Issue of September 30, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery
This week's issues:
1. A Question About Professional Behavior
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
I have a question for you about professional behavior. I know what I would do, but I would love some advice from the experienced and knowledgeable readers of the AASWOMEN newsletter!
As a senior professor in a physics and/or astronomy department, would you ever ask an undergraduate student out for coffee?
Let's narrow the parameters for the purposes of this e-discussion.
Assume the student is:
- currently enrolled in your junior-level physics or astronomy class; - not a relative or a family friend; - about 20 years old, i.e., regular undergraduate age; - the same gender as someone you would date socially.Back to top.
2. New NSF Workplace Flexibility Policies
From: Nancy Brickhouse [bhouse_at_cfa.harvard.edu] & Anne Kinney [anne.l.kinney_at_nasa.gov]
[We would also like to thank Angela Speck amp; Chanda Prescod-Weinstein for sending us the link to this article - Eds.]
Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady as of Jan 2011 and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, has co-authored an opinion piece in the Washington Post with Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls. The Post article emphasizes women in the STEM disciplines:
On Oct 23, 2009 a group of participants in Women in Astronomy and Space Science were invited to the White House to meet with Tina Tchen and Sarah Stewart Johnson, White House Fellow at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The early career scientists in this group organized and presented a set of concerns for discussion, covering 6 main themes; 1) career trajectories for women in astronomy and space science, 2) health care, 3) family leave policies, 4) conscious and unconscious bias, 5) education and public outreach, and 6) mentoring. See the article online (p. 299) by Hannah Jang-Condell, Kerri Cahoy, Bethany Cobb, Meredith Danowski, Laura Lopez, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, and Angie Wolfgang:
Here is a White House press release about the new NSF policy:
At the time we thought the discussion went extremely well, and now it appears that it made an impact! Thanks also to Pam Millar and Joyce Winterton for arranging the White House meeting.Back to top.
3. New Parental Leave Policies Wiki
From: Nick Murphy [namurphy_at_cfa.harvard.edu]
The website AstroBetter has kindly agreed to host a wiki on parental leave policies for different astronomical institutions at the following site:
The goals of this wiki are: (1) to allow astronomers at different career stages (graduate students, postdocs, research staff, and faculty) to easily compare parental leave policies, and (2) to encourage institutions to enact better parental leave policies by showing how they compare with peer institutions. The listing should not be limited to institutions in any particular country, and should include all stages in the career paths of astronomers.
This page is a wiki so that as many people as possible can contribute. We hope that this page can be made useful to those of us applying to graduate school and looking for jobs in the coming months. To edit this page, you must first register on AstroBetter. A small number of schools are currently listed, and we encourage you to include information on and links to parental leave policies at your own institutions.
Nick Murphy (CfA) Emily Freeland (Texas Aamp;M) Laura Trouille (Northwestern University-CIERA)Back to top.
4. What Balance? Lessons from the AAS Special Work/Life Balance Panel
From: Blake Bullock [Blake.Bullock_at_ngc.com]
[This is a teaser for an article that will appear in the Jan 2012 issue of STATUS, the semiannual magazine of CSWA. The article is entitled, "What Balance?" It summarized the lessons learned from the special Work/Life Balance panel, which met at the Jan 2011 AAS meeting in Seattle, WA - Eds.]
It's no secret things are changing. It used to be, we pretended the constant battle to balance work and life-outside-work didn't exist for fear of seeming distracted or unprofessional on the job. Yet today, despite a challenging job market and economy, employers are increasingly recognizing the impact work-life balance has on their productivity and ability to retain top talent. As we learned in the lively AAS Special Session on Work-Life Balance, the challenges of the astronomy workforce are no different.
Look for the January issue of Status to hear real life myths and facts about the new normal in work-life issues as shared by featured panelists representing the breadth of our community, from senior to junior, from universities to private industry, job-creators to job-seekers, as well as parents, couples, and caretakers.Back to top.
5. On Families and Conferences
From: Hannan_at_Women_in_Astronomy_Blog, Sept 22, 2011
Last week, I attended a conference in Grand Teton National Park. At one point, a friend noted, "there are lots of families here!" And there were. Why not use a conference in a spectacular location as an excuse to bring the family along and make a vacation out of it? And perhaps it even means that astronomy is getting more family-friendly.
Then I realized that almost all of the families belonged to men attending the conference. Most of the women that I knew who had kids had left them at home, including myself. Perhaps it's simply a matter of statistics: there are more men than women in astronomy, and a greater percentage of male than female astronomers have children. But I think it's also the case that many women find that bringing their families to a conference is too distracting: I certainly learned that the hard way. I think many of us are also instinctively aware that working mothers are judged differently that working fathers and so we choose to keep them out of sight.
I'm also not really convinced that families showing up at conferences are necessarily a good indication of the family-friendliness of the profession. This conference was on exoplanets, a young and growing field. This means that a lot of exoplanet scientists are in the right demographic group to be starting families, and until they are old enough to start school, why not bring them along to a conference in a cool location. There's a long way to go in terms of policy before we can say that astronomy is family-friendly overall.
On the other hand, whenever I see a woman scientist bringing a baby to a conference (like my fellow blogger, Ann!), I make a little cheer. After all, we do serve as role models for younger scientists who aspire to have it all. And, maybe, just maybe, the more we demonstrate that we can be successful scientists and mothers at the same time, the more we can smash stereotypes about working mothers.Back to top.
