Tuesday, August 31, 2010

AASWomen for August 20, 2010

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of August 20, 2010
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. New CSWA Members

2. 10 Tips for Women Students in Science Fields

3. Update on Women Speakers

4. More on the Tierney Talking Points

5. NASA and Mary J. Blige Encourage Science Careers for Women

6. Astronomy Enrollments and Degrees

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

8. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

1. New CSWA Members
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

Please join me in welcoming our new CSWA members, Edmund Bertschinger (MIT) and Nancy Morrison (Univ. of Toledo), who will be serving from 2010 to 2013. Nancy is our new web manager, and Ed is already working on endorsements of the Pasadena Recommendations.

We would also like to thank our outgoing committee members, Joannah Hinz (Univ. of Arizona) and Wal Sargent (Caltech). Their efforts on behalf of CSWA are much appreciated. Caroline Simpson (Florida International Univ.) completed her first term and has been reappointed. Additional continuing members are: Joan Schmelz (Chair, Univ. of Memphis), Hannah Jang-Condell (Univ. of Maryland), Michele Montgomery (Univ. Central Florida), Ann Hornschemeier (NASA GSFC), George Jacoby (NOAO), Donald Kniffen (USRA), and Marc Postman (STScI).

We encourage you to contact any CSWA member if you have comments, questions, and/or suggestions. We also suggest that you to check out the CSWA web site at:


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2. 10 Tips for Women Students in Science Fields
From: Andrea Dupree [adupree@cfa.harvard.edu]

In an article in U.S. News and World Report, MIT professor Sara Seager shares 10 powerful bits of advice with women in engineering and science on how to succeed and be happy in their fields. Seager, a professor of physics engineering, advises students to:

  • join a support group of peers
  • find a mentor
  • get involved in a research project
  • organize your time
  • be assertive
  • have confidence
  • look out for yourself
  • don't take sexist comments personally
  • strategize for the future, and
  • enjoy yourself

"A mentor is someone who can provide you with guidance and advice," Seager says, and a mentor does not have to be a faculty member.

Seager's comments are part of a larger article by Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman who write about strategies to increase female involvement in STEM fields. There are clear reasons why there is so little involvement now, they claim, including negative beliefs about intelligence, the college student experience, stereotypes, self-assessment, and work-place bias, all hurdles that can be overcome with help from a mentor.

The article is here:


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3. Update on Women Speakers
From: Debra Elmegreen [elmegreen@vassar.edu]

[The 25 June 2010 issue of AASWOMEN was a special edition on the low percentages of women invited speakers at astronomy meetings - Eds.]

There has been a lot of recent CSWA discussion about the need for SOCs to include a diverse speaker list. The AAS has taken several steps in this regard.

1. Kevin Marvel added the following to the website


that discusses submission to the newsletter of meetings for the AAS calendar:

The AAS has endorsed the Pasadena Recommendations for Gender Equity in Astronomy. Recommendation five (5) of this document states:

"Organizations and academic institutions should offer women equal opportunity for scientific recognition in the form of awards (AAS awards and others) and invitations to present invited talks in a variety of circumstances, including AAS meetings, topical professional meetings, and traditional colloquia/seminars. Prize nominee pools and invited speaker lists should adequately reflect the diversity of the astronomical profession. The institutions responsible for selecting awardees and invitees should review periodically their policies and progress in this area, in order to ensure that the achievements of women are being represented fairly."

The AAS urges all meeting organizers to take this recommendation into serious consideration along with the inclusion of other under-represented groups, while structuring their scientific meeting.

2. Crystal Tinch, who handles the submissions, has agreed to send an email response to submitters, along with the same note.

3. I mention the issue explicitly in the President's Column of the upcoming Sept/Oct AAS newsletter.

4. Council will consider this issue at its fall meeting in the broader context of increasing diversity, for women as well as for underrepresented minorities.

