Issue of February 11, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery
This week's issues:
1. Sexual Harassment: Update from Anon
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
[The March 26, 2010 issue of AASWOMEN contained a request for advice from an anonymous female Astronomy PhD student who was being sexually harassed by her thesis advisor. This young woman, whom we refer to as "Anon," has come a long way since she sent that message. She has graciously provided this update of her situation. - Eds.]
To all those who gave me advice through that difficult time, I want to thank you. As is usually the case in matters like this, it got worse before it got better, but I did want to report that it is getting better. After my first message to AASWOMEN, things were put in motion that moved me out of the situation, and has meant my harasser is no longer directly supervising me. Thanks to the gargantuan efforts of some of the people I shared the dilemma with, it looks like I not only have salvaged my thesis, but that I have a very good chance of falling back in love with astronomy and am far more likely to pursue a postdoc than I was 6 months ago.
That being said, this experience has changed me, both for the better, and possibly also for the worse. I am still angry. I still find myself resenting the success and happiness that my more fortunate peers have found, wondering what might have been had my harasser not been in my life. I still feel my heart race when I see him in the hallway, or find his name appearing in my email box. I am also a lot more leery about everyone else - wondering if that new colleague or collaborator, so seemingly inert will start acting differently to me. My threshold for trusting someone is much higher than before. Just like with a flesh wound, after the damage has been mended, scars still remain, and I will forever be a different person because my advisor harassed me. At the same time, I am stronger too. My reactiveness and fear has melted away into unflappability and a complete lack of fear of rejection. I can deal with any and all in a reasoned and calm way, because I know my own personal st rength, and I know that I have a safety net much larger than I ever thought possible.
One of the most special outcomes of asking for help was that before I knew it people around me were knitting a safety net for me. Every time I walked out on another ledge, by asking for the situation to be resolved, or having to parry the attacks coming my way by those who were not ready to acknowledge that a wrong had been done to me, when I looked behind me, there were always people who had my back. Sometimes it was just supportive words, sometimes anecdotes that helped me quell the frustration from the most recent harassing behavior, and sometimes it was more. People built me a safety net of mentors and advisors to ease the transition, people made phone calls and gracefully, calmly vouched for me when key players doubted my credibility, but mostly, people shared their stories. I got to witness the breadth of experiences that others had, and could gain strength from their strength. I have a mentoring blanket to protect me that was knit before my eyes. I thought I was wasting these people's times with my concerns, only to learn that even the busiest person gladly created time for me out of thin air, because they cared about me and my success. I might not be out of the woods just yet, but I now have a strong network of people who are helping me navigate away from the Big Bad Wolf and come out the other side without becoming another casualty of science. Finally I learned that harassment is one of the well kept secrets of academia, and a request for help can be met with kindness and support, as the AASWOMEN responses were for me.
So to everyone who reads AASWOMEN, I want to say thank you. You gave me a voice that I was robbed of. You confirmed something that the harasser and his enablers told me was just me being crazy. The day that things finally seemed to be working out, I made a promise. That if I am so blessed as to get to stay doing what I am doing, being an astronomer, that I would provide the same amount of support that I found from the people who supported me. Just as I learned, harassment is still going on, and the victims are scared to come forward, either because they did not think they had anyone to turn to, or because they couldn't put their fingers on what was going on, just that they had that uncomfortable feeling when they dealt with their advisor, or a collaborator, or an instructor. The only reason I am still here is because people finally gave agency to my experience, and I thank them (and you) for that every day.Back to top.
2. January 2011 Issue of STATUS
From: Katy Garmany [garmany_at_noao.edu]
As the new Editor of STATUS, I'm happy to say that the latest issue is now posted on the CSWA website at:
For those of you who receive a hardcopy, that will be arriving soon as well. In the interest of greening, as well as a cost saving, this will be the last paper copy that we print. Future issues will be electronic, enabling full color as well.
The current issue contains the following articles:
-Women in Astronomy: Meeting the Challenges of an Increasingly Diverse Workforce by Anne Kinney
-Women and the Imposter Syndrome in Astronomy by Rachel Ivie and Arnell Ephraim
-Do you think that's appropriate? A survey of perceptions of behavior in student-advisor relationships by Adam Burgasser
-STATUS Spotlight: Prof. Kelsey Johnson
-Book review by Gerrit Verschuur of "Under the Radar: The First Woman in Radio Astronomy", by W. Goss and R. McGee
I'm excited to be taking on the editorship of STATUS, which I see as a forum for longer discussions than are possible in the weekly AASWOMEN. I look forward to hearing your suggestions for articles you would like to see in STATUS, as well as your submissions!Back to top.