6. The 2011 L'Oreal USA Fellows
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
From Sept. 15, 2011 PRNewswire:
Today five of America's most promising post-doctoral female scientists received the L'Oreal USA Fellowships For Women In Science Award. This national awards program was created in 2003 to support the advancement of women in science and rewards the most promising post-doctoral female scientists from across the country. This year's awards presentation ceremony was held at the Kennedy Caucus Room in Washington, D.C. The program featured speeches from key congressional supporters of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). These include, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ).
The 2011 Fellowship recipients are working on breakthrough scientific research, which address critical global challenges that could aid millions around the world. Their research fields include stroke rehabilitation, therapeutic prevention for Alzheimer's, robotics that will improve prosthetic fittings and function, LEDs and colored light creation, and the spread of influenza and other viruses. Each Fellow will receive up to $60,000 to continue their post-doctoral research. Additionally, the L'Oreal USA Fellowships For Women in Science offers professional development workshops for awardees and helps these Fellows build networks with accomplished female leaders in corporate, academic, governmental and scientific fields. The program is facilitated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
L'Oreal USA's passion and commitment to science was validated by a nationwide survey conducted earlier this month. The results of this survey show that Americans support the program's goal of encouraging women to pursue careers in scientific fields. The survey asked about the public's overall interest in the field of science and specifically their thoughts on the presence of women, and contributions from women, to science. Survey respondents included male and females over 18 years of age and revealed:
To read more:Back to top.
7. ASP Research Awards
From: Nancy Morrison [NMorris_at_UTNet.UToledo.Edu]
Regarding Luisa Rebull's note last week about the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's 2012 awards honoring accomplishments in astronomy education and public outreach, it is important to state that the Society also confers awards honoring excellence in research, namely:
* Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal, awarded since 1898 for a lifetime of outstanding research in astronomy
* Robert J. Trumpler Award, for a recent Ph.D. thesis considered unusually important to astronomy
* Amateur Achievement Award, for significant observational or technical achievements by an amateur astronomer
* Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award, for important research results based upon development of groundbreaking instruments and techniques
Nominations for these awards are sought. See:
Recently, a team from the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) brought to the attention of the AAS Council that women are significantly underrepresented in the list of winners of AAS research prizes and awards, although not in its list of service and education award winners. It would be surprising if the same were not also true of the ASP. (The ASP's Bruce medal has been awarded to a woman at a rate of about one per decade for the past thirty years; Margaret Burbidge was the first female winner, in 1982.)
The AAS Council is working with AWIS in seeking solutions to the AAS's part of this problem. See:
The first step is for women to be nominated for research awards; no one can win who is not nominated. Although composing a persuasive nomination for a research award takes time and effort, I can affirm that a successful result is one of the most satisfying professional experiences a non-award-winner can have. Please consider nominating someone you know who may be worthy of one of these awards.Back to top.
8. A Story of Women's Education from Iran
From: Seyedeh Sona Hosseini [sshosseini_at_ucdavis.edu]
[Sona has been reading the thread on "How Things Have Changed (for the Better!)" and was inspired to write this contribution about her mom growing up in Iran - Eds.]
As far as I know, in the past, families and neighbors were the main limitation to women's education in Iran. People thought that if women got higher education they would leave their families. My mom was born after 5 boys. My grandparents had to go through lots of traditional medications to have a daughter and one thing my grandfather was determined to make sure was my mom didn't get higher education so she wouldn't end up leaving them! My mom was an excellent student and my uncles were a great support for her. She was selected as the best 40 female students in their province and they had a program that the best female students can attend the best male high school in the province for a better education. With the help of the school teachers, my grandma told my mom to lie to my grandpa; whenever my grandpa asked what class she was in, she was supposed to say, "I'm in junior high!"
My grandpa was an architect and he used to travel to other cities for months at a time so it wasn't too hard to fool him when he was home. My mom says her male classmates and teachers were a great help to her in order to do the after school home work sessions, projects, and activities. She says whenever a neighbor asked her where you are coming from, she used to say sewing class or something in that nature! And if for any reason the girls couldn't attend extra activities, their male classmates covered for them and wrote an extra class note for them (there were simply no copy machines those days).
My mom was accepted in the second best national medical school in Iran when my grandpa finally realized she was no longer in junior high. To everyone's surprise he supported her but with one condition: that NO one in the neighborhood or the family should know about this! If anyone knew, they would have accused my grandpa of being a nerveless man and reminded him every day that he will see his daughter leaving them soon. So everything was like a secret group work.
Later because of revolution, the schools closed for 2 years and my mom decided to go to a local university and later become a high school teacher which she loved. She says it was almost the same deal in the first years of her college. But after the revolution things changed SO much. Suddenly females' education took over the male' education to a point that now there are many organizations that try to encourage and support males' education in Iran! But that is another story.
I have heard so many very similar stories from my female professors. In all the stories I have heard, they were mostly welcome in their scientific groups and supported by their male colleagues and teachers and they had to deal with their neighbors and mostly second degree family members which is still a big factor in people's life in whatever they decide to do up to this date.
I would like to end this story with a link to a picture that is an ad for the HSBC bank in European countries:Back to top.
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