Issue of April 1, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery
This week's issues:
1. Senior Women: Physics & Astronomy Departments
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
CSWA would like to expand their recent study of Senior Women in Astronomy departments to include those in Physics amp; Astronomy departments. At this time we are only considering departments in the US with a PhD program.
I need your help to compile these data. If you work in a Physics amp; Astronomy department (in the US with a PhD program), could you please send me a list of senior faculty (tenured professors only) with a designation for male or female? For any joint appointments, I would also need the fractional commitment of that individual to the Physics amp; Astronomy department.
These data should be for the entire department, not just the astronomy component of the department. Note: assistant professors, research professors, junior members, part-time instructors, soft-money researchers, postdocs, emeritus faculty, etc. should NOT be included in this list.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions and comments.Back to top.
2. Sexual Harassment: A Call to Shun
From: Caty Pilachowski [catyp_at_astro.indiana.edu]
There is a relevant post by Scott Jaschik in the March 30 issue of "Inside Higher Ed" about sexual harassment in philosophy:
Let's say there is a scholar in your field who is known to harass women. Maybe you witnessed an incident. Maybe you heard from friends who were his victims. Maybe you heard from friends of friends. The person is known (among women at least) as someone to avoid, but he continues on in a professorship at a top university, serving on influential editorial boards, turning up on the programs of all the right conferences.
If the man has never been convicted by a judicial body or punished by a university (at least not that you know of), is this just a case of "innocent until proven guilty"? Or does this suggest disciplinary negligence -- or tolerance of serial harassment?
That is the question being debated this week by philosophers as a series of blogs and websites have responded to an online project in which women in philosophy have shared stories of the bias and harassment they have experienced. The stories are anonymous, but the philosophers who have taken up the cause say that the accounts ring true, and that they personally know of many similar cases. And a number of philosophers are now calling for some form of shunning to take place -- for scholars to take a stand by refusing to interact with or honor those of their colleagues who have reputations for being harassers. These philosophers charge not only that harassment is widespread, but that departments and colleges have looked the other way, and that the problem includes some of the top figures in the field today.
To read more:Back to top.
3. The Scientific Gender Gap
From: Doug Duncan [dduncan_at_colorado.edu]
Here's an article by Jonah Lehrer which appeared in the March 7 issue of Wired:
It seems that one has to say something silly and controversial (ala Larry Summers) in order to draw attention to the problem of females in math and science. And that's a shame, because the gender discrepancy remains a very serious societal problem. According to the latest statistics from the NSF, women represent approximately 20% of the math and science faculty at top research universities. This discrepancy is terrible for science, which is missing out on a large pool of potential talent. It's bad for women, who must struggle to enter an important sector. Most distressingly, it's a problem that remains stubbornly in place: Although the gender gap in math and science performance has shrunk substantially (and even been reversed on some tests), girls and women still feel less positively toward math and science than their male peers. Despite the fact that women have earned slightly more science and engineering bachelor degrees than men since 2000, they remain far less interested in pursuing these disciplines as careers.
A new paper by social psychologists at the University of Amherst, and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, offers a novel explanation for this seemingly intractable gender gap. I'm most interested in their longitudinal field experiment which involved the careful observation of an actual calculus class taught by male and female professors. Here's Shankar Vedantam, in Slate, describing their results:
They measured, for instance, how often each student responded to questions posed by professors to the classroom as a whole. At the start of the semester, 11 percent of the female students attempted to answer questions posed to the entire class when the professor was male, and 7 percent of the female students attempted to answer questions posed to the entire class when the professor was female. By the end of the semester, the number of female students who attempted to answer questions posed by a male professor had not changed significantly: Only 7 percent of the women tried to answer such questions. But when classes were taught by a woman, the percentage of female students who attempted to answer questions by the semester's end rose to 46.
To read more:Back to top.
4. The Status of MIT Women Faculty in Science and Engineering
From: Edmund Bertschinger_at_women_in_astronomy_blog
MIT has just released an important new report, A Report on the Status of Women Faculty in the Schools of Science and Engineering at MIT, 2011. This report, prepared in association with the upcoming MIT150 celebration and the Symposium Leaders in Science and Engineering: The Women of MIT, is a sequel to the famous 1999 MIT Report on Women Faculty in Science and the 2002 report of the Women Faculty in Engineering. The new report shows that there has been remarkable progress for women faculty in science and engineering at MIT since the previous studies but that issues remain that will require the continued efforts of the central administration, working collaboratively with women faculty.
The report shows that great progress has been made in addressing the discrimination, bias, and inequities in leadership opportunities that existed a decade ago. I'm heartened by the facts that the numbers of women faculty members in science and engineering have almost doubled in a decade, that women now occupy many leadership positions, and that most women faculty view MIT as an excellent place to work and a friendlier and more supportive place than is perceived from the outside. Some of the senior faculty are amazed by these improvements. For me, MIT's success over the last decade indicates a good prognosis for further progress towards full gender equity, if we remain focused on continuing improvements.
To read more:Back to top.
5. A First Anniversary: Motherhood and Astrophysics
One year ago today I was in the hospital awaiting the arrival of my daughter. At this point I was realizing the induction might not go as quickly as we hoped. It lasted 40 hours and failed so I had a C-section. Then I struggled to feed my daughter initially. She became dehydrated, losing 11% of her body weight, dipping to below 5 pounds, in the first 2 days. Without any milk yet, I was forced to feed her a tiny amount of formula, for which I have no regrets as she really needed it. Feeding my daughter those few spoonfuls of formula was the first on a long list of things I thought I would never do as a parent.
My research area is the study of X-ray binary populations in galaxies. I'm a tenured astrophysicist at NASA and have been involved with a variety of NASA missions. As you might imagine, I was not thinking about X-ray binaries, X-ray instruments on NASA missions or anything like that during the time described above. Maternity leave really isn't like any other leave I have ever taken. One of my senior female colleagues told me to be gentle with myself and now I can see what she meant. It took some months for me to return to any semblance of the productivity I had before and to enjoy my work again like I did before.
To read more:Back to top.
6. Chronicle Articles
From: Michele M. Montgomery [montgomery_at_physics.ucf.edu]
Here is an article from the March 27 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education on the theme of one women not being heard by her male colleagues called "No Girls Aloud"
Here is an article from the March 24 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education with interesting advice on "Women Seeking to Advance in Academe." Advice is:
-Be on powerful committees that control money. -Avoid petty disputes. -Always have the last word.Back to top.
7. Job Announcements
[The AASWOMEN newsletter has adopted a simplified format for job ads. We will no longer be posting the entire ad, but rather a 1-line description of the position and a web site - Eds.]
Visiting Assistant Professors in Physics at Colgate University:
Tenure Track Assistant Professor in Physics at Towson University:Back to top.
8. How to Submit
To submit an item to the AASWOMEN newsletter, including replies to topics, send email to
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 subscribe or unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter, please fill in the required information at:
If you experience any problems, please email itdept_at_aas.orgBack to top.
10. Access to Past Issues
Each annual summary includes an index of topics coveredBack to top.