Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Encouraging Men to Advocate for Women in Astronomy

Men have an important role to play in promoting gender equity broadly in astronomy and other gender-imbalanced fields. I was impressed by the commitment of a few male colleagues whom I saw at Women in Astronomy III last fall and would like to see more like them. Those who work for improving the climate, work-life balance, career advancement and opportunities for women find not only find great personal satisfaction, but will enjoy competitive advantage in finding and recruiting outstanding colleagues to work with.

Some of my greatest pleasures this past year have come from working with a group of extraordinary MIT women faculty in planning for a major symposium celebrating women in science and engineering on the occasion of MIT's 150th anniversary. In addition to organizing the conference, we are preparing updates of the 1999 and 2002 reports on the status of women faculty in science and other areas at MIT. Getting to know Nancy Hopkins and other members of the National Academy of Science, and to work with them in ways that celebrate and improve the status of women, has been thrilling for me. I highly recommend such activities to anyone who wants to make a difference.

How can women encourage men to get involved? Just do it! Certainly all academic leaders should be encouraged to meet with women students and faculty and to learn about the steps they should take to improve their organizations. Most male faculty members will take seriously requests and concerns raised by students and will react positively to encouragement that they and their department be more aware of and supportive of climate, good mentoring, etc. Men benefit from encouragement just as women do. When I met with a group of female graduate students several years ago and asked, with some dismay, how I could make a difference given all the problems that existed, their words of simple encouragement had great impact. I carry them in my heart always.

5 comments:

pro said...
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MP said...

(from my FB coment) I agree absolutely. From my few discussions with men about this, I think they feel that they would be a third wheel, have nothing to contribute, are not needed. I absolutely believe that much of what is discussed among "women in science" would benefit everyone. I think we, women, need to begin to invite more men into the discussion. That said, we all need to appreciate that much of the benefit is derived from hearing the perspective, concerns, and ideas of women (and other minorities). The men would have to respect that and not take the role of trying to dominate "the conversation". I think, thought, that there are many men out there who would happy participate - so, let's invite them!

MP said...

(P.S. @ EB: on the FB posting it one couldn't tell who wrote this, although I figured it was you. Maybe that could be fixed next time.)

Karen Masters said...

A great point. I also think the valuable experience of being one of a few men in the room (unfortunately) at women in astronomy meetings will point out to men wherein part of the problem lies. You may not realise how it can make you feel uncomfortable and like an outsider until you experience being of the minority gender.

Karen Masters said...

PS. Dear blog admin - could you please add a share on Twitter button. Thanks. :)