective as a unit. We encourage all astronomical researchers and faculty to attend, as well as graduate students, who already mentor more junior colleagues and will continue to do so throughout their careers.

The first session is devoted to lecture style presentations of mentoring best practices and information. Speakers have been selected for their current work with and knowledge of mentoring activities/programs. Collectively their mentoring activities include work with undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdocs and junior faculty. Confirmed speakers include: Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi (FIT), Dr. Kathleen Flint (NPA), and Dr. Dana Lehr (NSF).

The second session provides a participatory workshop on mentoring. The speakers are involved in mentoring seminar activities/programs affiliated with the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching, the Delta Program in Research, Teaching, and Learning, and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Their mentoring training program has been designed to be effective for STEM disciplines and has been field tested with astronomers in particular. The seminar has been adapted for use with mentees who range in experience from grad students to postdocs, to faculty. The primary content will be the presentation and discussion of a few case studies. Topics that will be discussed in the context of mentoring are expectations, communication, independence, diversity, understanding and ethics. There will be discussions of how mentors develop their skills and how to evaluate the success of mentoring.

Further details will be posted on the CSMA website:

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3. Longitudinal Study Session at Jan AAS Meeting
From: Rachel Ivie [rivie_at_]

A second special session sponsored by CSWA entitled, “Longitudinal Study of Astronomy Graduate Students” has been accepted for the American Astronomical Society in Washington, DC. The session is scheduled for 90 minutes on the afternoon of Monday, 4 January 2010.

The purpose of this session is to make attendees aware of the status of the longitudinal study of astronomy graduate students. AIP recently completed data collection for the first phase of this study, which has been jointly funded by AAS and AIP. The project, which began in 2007, was the result of recommendations made at the 2003 Women in Astronomy Conference. Eventually, the study will track astronomy graduate students over the course of several years. The study has several purposes: to collect data on people who obtain graduate degrees in astronomy, to compare attrition rates for men and women, to collect data on people who leave the field of astronomy, and to collect data on astronomers who work outside the traditional employment sectors of academe and the observatories.

During the first wave of data collection, we received more than 1100 responses that are useable for the analyses. Approximately 700 men and more than 400 women responded, representing 148 different graduate programs. Our preliminary analyses show that women are: less likely to agree that the environment in the department is welcoming, more likely to believe they lack ability, and are less confident in their careers. These results also apply to men who have been in the program more than three years. These and other findings will be discussed at the session, which will include time for audience discussion.

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4. Most Inspirational Women Astronomers?
From: Ivan King [king_at_]

[We continue to get responses to our request for the most inspirational women astronomers. Ivan was concerned that this might not be appropriate for AASWOMEN since, as he said, “I am a man, and from another generation . . .” We, however, find his contribution completely appropriate and are happy to include it here – Eds.]

I think that Margaret Burbidge deserves a place high on the list of role models.

First, it was Margaret who set in motion the entire movement that led to the founding of CSWA, when, around 1970, she declined to accept the Cannon Prize because it had been set aside expressly for women. (I don't remember just how she said this, but she could probably fill that in herself.)

Then, during her 1976-78 term as AAS President, she persuaded the Council to establish a ban on AAS meetings in states that had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which unfortunately failed for lack of fewer than the needed 3/4 majority of states). This step had been taken by many professional societies, but led to violent opposition by a small group of right-wing members of the AAS, who then tried to get control of the Nominating Committee, but were defeated at a rather heated Annual Business Meeting in 1979. Meanwhile, during Margaret's Presidential term, the Council had set up the CSWA, very much in its present form (while also setting up a separate committee on minorities, in order to direct separate attention to each of these important questions).

(I remember much of this vividly, since I was the Council member who actually proposed the motion to set up CSWA -- the President is not permitted to introduce motions -- and I was the successor President who had to navigate through the Annual Business Meeting in 1979.)

Although I cannot give any further specifics, it is my impression that Margaret has continued to inspire young women who were entering astronomy or were thinking of that course. I hope that your list will give her a high place.

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5. Inventing Equal Opportunity
From: Andrea Dupree [adupree_at_]

Inventing Equal Opportunity A new book by Frank Dobbin, professor of sociology at Harvard University.

Equal opportunity in the workplace is thought to be the direct legacy of the civil rights and feminist movements and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yet, as Frank Dobbin demonstrates, corporate personnel experts--not Congress or the courts--were the ones who determined what equal opportunity meant in practice, designing changes in how employers hire, promote, and fire workers, and ultimately defining what discrimination is, and is not, in the American imagination.

Dobbin shows how Congress and the courts merely endorsed programs devised by corporate personnel. He traces how the first measures were adopted by military contractors worried that the Kennedy administration would cancel their contracts if they didn't take "affirmative action" to end discrimination. These measures built on existing personnel programs, many designed to prevent bias against unionists. Dobbin follows the changes in the law as personnel experts invented one wave after another of equal opportunity programs. He examines how corporate personnel formalized hiring and promotion practices in the 1970s to eradicate bias by managers; how in the 1980s they answered Ronald Reagan's threat to end affirmative action by recasting their efforts as diversity-management programs; and how the growing presence of women in the newly named human resources profession has contributed to a focus on sexual harassment and work/life issues.

Inventing Equal Opportunity reveals how the personnel profession devised--and ultimately transformed--our understanding of discrimination.

Amazon link:

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6. Software Engineer III - Green Bank, WV
From: Dee Boyd [dlboyd_at_]

The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) is the world's largest fully steerable telescope. Working at wavelengths ranging from 100cm through 3mm, the GBT supports a diverse range of scientific research. Additionally, the GBT has a dynamic program of research and development which keeps the telescope at the cutting edge of science and technology.

The National Radio Astronomy is looking for an energetic person to join the scientific staff in Green Bank. The successful applicant will join the team of scientists at the Green Bank telescope to provide full scientific support to the GBT and the NRAO.

Responsibilities of the successful applicant will include supporting observers who use the telescope as well as working on a diverse variety of projects, which may include the development and commissioning of new instrumentation on the telescope, working with the engineering staff to improve the overall telescope performance, and aiding with the data reduction pipelines needed for the GBT. Must have strong knowledge of radio and/or millimeter astronomy and two to three years experience.

The successful candidate will have 25% of their time available for independent research. Support for research and travel are provided, as well as vacation accrual, health insurance, and a moving allowance. Position will be filled at the assistant, associate, or scientist level, depending on experience.

Minimum education required is a Ph.D. in astronomy, physics or a related field.

Applicants can apply online at

and should include a description of relevant experience, a curriculum vitae including a publication list, a statement of research interests, and the names of three scientists who have agreed to provide letters of reference.

Letters of recommendation may be submitted separately via email to scurry_at_ Please reference "Assistant Scientist/A, GB00131" in the subject line. Review of applicants will begin immediately; however, applications will be accepted until the position is filled. NRAO is an Equal Opportunity Employer - D/V/M/F

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

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 go to

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8. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

Past issues of AASWOMEN are available at

Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.

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