Issue of January 21, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery
This week's issues:
1. Unconscious Bias
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
On the last day of the Seattle AAS meeting, right before lunch, Dr. Abigail Stewart of the University of Michigan gave an invited talk entitled, “Addressing Unconscious Bias: Steps toward an Inclusive Scientific Culture.”
CSWA nominated Dr. Stewart for a plenary talk because of her excellent presentation on unconscious bias at the Women in Astronomy III meeting in 2009. I remember describing that talk as, “well worth the price of admission” (AASWOMEN, November 6, 2009).
Dr. Stewart did not disappoint. In a time slot that was less than ideal on a subject that was not pure science, Dr. Stewart delivered another brilliant lecture full of eye-opening results and time-tested advice on how to change the status quo. The talk was very well attended and there were lots of questions.
The ppt from the presentation will be up on the meeting portion of CSWA’s web site just as soon as possible. Check here for an update for the Seattle meeting (coming soon):
In the meantime, if you need the presentation right away (if, for example, you are currently on a search committee) just e-mail me and I’ll send you the ppt from the Women in Astronomy III conference. It was similar.
Here’s the abstract: In this talk I will outline the nature of unconscious bias, as it operates to exclude or marginalize some participants in the scientific community. I will show how bias results from non-conscious expectations about certain groups of people, including scientists and astronomers. I will outline scientific research in psychology, sociology and economics that has identified the impact these expectations have on interpersonal judgments that are at the heart of assessment of individuals' qualifications. This research helps us understand not only how bias operates within a single instance of evaluation, but how evaluation bias can accumulate over a career if not checked, creating an appearance of confirmation of biased expectations.
Some research has focused on how best to interrupt and mitigate unconscious bias, and many institutions--including the University of Michigan--have identified strategic interventions at key points of institutional decision-making (particularly hiring, annual review, and promotion) that can make a difference. The NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation program encouraged institutions to draw on the social science literature to create experimental approaches to addressing unconscious bias. I will outline four approaches to intervention that have arisen through the ADVANCE program: (1) systematic education that increases awareness among decisionmakers of how evaluation bias operates; (2) development of practices that mitigate the operation of bias even when it is out of conscious awareness; (3) creation of institutional policies that routinize and sanction these practices; and (4) holding leaders accountable for these implementation of these new practices and policies.
Although I will focus on ways to address unconscious bias within scientific institutions (colleges and universities, laboratories and research centers, etc.), I will close by considering how scientific organizations can address unconscious bias and contribute to creating an inclusive scientific culture.Back to top.
2. Elementary Parenting
The 217th AAS Meeting is getting under way here in Seattle. Lots of cool science going on here, and several excellent sessions sponsored by the CSWA, too.
My kids saw me off at the airport yesterday, and I don't know if I've gotten them really used to my frequent travel schedule or if they're just naturally callous, but there was hardly any fuss. The younger kid, in fact, whined quite a bit about being dragged all the way to the airport to say goodbye to me instead of, I don't know, watching TV or something.
Suffice it to say that balancing my career with having elementary school age children is a completely different game from when they were babies. Ann has made some terrific posts about her own experience, and I know that back then, I would have found her advice invaluable. Still, those early years of parenting are but memories that I can look back on with some nostalgia now. It was tough, but I got through it, and now I can tell funny and/or horrifying stories about it. Not unlike a sorority/fraternity hazing or boot camp, I suppose.
You don't hear much discussion about balancing work and family after the early years. That's because it's much easier. I'm blessed with children free from significant medical, emotional, or mental issues. I can count on getting a full night's sleep on a regular basis. Since my kids are in public school, my child care costs are a whole lot less. There are excellent in-school programs that I can rely on to care for my kids after school, on snow days, and even some school vacation days. Heck, I can even assign chores to my kids to make dinner time and morning getting-ready times a lot easier on myself.
Still, I end up doing a lot of chauffeuring, taking my kids to some activity or another. I wrote an early draft of this blog post at my kids' karate studio, for instance. There are still times when I need to drop everything to take care of a sick or hurt child, but it's not a constant drain on me the way sleep deprivation is. And of course, whenever I travel, like right now, I depend on my spouse to pick up a lot of slack in my absence.
I'm enjoying these elementary school years while they last. My kids are now real people that I can have real conversations with. Still, it won't be long before my kids will be teenagers, and then I may well have to kiss my reliable nights of sleep goodbye. For now, I'll go enjoy the AAS Meeting, confident that my family can get by without me, and maybe by the end of the week they'll actually miss me.Back to top.
3. Milk at the Seattle American Astronomical Society Meeting
So I was able to bring my 9.5 month old daughter to Seattle to the American Astronomical Society meeting last week. I think I can summarize the entire experience by saying that it was really nice to not have to worry about how I was going to incorporate caring for my daughter, and specifically maintaining breastfeeding, into the conference. This was possible due to the on-site childcare sponsored by the society and a “breastfeeding room” reserved by the very capable AAS staff.
