Friday, May 24, 2013

Making a Difference

I've recently become involved with an effort on my campus to establish a Women's Advancement and Research Center. Its purpose is to promote women on campus at all levels of leadership, with a special emphasis on women in STEM disciplines.
Now, one of the things new faculty are warned about is over-commitment, particularly on service committees. Especially since as women we are often asked to be the "diversity representative" on many committee. And yet, many of the people I've met who are also working on this project are fellow women junior faculty. It would be nice to get more senior faculty, but in some departments there just aren't any tenured women faculty. It would be nice to get more men, too, but it seems to be hard to get many of them to join the effort.
On the other hand, we women assistant professors are pretty passionate about increasing the representation of women in our respective departments. I certainly care very deeply about promoting women in science. I would love to have more female colleagues on campus. And of all my service commitments, this is the one that I feel will have the most lasting and far-reaching benefits.
Right now, we're just in the beginning stages of getting off the ground, looking for funding opportunities and getting to know one another. I've stopped being surprised at the statement, "I'm the only woman in my department." I've stopped being surprised at meeting people who have heard of me before, simply because I'm the one woman in my department.
I've come to understand that women in astronomy have it a lot easier than many other fields, such as computer science and engineering, for example. I have learned of issues at all levels of the university where change can be made for the better. Here's hoping that this new Center will make a difference on my campus.