3. Underrepresentation of Women in Science
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
Several AASWOMEN readers alerted us to the article, "Understanding Current Causes of Women's Underrepresentation in Science" by Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams. For me personally, I find these articles and the media coverage they receive deeply frustrating. I think the authors should be sentenced to walk a mile in my shoes . . . I hope I am wearing the highest of my high heels on that day! Rather than let this frustration fester, I asked Dr. Abigail Stewart of the University of Michigan for a comment. Dr. Stewart gave the excellent talk on Unconscious Bias at the Seattle AAS meeting. Here's what she had to say:
The authors use their review of existing data (there is no new data here) to conclude that discrimination does not exist. They do this mainly by focusing on whether similarly-situated men and women scientists have similar outcomes. The answer to that is yes--and that is indeed good, and perhaps not surprising. But the problem we have is actually that men and women scientists are NOT similarly situated--a point they note, but that is mostly overlooked in media accounts, perhaps because less ink is shed on it in the article. They also argue that they can tell that the reason men and women are not similarly situated is NOT due to discrimination. They really cannot tell that, and they should know that they can't. But they do point to institutional barriers that are in the way of women's careers, and those barriers are worth attention.
Paper on the PNAS site:
NY Times article:
Female Science Professor blog:Back to top.
4. Getting Connected - Engaging Your Institution and Community
From: Meredith Danowski_at_women_in_astronomy_blog
[Meredith Danowski is a PhD student in Astronomy at Boston University and a guest blogger at the Women in Astronomy Blog. This is the second in her series describing her experiences with GWISE - Eds.]
You've got a group of people together, committed to a cause. You have ideas and goals, you want to blaze a trail, you want to solve problems. Anyone can plan an event, anyone can voice an opinion, so now we're down to the hard part. To be an effective organization with a voice, you need members, you need to fill a niche, you need to become a part of the fabric of your environment. Regardless of your size or intended audience, fostering relationships between your organization and the greater community is a way to ensure success.
A crucial step forward is to begin a conversation with those in positions of power. Talk to department chairs, university deans, and leaders of your community and get them invested in your cause. Show them how the goals of your organization are consistent with their goals--diversity breeds excellence. Beyond financial support, these individuals can provide ideas, contacts, and administrative resources. Their support of your cause can open doors and encourage the community. They can provide feedback on the impact of your work. And in turn, your organization enriches the academic environment and supports the community.
To extend our connection to the community beyond singular meetings with our departments and college deans, Boston University's GWISE formed an advisory board. With the goal of hearing feedback and engaging seemingly disparate portions of our community in a larger conversation, we invited those leaders to sit together for a discussion. To begin, we sat down and devised a list of people to invite-- we included influential people involved in university administration, individuals engaged in promoting STEM diversity (from other local universities or groups), female leaders in their fields-- those whose input would only help us strengthen our impact.
Once a semester, the leadership of our organization meets with our advisory board. We discuss our recent events, our future plans, and we revisit our mission. We share how our organization is benefiting the community. We talk about areas for improvement, and ask for feedback. Are we accomplishing our goals? What could we do better, and how? Are we serving our membership? How might we increase the participation of our members? We solicit ideas and collect input from a variety of viewpoints.
The key to longevity is to foster a symbiotic relationship between the organization and the community, and this advisory board meeting serves to strengthen that relationship and encourage conversations. Instead of fighting for independence or against the structure around us, we strive to work well within it-- to become an invaluable part of the community. We want to be a part of the conversation, a part of the solution, an instrument for improving the environment. The support of the individuals on the advisory board, the institution, and the community are instrumental in helping us thrive and continue working toward our goal, and hopefully, one day, making us obsolete.Back to top.
5. Conferences Celebrating and Advancing Women in Science
From: Ed Bertschinger_at_women_in_astronomy_blog
Last month my university and three others hosted simultaneous Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics. Approximately 150 students, nearly all undergraduate women, traveled to Boston for a weekend as warm inside the conference rooms as it was cold outside. It was an inspiring event and I'm grateful to the students from Yale, MIT and Harvard who organized and ran the conference. Although the conference series says "physics" in its title, many of the attendees were interested in astronomy and greatly enjoyed the astrophysical and personal perspectives given by JWST Mission Head Kathy Flanagan and Purdue University President France Cordova.
