Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Maybe There Is Hope After All

Greetings from Sweden, home of the most generous parental leave policies in the world!

I'm here attending a scientific conference this week. As I've been going to talks and interacting with people, I couldn't help but notice something interesting about the representation of women here, so I worked out the numbers during an idle moment. Here's what I found:

Women accounted for
42 of 126 participants 33% (probably an underestimate, since it's based solely on names)
7 of 20 contributed talks 35%
7 of 15 invited talks47% (actually one less, because one had to cancel at the last minute)
14 of 35 speakers total40%
2 of 13 session chairs15%

I'm willing to forgive them that last number. All in all, this makes me pretty proud to be part of this meeting. Of course, as I mentioned before, some subfields of astronomy do better than others are retaining women, and I happen to be in one of them. There really does seem to be something of a critical mass that's required before women begin to really feel welcome in a particular field of study.

As a side note, I had an interesting conversation about problems facing in astronomy with someone here, and he wasn't a woman, and I didn't bring it up.

3 comments:

Sarah said...

Hi Hannah --

I was there too, and also noticed a healthy fraction of women in attendance. I also thought that the women that did give talks (both invited and contributed) did a phenomenal job all around. This was by no means a surprise to me, but it just added to an already positive sense I got from the interaction at the conference!

Cheers,
Sarah

Fran said...

Hannah - check the number of women faculty in Sweden. I think you will find (particularly in Physics) that the fraction is extremely small - much less than US. I have asked scandinavian colleagues about this - but not found real answers.
Yes - good to see their family leave policies and high representation at conferences!
Fran

Hannah said...

Fran -

I did notice that virtually all the local scientists were men. This may be why there were so few women who were session chairs, since they tended to be people on the LOC or SOC. Despite that, they organized a conference that had a great deal of representation of women, so I think that's very promising!