Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ADVICE: Responding to workplace (and other) bullies

As previous blog entries have discussed, bullying behavior is a vexing problem in academic communities as it is in other environments.  Often bullying is an abuse of power, and the most vulnerable are those with the least power.  Conversely, when the bully is a powerful faculty member, even supervisors are frustrated in their efforts to change or block the behavior.  Ignoring a problem may have the effect of rewarding the bully, so intervention is highly desirable.  Changing behavior is very difficult, and academics are generally untrained in these matters.  Here are a couple of strategies I've been trying lately.

1. Call out the bullying behavior - directly when possible, through allies when practical, and always through intervention by institutional leadership including the bully's department chair, dean or other supervisor.  Major employers and universities generally have anti-harassment policies which empower such intervention.  I'm not talking about a formal complaint process, although that is always an option; however, in most cases the required time and effort create a disincentive to filing a formal complaint.  Instead, a quick verbal response, perhaps along the lines described in Speak Up, lets the bully know that infringement of others' rights is inappropriate behavior.  It's very important that allies speak up for those harmed by bullying behavior.  Become an active bystander.

2. Support the bullied.  Listen, show empathy, and provide micro-affirmations to counter micro-aggressions (or macro-, as the case may be).  How much better would our days be if we showed kindness daily?  Doing so is as helpful to the giver as to the receiver.

Those with privilege - institutional leaders - have the greatest responsibilities in these matters, and should understand the power they wield to shape workplace culture.  But the burden for responding to bullies and supporting the bullied must not rest on their shoulders alone.

Further suggestions on response to bullying are welcome.  Meanwhile, please tell me what you think of the Speak Up booklet.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Science: A Creative Outlet

Today’s guest blogger is Eilat Glikman. Eilat is an assistant professor of physics at Middlebury College in Vermont.  She studies dust reddened quasars and their role in quasar/galaxy co-evolution, as well as faint quasars at high redshifts. Eilat has two young children ages 8 and 5 and is dedicated to finding that elusive formula for work/life balance.

When I was a postdoc at Yale, I participated in a program intended to expose middle school girls to science via a hands-on approach that made science accessible and fun.  The program, Girls’ Science Investigations (GSI), brought middle-school girls to Yale four Saturdays a year to explore topics in science.  Some girls came because they were into science and wanted to get more of it, others came with school groups, others still were brought there by their parents as an enrichment activity.  So, while most of the girls were already science fans, there were many girls that were reluctant about the whole thing.  When I volunteered, I especially enjoyed speaking with the reluctant girls.  I wanted to find out why they weren’t interested in the activity.  What was it about science that turned them off?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Game-Changing Approach to Unconscious Bias

I was really interested in the Washington Past article about unconscious bias that Joan Schmelz blogged about on November 19.  It was an interview with Kent Gardiner, chairman of the law firm Crowell & Moring, who is starting a sponsorship program to promote better diversity in his company.  His program gives a fresh approach that might be a game changer.

The firm is partnering with economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s Center for Talent Innovation for this program.  The objective is to confront unconscious bias head-on.  Senior members of the firm become sponsors of new employees.  It is kind of like mentoring, but stepped up to a higher level.  The senior and new employees form a partnership in the young employees future, with both of them on the line for results and both rewarded if there are successes.

Friday, November 22, 2013

AASWOMEN Newsletter for November 22, 2013

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of November 22, 2013
eds: Michele M. Montgomery, Daryl Haggard, Nick Murphy, & Nicolle Zellner

This week's issues:

1. Professional Development at the 2014 Winter AAS Meeting
2. I am sorry this blog post is late
3. Sponsorship: the New Hammer to Crack the Glass Ceiling
4. Women Who Changed Modern American Science
5. Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s Talk at CERN
6. Something about STEM drives women out
7. Diversity in Science   
8. Women Score Lower Than Men on Physics Assessments – Except in This Kind of Classroom
9. HuffPost's Girls In STEM Mentorship Program
10.  GoldieBlox: The Engineering Toy for Girls
11. Job Opportunities
12. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
13. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
14. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Professional Development at the 2014 Winter AAS Meeting

The number of professional development opportunities at the annual AAS meeting seems to grow every year. And the upcoming January meeting is no exception. This year’s conference features workshops, panel discussions, and talks on everything from Python programming to interviewing skills to changing demographics to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 

Here’s a quick rundown of the amazing career and skills development sessions available at the 2014 Winter AAS Meeting! Highlighted in red are a few workshops that may be of particular interest to our WiA readers. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I am sorry this blog post is late

I am sorry this blog post is late. I meant to post it Monday. Yes, the blog is important! But I think my daughter might have lice and I had to deal with that urgently.

I am sorry I can't accept the invitation to speak at the conference. Yes, I do want the meeting to be a success.  But we have four children and the family simply doesn't do well when I am away.

I am sorry that I can't write a letter in support of the promotion. Yes, the candidate is doing great work, and I feel terrible that I can't add my enthusiastic support to assist this junior person. But I get 25 such requests a year, and my weekends are full with math homework, hockey, and girl scouts.

I am sorry I had to leave your colloquium ten minutes before the end. I hope you didn't think I am a jerk for getting up from the front row just as you were about to show the unpublished work. But our day care closes at 5:30pm and it is across town.

I am sorry I can't join the university committee that meets over breakfast at 8am. Yes, I do think we need to rejuvenate our undergraduate curriculum. But I walk my kids to school at 8am, and it is the best part of my day.

I am sorry I am slow to get you comments on your paper. I feel awful that I am delaying the progress at this critical time in your career. I keep thinking I will get to it in the evening after the kids are asleep, but I also need to make time to talk to my wife.

