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.