Issue of November 6, 2009
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery
This week's issues:
***The following position was taken from WIPHYS***
1. Addressing Unconscious Bias
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
[We continue to summarize the major outcomes from the Women in Astronomy III conference held at the University of Maryland October 21-23, 2009 - Eds.]
For me, the talk by Abigail Stewart from the University of Michigan on "Addressing Unconscious Bias" was well worth the price of admission.
We all have biases, and we are (for the most part) unaware of them. In general, men and women BOTH unconsciously devalue the contributions of women. This can have a detrimental effect on grant proposals, job applications, and performance reviews.
Sociology is way ahead of astronomy in these studies. When evaluating identical application packages, male and female University psychology professors preferred 2:1 to hire "Brian" over "Karen" as an assistant professor. When evaluating a more experienced record (at the point of promotion to tenure), reservations were expressed four times more often when the name was female. This unconscious bias has a repeated negative effect on Karen's career. Ref: Steinpreis, Anders, & Ritzke (1999) Sex Roles, 41, 509.
More recently, the unconscious bias against motherhood was evaluated. Resumes for Jane Smith were identical except of one small detail: Active in the PTA. This line indicated that Jane was a mother, and she was rated significantly lower than "non-mother" Jane. When evaluating identical applications: Evaluators rated mothers as less competent and committed to paid work than non-mothers; prospective employers called mothers back about half as often as non-mothers; and mothers were less likely to be recommended for hire, promotion, and management, and were offered lower starting salaries than non-mothers. Ref: Correll, Benard and Paik (2007) American Journal of Sociology, 112 (5), 1297-1338.
New to me in this talk were the results for "father" and "non-father" John. As above, the results were identical except of one line: Active in the PTA. But this time, "father" John got higher ratings than "non-father" John! Fathers were not disadvantaged in the hiring process and were seen as more committed to paid work and offered higher starting salaries than non-fathers. What's a mother to do? Ref: Correll, Benard and Paik (2007) American Journal of Sociology, 112 (5), 1297-1338.
The other great thing about this talk was the list of recommendations on how to begin to eliminate unconscious bias. Increasing the proportion of women raises the ratings of all women. Here's an example for a faculty search committee:
-Awareness: we all want to hire someone who is just like us, so start by shining a light on the problem. Make sure the search committee is as diverse as possible. Recruit from a wider range of institutions. Use open searches with the broadest possible job descriptions;
-Policy: do NOT ask each committee member to find the top three applicants; rather, outline the characteristics for a successful applicant and make an extended short list of the applicants that satisfy those characteristics;
-Practice: insert a phone interview step into the selection process and interview all those applicants on the extended short list;
-Accountability: it is the job of the search committee to create a more diverse department. Cultivate practices that mitigate bias. Monitor both processes and outcomes. Create policies that support fair evaluation processes. Build in accountability for outcomes. Link rewards to outcomes. Link evaluation of leaders to outcomes.
CSWA is hoping to invite Dr. Stewart to speak at an upcoming AAS meeting, perhaps even as a plenary speaker. Would you attend such a talk?Back to top.
2. What Can I Do? Inspirations from Women in Astronomy III
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
[AASWOMEN has started a list of suggestions inspired by the comments of attendees of the Women in Astronomy III conference. We found that many postdocs and graduate students would like to do something to promote women in astronomy and help create a more female-friendly workplace, but their time is limited. We decided to generate a list of such activities. Here is the latest - Eds.]
Invite your department chair/boss/research supervisor to attend a CSWA-sponsored session and/or Town Hall at the next AAS meeting.
CSWA is co-sponsoring 2 sessions at the Jan AAS meeting. Here are short descriptions:
Mentoring: morning and afternoon of Wednesday, 6 January 2010 Main organizer: Dara Norman [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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 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.
Longitudinal Study: afternoon of Monday, 4 January 2010 Main organizer: Rachel Ivie [email@example.com]
AIP recently completed data collection for the first phase of the longitudinal study of astronomy graduate students, 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, 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.Back to top.
3. Women in Astronomy III -- Results?
From: Caroline_at_Women_in_Astronomy_Blog, Nov 4, 2009
[The blog is back! Be sure to check out the latest postings - Eds.]Back to top.
4. New Game Plays on Women's Experiences of Gender Bias in Academe
From: Catherine Garland [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Robin Wilson of the Chronicle of Higher Education writes, "As a female professor, are you called rude and abrasive while your male colleagues who make similar statements are simply labeled assertive? Has your department head discouraged you from taking an assignment, saying that because you have children you might not be able to handle it? If things like that have happened to you, yell: 'Bingo!'"
The article is available for a limited time on the Chronicle site without a subscription:
The website with the game, however, is open to everyone:Back to top.
