Friday, March 30, 2012

New NASA Mentoring Program for Girls


Just a short post to advertise a new NASA mentoring program for 5th-8th grade girls through the Women@NASA program, called NASA G.I.R.L.S.

Click here for a direct link to the program.
Click here for a great write-up and short interview about the program.

If you know girl who might be interested, NASA G.I.R.L.S. will begin accepting applications online by the beginning of May. They are due by June 15th, 2012. The program itself runs July 9th through August 10th, 2012.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Guest Post: Gender Roles and Infant/Toddler Care: Male and Female Professors on the Tenure Track by Brian Marsony

This week's guest blogger is Brian Marsony. Brian Morsony is an NSF postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include theoretical and computational modeling of AGN jets and gamma-ray bursts.

Gender Roles and Infant/Toddler Care: Male and Female Professors on the Tenure Track

I would like to call attention to a recently published study comparing the roles of men and women in caring for young children (Rhodes & Rhodes, 2012). The study is a survey of male and female tenure-track college professors with children under age 2 at universities with parental leave available. The full article, from the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology is available here. And a press release from the University of Virginia (lead author's home institution) is here.

The study found that even with parents who thought child care should be split equally, fathers of young children almost never did half of the infant care. This was true even for men who took parental leave and for women who did not. Women were much more likely to take leave, with 69% of women taking leave compared to just 12% of men. Women also reported enjoying infant care activities more than men, one possible reason why women preform more of these tasks.

The first author also claims in the press release that "Male professors who take paid leave tend to use a majority of their time on things other than infant care, such as advancing their publishing agendas". However, there appears to be no evidence in the published article to support this, other than an anecdotal statement.

The results and conclusions should be taken with a massive grain of salt.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guest Post: Dealing with Rejection by Jessica Kirkpatrick

In last week's AASWOMEN, we invited our readers to work with the CSWA in a variety of ways, including writing guest blog entries. Your response has been both surprising and delightful! It has already inspired an upgrade to our Women In Astronomy Blog.

We received enough interest in our request for guest bloggers that CSWA’s Blogger-In-Chief, Hannah Jang-Condell, in conjunction with Laura Trouille and Joan Schmelz, decided to open up a parallel blog rotation for guest bloggers. These blogs will be posted on Thursdays, and will run parallel to our normal Monday posts by CSWA members.

Our first guest blogger is Jessica Kirkpatrick. Jessica is a final-year graduate student at UC Berkeley. Her research involves studying quasars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. She is also actively involved with the Society for Women in the Physical Sciences at Berkeley.

Dealing with Rejection

This past fall I went on the job market for the first time. I had started my seventh year of my PhD program, and with several publications under my belt, I felt the end was in sight. My plan was to get a job lined up for the following fall, and write my dissertation this spring / summer.

The problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I haven’t had the smoothest PhD experience. There were failed projects, periods of anxiety and depression, and doubts about if I have what it takes to be an academic. There were also periods of great joy, incredible productivity, amazing people, and exciting travel. There were days where I couldn’t imagine doing anything other than astronomy, and days where I felt that being a barista at Starbucks would be a better career path for me.

I decided that I would apply to every job that looked interesting to me, and make the decision once I got offers. My advisors agreed that this was a good idea -- keep my options open for as long as possible. I applied to a lot of jobs. I applied to finance jobs and consulting firms. I applied to tech companies and start-ups. I applied to teach at private high schools and community colleges. I even auditioned to be the host of a science television show. I also applied for post-docs and faculty positions.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Being a Role Model

I recently hosted a get-together of the women in my department. Because it is a small department, this meant myself plus a bunch of students. The gathering made me realize that while there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve gender parity at higher levels, students these days are reaping the successes of previous generations to get rid of outright discrimination. All the students felt that they were treated no differently than their male counterparts and none had any complaints to report.

But if you consider where the active fronts in the battle to achieve gender partity are, like maternity/paternity leave, fighting unconscious bias in hiring, and achieving equity in prizes and awards, students are generally too young to have faced these issues.

I am trying to strike a balance between giving advice to prepare these women students for the challenges they might face head versus coming across as too cynical about those challenges. Then again, the work that the CSWA does is to try to eliminate those challenges all together -- not that I think our work will be done any time soon.