Johannes Anderson noted in the July 23 AASWOMEN that there are SOC guidelines for IAU-sponsored symposia:


In addition, Jim Ulvestad brought to my attention that NSF-funded meetings already stipulate that there must be gender balance:

NSF Proposals for Conferences, Symposia and Workshops, II.D.8 bullet 8


"A plan for recruitment of and support for speakers and other attendees, that includes participation of groups underrepresented in science and engineering (e.g., underrepresented minorities, women, and persons with disabilities);"

If we all work hard at reminding ourselves and others about this issue, and help suggest names to SOCs, I believe we can make a serious positive impact.

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4. More on the Tierney Talking Points
From: Nancy Morrison [nancy.morrison@utoledo.edu]

This nugget could be added to the list of Tierney talking points. It comes from an excellent book that I have just finished reading, _Letters to a Young Mathematician_ by Ian Stewart, professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick, UK. It is part of the Basic Books Art of Mentoring series,


Of course, it represents just one person's experience, not controlled research.

In chapter 14, p. 129 of the hardbound edition (2006), Stewart writes:

"... I've been thesis adviser to thirty students so far, twenty men and ten women. Since 1985, the proportions are fifty percent men, fifty percent women. I _know_ women are just as good at math as men because I've watched both at close quarters. I am particularly proud of my mathematical daughters, most of whom hail from Portugal, where mathematics has long been viewed as a suitable activity for women. ..."

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5. NASA and Mary J. Blige Encourage Science Careers for Women
From: Rick Fienberg [rick.fienberg@aas.org]

NASA is collaborating with award-winning recording artist Mary J. Blige to encourage young women to pursue exciting experiences and career choices by studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

A public service announcement featuring veteran NASA space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin and Blige debuts this week on NASA TV and the agency's website at:


NASA's Summer of Innovation (SoI) project and Blige's Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN) have much in common. Both show students the many possibilities available if they follow their dreams and reach for the stars.

The SoI project is part of the President's Educate to Innovate Campaign. It started earlier this summer to help keep middle school students engaged in fun and stimulating STEM-related activities during the school break.

"Working with FFAWN is a rare opportunity to help spread the STEM message into communities not always readily accessible to us," Melvin said. "Mary's presence can help NASA make the STEM message more appealing to these communities and increase the pipeline of underrepresented students going into these disciplines."

Working with the NASA Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy project at York College of the City University of New York (CUNY), the joint effort is providing on-the-job training for FFAWN high school participants. High school girls in the program will be prepared to deliver NASA SoI content to middle school students this summer at the New York City Housing Authority Van Dyke Community Center and the Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy.

The FFAWN participants also will have the opportunity to support the NASA Academy fall academic session at CUNY as student aides for grades one through nine later this year.

For information about NASA's Summer of Innovation project, visit:


For information about FFAWN, visit:


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6. Astronomy Enrollments and Degrees
From: Caroline Simpson [simpsonc@fiu.edu]

The AIP Statistical Research Center has recently posted a new publication: focus on Astronomy Enrollments and Degrees. This report presents findings from the annual survey of Enrollments and Degrees. It contains data covering astronomy enrollments from the fall of 2008 and degrees for the class of 2008. It also includes gender and citizenship trends.

The number of PhDs awarded in astronomy has reached an all-time high with 161 degrees conferred in the class of 2008.

Some highlights related to astronomy and gender:

- In 2008, men earned three times the number of astronomy PhDs that women earned. Although women are underrepresented when it comes to the field of astronomy, women astronomy PhDs have a better representation than among physics PhDs, 25% vs. 18%, respectively.

- The number of women receiving astronomy PhDs has been increasing in recent years; however, the proportion has declined slightly.

- Although the number of women receiving PhDs in astronomy has increased in recent years, the percent of astronomy PhDs granted to women continued to decline for the third consecutive year. In 2008, 35% of astronomy bachelor's were conferred to women. This is down from a high of 46% in 2003.

You can find the report here:


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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.org

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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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