Issue of June 11, 2010
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson amp; Michele Montgomery
This week's issues:
1. Pasadena Recommendations: A Third Option
From: Edmund Bertschinger [edbert_at_mit.edu]
Maybe you, like me, are in an astronomy or physics department that supports the principles of the Pasadena Recommendations for Gender Equality in Astronomy but find that some of the details may present an obstacle. For example, your promotion and tenure process may not be completely open because committee meetings as well as the selection of letter writers are confidential, or you may not have a formula for tenure that you feel is easily characterized. If your department's only choice in this situation is to fully accept or reject the Pasadena Recommendations, the outcome is predictable and unfortunate.
A third option exists. Departments can give a qualified endorsement of the Pasadena Recommendations while describing concerns about or restrictions in implementing various parts. The Endorsement page:
will soon have a new section for qualified endorsements, enabling departments to describe their concerns and discuss matters of partial implementation. This may also give us an opportunity to share new ways to promote gender equity beyond those ideas listed in the current Recommendations.
Qualified endorsement will give your department the chance to go on record as supporting gender equity in astronomy (physics is welcome, too!). As we share experiences with the obstacles they will diminish, enabling us all to focus on the positive efforts that make a difference.
At MIT, we discussed the Recommendations in our departmental governing body and found a total of three recommendations of concern. In each case, careful examination led us to work-arounds that retain the spirit of the recommendations while adapting them to our local circumstances. For example, the tenure process can be made more open if the department chair meets with each untenured faculty member annually to provide feedback and assess progress towards tenure. Written advice is also very helpful -- both general advice given to all candidates and specific, confidential advice for individuals.
I am pleased to add MIT to the list of institutions endorsing the spirit of the Pasadena Recommendations while contributing discussion of our concerns and matters of implementation. I encourage others to join us in supporting gender equity.Back to top.
2. CSWA-sponsored sessions at the Miami AAS
From: Nancy Morrison [nancy.morrison_at_utoledo.edu]
At the 216th AAS meeting in Miami, FL, the CSWA sponsored a town hall and a special session on unconscious bias.
In her introduction to the town hall, CSWA chair Joan T. Schmelz gave an introduction to the topic, "Designing a 21st Century Astronomy Career Track." In it, she argued persuasively that issues concerning "female-friendly" and "family-friendly" workplaces will have to be addressed in order for successful career tracks to be designed. She also presented some fascinating, current information on the proportion of women at various professional ranks (slide 12 in her PowerPoint). Lively discussion followed.
Joan's PowerPoint can be found here:
Session 202, "Addressing Unconscious Bias," began with an introduction by Joan Schmelz and continued with talks by Patricia Knezek, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery. The visuals for all these stimulating presentations can be found here:Back to top.
3. Daring to Discuss Women in Science
From: Nancy Brickhouse [bhouse_at_head.cfa.harvard.edu]
[A recent article in the NY Times by John Tierney brings back bad memories of the speculations of Larry Summers concerning women in science. We wonder why these speculations refuse to die a natural death – Eds.]
The House of Representatives has passed what I like to think of as Larry’s Law. The official title of this legislation is “Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering,” but nothing did more to empower its advocates than the controversy over a speech by Lawrence H. Summers when he was president of Harvard.
This proposed law, if passed by the Senate, would require the White House science adviser to oversee regular “workshops to enhance gender equity.” At the workshops, to be attended by researchers who receive federal money and by the heads of science and engineering departments at universities, participants would be given before-and-after “attitudinal surveys” and would take part in “interactive discussions or other activities that increase the awareness of the existence of gender bias.”
I’m all in favor of women fulfilling their potential in science, but I feel compelled, at the risk of being shipped off to one of these workshops, to ask a couple of questions:
To read more, click here:
Some thoughts on this article from Hannah can be found on the Women in Astronomy blog:Back to top.
4. Why Do Women Leave Science And Engineering?
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
A recent article in Forbes by Jennifer Hunt, suggests that women leave science and engineering because of pay and promotion opportunities, or lack thereof.
American policy analysts are concerned about the declining U.S. share in world patenting and scientific publishing. Many trace this to the perceived failure of the U.S. to educate as many scientists and engineers as "competitor" countries.
One possible solution to this problem is to increase the number of immigrants skilled in science and engineering. An alternative is to increase the number of natives skilled in these fields, with the underrepresented groups of women and minorities as obvious targets.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, coauthor of the report "The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology," emphasizes yet another strategy: increased retention of women. The 2008 report identifies the major reasons why women leave science and engineering at a higher rate than men--from lack of a buddy network to outright sexual harassment--and proposes ways to make science and engineering careers more "friendly" to women, such as sponsorship arrangements with senior executives and clear paths into the management pipeline.
Are females exiting from science and engineering disproportionately? And if so, is this exodus simply a hallmark of male-dominated fields in general, or is it specific to science and engineering?
To read more, click here:Back to top.
5. Visiting Assistant Professor or Visiting Instructor
From: Karen Bjorkman [Karen.Bjorkman_at_utoledo.edu]
The Department of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Toledo invites applications for a non-tenure-track visiting position to begin in August 2010. Pending final budgetary approval, the appointment will be for one year with the possibility of reappointment for a second or third year at the discretion of the university. The position will have a primary focus on teaching introductory physics, astronomy, and natural science courses. A Ph.D in physics, astronomy, or a closely related field is required for appointment at the Visiting Assistant Professor level; candidates with a Masters degree may be considered for appointment at the Visiting Instructor level. Prior teaching experience is required. The candidate filling this position will be expected to teach twelve credit hours of courses per semester, some of which may include laboratory or recitation sections. We encourage applications from women and minority candidates. Applicants should include a current CV, a on e- or two-page statement of teaching philosophy, and three reference letters. Review of the applications will begin on July 10, 2010, but the position remains open until filled.
Applications should be sent to: Chair, VAP Search Committee, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, MS111, Univ. of Toledo, Toledo, OH, 43606-3390 or by e-mail to Willie.Brown_at_utoledo.edu .Back to top.
6. 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.
7. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN
Past issues of AASWOMEN are available atBack to top.