For now, I'll simply work to be a role model and be available to turn to for advice. Then again, if things are good enough that they never feel the need to ask me for advice, then the CSWA is doing its job.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Introduction to Astronomical Bullying

CSWA will sponsor a Town Hall on bullying at the upcoming AAS meeting in Alaska. It is scheduled for Monday, Jun 11, 2012, 12:45 - 1:45 pm. The Town Hall is open to everyone, but we extend a special invitation to department chairs and group managers (or their representatives). Please join us.

Abstract: Unprofessional behavior is not limited to gender discrimination and sexual harassment. There are cases when “something is just not right” in the workplace, which may involve no sexual overtones whatsoever. One such example is Astronomical Bullying, which can have some characteristics in common with childhood bullying. It is not limited to women. It can involve teasing or taunting. It can be overt or covert. It can be physically or psychologically threatening. It can come from a supervisor or a collaborator. It can involve spreading rumors about your qualifications or abilities as a scientist. The stress associated with a bullying situation can affect your work and your health. You may even feel that your future career is in jeopardy. The CSWA Town Hall at the Anchorage AAS meeting will introduce the concept of Astronomical Bullying. The Town Hall will include at least 30 minutes for discussion and answering questions from the audience.

--Joan Schmelz

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Feminist Pride Day

Today I am wearing a button emblazoned with "This is What A Feminist Looks Like." March 8 is the third annual Feminist Pride Day, which takes place on International Women's Day. I've been a feminist since I joined the National Organization for Women in college and am proud to greet the quizzical looks I receive with a smile and explanation.

Feminists believe in gender equity. We believe that there are no barriers to the advancement of women in science except those put in place artificially by our social structures. We attack those barriers. We celebrate the achievements of extraordinary women and are glad to see increasing recognition of these achievements by the AAS. We work hard to ensure that implicit bias, stereotyping, and inequitable treatment are expunged from our environments. We know that while more girls graduate from college than boys, the paucity of role models makes it hard for women to advance in many fields. We care about and try to mitigate the pressures facing young women and their partners struggling to reconcile dual careers and to balance work and family life.

Being a feminist is rewarding -- we make a difference in the careers and lives of those around us. Are you a feminist, too?

Is Affirmative Action Still Worth Discussing?

The US Supreme Court will hear the case Fisher v. The University of Texas this fall in a case testing the limits of affirmative action in college admissions set by the previous case Grutter v. Bollinger. A young white woman, Abigail Fisher, was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin. She competed with a subgroup of applicants for whom race could be considered a factor by the university in its efforts to enroll a diverse student body, and argues that Texas practiced blatant racial profiling, which is illegal.

Readers may ask what relevance this has to women in astronomy. Judging by the experiences of women students at my university, there is a connection. Women of all races continue to be told, by peers and sometimes even by faculty members, "you're here because of affirmative action." These inappropriate comments are not a relic of the past; they still happen in our workplaces and universities today.

After a campus-wide diversity summit in January focused on the congruence of diversity and excellence, a student wrote a letter to the student newspaper criticizing affirmative action. His letter stimulated an extended conversation -- in the newspaper, in campus meetings, and in many dorm rooms -- about diversity and excellence and the recruitment process for students and faculty. These conversations followed a panel discussion at the summit in which students movingly described the difficulty of crossing lines of race, gender, language, etc. Although both experiences revealed discomfort, they also illustrated the learning that can occur when people go beyond their comfort zones. The setting is crucial: universities and employers foster personal and professional growth by fostering a climate of respect. Achieving this requires the active engagement of the community from the top leadership on down.

The benefits of diversity and inclusion are overwhelmingly clear from the transformation of academia that has taken place since I was an undergraduate in the 1970s. However, there is still severe underrepresentation of women and others in the sciences, a sign that we are failing to fully tap the available talent and to foster its development. Recruitment and mentoring of a diverse student body and workforce leads to a stronger and more equitable community of scholars. We are not done. Affirmative action is still worth discussing and it is not only about race. The Supreme Court and our own students agree on this.