The goals of this conference series are to help female undergraduate physics majors transition to graduate studies; to foster a supportive undergraduate culture for women in physics; and to strengthen the network of women in physics. Based on my conversations with students the last four years, and my participation the last two, I believe the conference series succeeds admirably. MIT, while perhaps not fully representative, has had an increased rate of women going to graduate school after attending the conference. I have had several women tell me that contacts they made at the conferences, and encouragement they received, are responsible for them staying in the field to pursue a PhD.
Graduate school attendance marks a critical transition for women in science. Between about 20% and 40% of physics or astronomy undergraduates are female (with a few excursions to either side). The percentages in graduate school are typically half those at the undergraduate level. Many women, and some men, choose not to go to graduate school because of the perceived difficulty of balancing work and family or because of a lack of encouragement. It's important that we communicate the value of an advanced degree for many different careers -- not just the professoriate -- and that we encourage everyone to achieve their full potential.
Once women obtain their PhDs, they enjoy comparable opportunities as men for academic careers (see the NRC report Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty). Although the numbers are small, their success is often huge. Recognizing and celebrating the success of women in these fields, as well as assessing progress and identifying challenges in achieving gender equity, is the theme of a major symposium at MIT to be held March 28-29, 2011. One of a series of symposia celebrating MIT's 150th anniversary, Leaders in Science and Engineering: The Women of MIT may be of interest to many. Registration is open to anyone and we hope that the program will be of wide interest to AAS Women.
Men and women sometimes ask me why we bother holding conferences that emphasize or favor one gender. The irony of that question will be apparent to many readers. I do it because it empowers the attendees and I am one of them. In fact, I feel strongly that more men would enjoy attending and benefit from such conferences; it will help them become better mentors and scientists. At the conference for undergraduate women in physics, a speaker recounted her husband's reaction as the accompanying spouse at a conference for women in physics. He -- also a physicist -- told his wife, "As the only man among 30 women physicists, I wanted to run out of the room. Then I realized this is what you experience every day." The insight made a deep impression on the audience.Back to top.
6. Visiting Assistant Professor at Haverford College
From: Beth Willman [bwillman_at_haverford.edu]
Haverford College is inviting applications for a visiting assistant professor of astronomy, pending budgetary approval, in the 2011-12 academic year. This position will involve teaching small classes of highly motivated undergraduate students, both non-scientists and majors. Candidates should be comfortable teaching courses across the undergraduate astronomy curriculum. Qualified and interested candidates may also have the opportunity to advise a student on senior thesis research and to participate in our public observing program.
A Ph.D. in physics or astronomy, teaching experience, and research publications are required. Please send a CV, list of publications, statement of teaching interests and experience, an unofficial grad school transcript, and arrange for two letters of recommendation to be sent to: hc-AstroSearch_at_haverford.edu. Review of applications begins March 14, and continues until the position is filled.
Haverford is a highly selective college with a commitment to quality teaching and scholarship. Our college enrolls 1200 undergraduates, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 8 to 1. We emphasize cutting edge research with and the development of personal integrity with our students, resulting in a friendly yet academically intense atmosphere. Our location on two commuter rail lines less than 10 miles from downtown Philadelphia allows for interactions with colleagues at nearby institutions including: University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Princeton, Swarthmore, and Villanova. Please contact bwillman_at_haverford.edu if you have any questions about this position.
Haverford is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action employer, committed to excellence through diversity, and strongly encourages applications and nominations of persons of color, women, and members of other under-represented groups.Back to top.
7. Visualization Researcher/Astronomer at Swinburne University
From: Sarah Maddison [smaddison_at_swin.edu.au]
Application closes 31 March 2011
Applications are invited to apply for a Senior Lectureship in the general research area of scientific visualization and astronomy at the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing in the Swinburne University, Australia. This position is a continuing University appointment with a generous package of salary and benefits.
The applicant will be required to lead independent astronomy and visualization research and is expected to engage in high level programming in the support of research and commercial activities of the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. They will also be involved in teaching and developing University courses in the area of scientific visualization and computing.
Swinburne is a 2010 Federally-recognised "Employer of Choice for Women". For details, seeBack to top.
8. How to Submit to AASWOMEN
Send email to aaswomen_at_aas.org .
All material will be posted unless you tell us otherwise, including your email address.
Please remember to replace "_at_" in the e-mail address above.Back to top.
9. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN
If you experience any problems, please email itdept_at_aas.orgBack to top.
10. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN
Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.Back to top.