It wasn’t without some slight hang-ups as I was a bit frazzled in my preparations for this very busy meeting, especially considering that I was staying with a relative of my husband’s that week (the slightly longer commute was more than compensated for by easy access to a washer and dryer as well as a completely separate room for the baby). I walked into the conference hall on the first morning to ask about the location of the on-site childcare (yes, I am very sure someone must have told me ahead of time but I was more concerned about being ready for the science sessions). It turns out that the on-site childcare was at the Sheraton across the street. This is obviously very good for the vast majority of conference attendees who are staying in the conference hotel but it took me by surprise (hey, I printed 12 copies of the agenda for the high energy astrophysics executive committee meeting, who had time to look this stuff up?). I guess I was expecting a little cage full of babies among the book vendors or something (the Sheraton was perhaps more logical?). We found it and got Anya dropped off.
Once we had that worked out though it was really wonderful. I was able to stop in to nurse Anya at midday, carry her around the poster hall (she loves lanyards apparently), take her to a lunchtime session on how men can help women in astronomy (until she woke up, I even breast-fed her in the back of the room!) and then after putting her in the daycare for the afternoon breast-fed her once more before returning her to my husband so I could attend my late night executive committee dinner (the day finished at 11PM Seattle time).
The AAS was even good enough to arrange for a breastfeeding room. The AAS staff were not entirely thrilled with it, nor was I (it was a converted coat room for the coat check, kind of grungy) but it met the important basic requirements: proximity to the meeting (it was immediately outside the poster hall, perfect!) and privacy (hey, there are no windows in coat closets, perfect!). Once again, if you are going to pump on the road, bring those Medela wipes in case you are pumping milk around coat closet dust bunnies.
So, I think it went well. I’m grateful that our community is open-minded enough to have on-site childcare and breastfeeding rooms.Back to top.
4. Positions at ALMA
ALMA Test Scientist
Division: Joint Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Observatory Location of Position: Chile Job Status: Regular Full Time Number of Positions Supervised: 0
The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) invites applications for a Test Scientist to join the System Integration Group of the ALMA Department of Engineering. The System Integration Group coordinates assembly and integration tasks, and performs system verification tests of the ALMA antennas. The successful candidate will be part of the team responsible for ensuring that appropriate testing is accomplished in order to verify that system requirements are met.
Head of the ALMA Department of Engineering
Division: Joint Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Observatory Location of Position: Chile Job Status: Regular Full Time Number of Positions Supervised: ~ 130
The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) is seeking a senior engineering manager with extensive experience to lead its Department of Engineering, which is responsible for the assembly and integration and the engineering operation of the international ALMA radio astronomy observatory in Chile. This is an outstanding opportunity to lead the engineering efforts associated with one of the most challenging technology projects in the world. The Head of the ALMA Department of Engineering (ADE) will be responsible for the management and leadership of the JAOs largest department, home to approximately 130 staff - around half of the entire staff of the JAO. The Head of ADE will report to the ALMA Director, and will be a member of the JAO’s core management team. The Head of ADE will be responsible for the engineering and technical staff within the JAO and for the work outcomes from those staff including Assembly, Integration and Verification activities, Systems Integration efforts, and the ongoing engineering operations of the array. The Head of ADE will also be expected to make a key contribution to the strategic planning, policy development, implementation, as well as overall decision-making of the JAO.
ALMA Project Manager
Division: Joint Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Observatory Location of Position: Chile Job Status: Regular Full Time Number of Positions Supervised: ~ 19
The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) is seeking a Project Manager with outstanding management abilities for the construction of the international ALMA radio astronomy observatory in Chile. Under delegation by the Director, the Project Manager is responsible for the overall direction and coordination of the ALMA construction and integration conducted by the JAO and the three (European, East Asian and North American) Executives, and for maintaining the integrity of the construction schedule, work breakdown structure, cost development and assignment of deliverables. The Project Manager reports to the ALMA Director, and is a member of the JAO’s core management team. The Project Manager leads the JAO construction team and works in close collaboration with the Executives’ project managers. The Project Manager provides written and oral reports to the Board on progress and problems of the construction project and summarizes the state of the project for the ALMA Management Advisory Committee.
For further information please consult (almaobservatory.org), as well as the NRAO and/or ESO Home Page (www.nrao.edu) or (www.eso.org).
NRAO and ESO are Equal Opportunity Employers. M/F/D/VBack to top.
5. 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
If you experience any problems, please email itdept_at_aas.orgBack to top.
6. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN
Past issues of AASWOMEN are available at
Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered. AASWList mailing list AASWList@aas.orgBack to top.