These are all, more or less, true items for which I have apologized recently. Of course, as many of you with kids can anticipate, when I wrote these apologies I left off the last sentence.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sponsorship: the New Hammer to Crack the Glass Ceiling

My recent posts on Unconscious Bias include a personal story, the legacy of patriarchy, schemas, and studies from sociology. You can probably tell that it is a subject that interests me greatly. Therefore, I was delighted to find an article in Sunday’s Washington Post that sheds new light on our biases as well as the importance of “Sponsorships,” which are different from “Mentorships” in ways that are vital to promotion and success. The article is:

By Brigid Schulte

Kent Gardiner, chairman of the law firm Crowell & Moring, sat down to talk about why his firm is partnering with economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s Center for Talent Innovation to promote sponsorship of women and minorities in the workplace, how sponsoring is different and why it matters.

Q: Why were you interested in starting a sponsorship program? Women have been graduating from college in greater numbers than men since 1985. Women make up nearly half of all law school students. Aren’t we “there” yet?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Women Who Changed Modern American Science

By Nancy Morrison, from the June 2013 Issue of Status: A Report on Women in Astronomy

The Boston meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in February, 2013, included a session on the history of women in science [1]. This article summarizes the presentation by Margaret Rossiter, which was entitled “Thirty Women Who Changed American Science, 1970–2010” and was based on the third in her series of books, Women Scientists in America. It described the changes these women wrought, not by means of scientific research, but rather by means of political and legal activity. Every woman who began a career in science in the 1970’s and later owes them a great debt.

Rossiter opened by remarking, “It goes without saying that we live in historic times.” In all fields of science, both the percentages and the absolute numbers of women students and degree recipients are rising. Employment is also going up, partly as a result of epoch-making legislation passed in March and June 1972. Before that time, nonprofit organizations, universities, and governments were exempt from equal-opportunity cases; their employees had no standing to sue. The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 [2] changed this situation. At the time, it received virtually no publicity, and even avid newspaper readers were barely aware of it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

ADVICE: Workplace Bullying in Astronomy II

In last month’s ADVICE post on Workplace Bullying, I mentioned that there are many ways for a bully to bully. Here is an incomplete list of bullying tactics adapted from Wikipedia and modified for the astronomical community. Your bully may employ one of more of these tactics or he/she may have invented others. Unfortunately, there is no check list for workplace bullying in astronomy. You cannot study this list, check 5 or 10 items, and then link to recipe XYZ to solve the problem. Advice really does need to be tailored to the details of a specific situation.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why I'm happy and why it matters - guest post by Renée Hlozek

While I was still working at Caltech earlier this year Renée Hlozek (pronounced "logic") --- Princeton astrophysicist, cosmology theorist and astrostatistics expert---stopped through Pasadena to give a science talk. During her visit she gave me advice for mentoring women astronomy students and we also shared our thoughts on the underrepresentation of women in astrophysics, particularly at the faculty level. One important aspect that we identified was the environment provided by various departments, and how some work environments are caustic for women (and minorities) while others are extremely welcoming. Renée identified Princeton Astronomy (good ol' Peyton Hall) as an exemplar among astronomy departments in offering a healthy atmosphere for women astronomers. I asked her to elaborate and she was kind enough to put together this guest post.

I'm about to start the third year of a postdoc in the department of Astrophysics at Princeton University, and I love my job. And I love coming to work. And I am a woman. It may not seem like loving my job my gender would be related, but for a while now I've been thinking that my love for my job is at least partly linked to my department's policies about young researchers and towards women in science.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Career Profiles: Astronomer to Research Analyst in the Defense Industry

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Eileen Chollet, an astronomer turned Research Analyst in the defense industry. If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about this career path, please leave a comment below.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every first and third Thursday of the month.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Women's Lunch at the 2013 DPS Meeting

I recently went to the DPS (Division for Planetary Sciences) meeting in Denver, and attended the Women's Lunch organized by Kelsi Singer. Kelsi put together a terrific program centered around a workshop on leadership development.

What I liked about this lunch was that it was more than just an open-ended free-form lunch, or listening passively to some speaker. Rather, it was more of an informal workshop that got us all talking to each other in a constructive way and actively engaged us in thinking about how to better ourselves. It's not unlike the difference between traditional lecturing in classrooms versus active learning techniques that ask students to solve problems during class, come to think of it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why So Few? Transition to College

The 2010 report entitled, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), finds that despite the overall positive trends in high school, the transition to college is a critical time for young women in STEM. Women are less likely than men are to plan to declare a STEM major in college. In 2006 (the most recent data available), only about 15% of first-year female college students compared with more than a quarter (25%) of first-year male college students planned to declare a major in the physical sciences, mathematics or statistics, engineering, computer science, or the biological/agricultural sciences. If, for a moment, we did not consider the biological/agricultural sciences - indicated here in blue and the STEM area women are most likely to major in - only about 5% of first-year female students intend to major in a STEM area in college.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Center for Urban Science and Progress

The below post was submitted by an anonymous guest contributor:

I'd like to share with this community what I learned from a talk about the recently-established Center for Urban Science and Progress at NYU. Steve Koonin, the Center's director, is a MIT-trained physicist with a strong track record in both research and public policy, serving on the Caltech faculty and as Undersecretary for Science in the Department of Energy, among many other things. Steve gave an engaging talk presenting examples of CUSP research as well as a sales pitch for his new center.  If you are interested in non-astronomy-professor job opportunities for astronomers, read on.

Aside from the fact that most of us live in cities and thus care at least a little bit about urban planning and infrastructure, I found his presentation to be of particular interest from the standpoint of applying the tools of astronomy to problems cities face.  There are currently enormous -- and growing -- data sets characterizing the urban landscape, ranging from images of various parts of the city to GPS tags on taxis and cell phones to numbers collected by public utilities.