5. Under the Radar: The First Woman in Radio Astronomy, Ruby Payne-Scott
From: Miller Goss [email@example.com]; Brigette Hesman [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Ruby Payne-Scott (1912-1981) was an eminent Australian scientist who made major contributions to the WWII radar effort of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Division of Radiophysics from 1941 to 1945. In late 1945 she began pioneering radio astronomy efforts at Dover Heights in Sydney; she continued these ground breaking activities until 1951. Most probably Payne-Scott carried out the first interferometer observations in radio astronomy at sun-rise, 26 January 1946. The location was at Dover Heights using an Australian Army radar as a radio telescope. A 'sea-cliff' interferometer was used at an eastern facing 100 meter cliff at Dover Heights, Sydney.
Payne-Scott made remarkable contributions to the theory of radio interferometry and collaborated with Joseph Pawsey in the first formulation of the concept of aperture synthesis in mid 1946. She was also an active collaborator with B.Y. Mills, Chris Christiansen, Alec Little, and John Bolton. Payne-Scott and Little developed the first swept lobe interferometer to follow the motions of solar radio bursts of Type II and Type IV at 100 MHz. Payne-Scott played the key role in elucidating the properties of the ubiquitous Type III solar radio bursts; from the short time delays observed (high frequencies observed initially, lower frequencies later), she inferred the slightly relativistic velocities of the exciters of these events in the solar corona.
The book also summarizes the conflicts that Payne-Scott had with the CSIRO hierarchy due to the fact that she was a woman. She was in conflict the CSIRO administration when her marriage from 1944 was discovered in 1950. Payne-Scott left CSIRO when her son was born in late 1951. Also she protested the wage inequality of women in the post World War II era. Other aspects of her life that are described are her membership in the Communist Party of Australia, her passion for bush walking and the success of her two famous children. The authors have attempted to place her scientific achievements and the discrimination she faced in a modern context.
Miller Goss (NRAO) and Richard X. McGee (CSIRO) have recently published this book in the series Astrophysics and Space Science Library of Springer. The book is also available as an e-book to institutions that have a Springer e-book subscription. The book will be launched at Sydney University on 25 November 2009. The book has 354 pages and about 120 figures.Back to top.
6. Chairperson, Dept of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State University
From: WIPHYS Nov 6, 2009
The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Appalachian State University
www.physics.appstate.edu < http://www.physics.appstate.edu >
invites applications and nominations for the position of department Chairperson, with a start date of July 1, 2010. Applicants must hold a Ph.D. in Physics, Astronomy, or a related field, and must be eligible for tenure at the rank of Associate or Full Professor.
Applicants must provide evidence of excellence in undergraduate and graduate instruction, research, and outreach, with preference for those with administrative experience. The successful candidate will possess outstanding communication, interpersonal, and mentoring skills in support of faculty, staff, and student development. While providing leadership toward meeting or exceeding departmental and institutional goals, including interdisciplinary teaching and research, the Chairperson will enhance existing levels of external funding, and will develop foundational support, academic collaborations and corporate partnerships. Department Chairpersons normally teach one class per semester and maintain an active research program.
The department offers B.S. degrees in Applied Physics and Secondary Education Physics, a B.A. in Physics, an M.S. in Engineering Physics, and a Professional Science Master's concentration in Instrumentation and Automation. Facilities include, but are not limited to: the Dark Sky Observatory; the state-of-the-art Rankin Astronomy Instructional Facility; a new nanoscience and advanced materials laboratory including extensive electron, ion and scanned probe microscopy facilities; an electrostatics laboratory; an ion trapping laboratory; optoelectronic and spectroscopy research facilities; instrumentation and automation research and instruction labs; and a well-established teaching and demonstration infrastructure.
Examples of faculty research areas include: eclipsing binaries, asteroid research, stellar spectroscopy, exoplanets, atmospheric and environmental physics, archeophysics, biophysics, early universe physics, physics education research, nanoscience, and advanced materials research. The department houses a complete machine shop and electronics shop. In addition, the department hosts the editorial offices of The Physics Teacher magazine. The department has 14 tenure-track faculty members, six part-time faculty, four staff, approximately 75 undergraduate majors, and 20 master's students.
Appalachian State University is a member institution of the 16-campus University of North Carolina System and is located in Boone, NC. Additional information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the University, and surrounding area can be found on the University's website (www.appstate.edu).
Applicants must send a complete application consisting of: letter of application; current curriculum vitae; three letters of recommendation including names, email addresses, and telephone numbers; and statements of teaching philosophy, administrative philosophy, and research plans that specifically address undergraduate participation to: Dr. Patricia E. Allen, email@example.com . Electronic applications required in pdf format only. Complete applications may also be mailed to Dr. Patricia E. Allen, Department of Physics & Astronomy, ASU PO Box 32106, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC 28608.
Review of complete applications will begin November 1, 2009, and will continue until the position is filled. Appalachian State University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer with a strong institutional commitment to the achievement of excellence among its faculty, staff and students; to the principles of diversity and inclusion; and to maintaining a work and learning environment that is free of all forms of discrimination.Back to top.
7. 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 aaswomen_at_aas.org. 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
and fill out the form.
If you experience any problems, please email itdept_at_aas.orgBack to top.
8. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN
Past issues of AASWOMEN are available at
Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.Back to top.