Issue of December 05, 2014
eds: Daryl Haggard, Nicolle Zellner, Meredith Hughes, & Elysse Voyer
This week's issues:
1. Spatial Skills, STEM, and the Gender Gap
From: Joan Schmelz via womeninastronomy.blogspot.com
"Most engineering faculty have highly developed 3-D spatial skills and may not understand that others can struggle with a topic they find so easy. Furthermore, they may not believe that spatial skills can be improved through practice, falsely believing that this particular skill is one that a person is either "born with" or not. They don't understand that they probably developed these skills over many years." - Sheryl Sorby
One of the most persistent gender gaps in cognitive skills is found in the area of spatial skills, specifically on measures of mental rotation, where researchers consistently find that men outscore women by a medium to large margin (Linn & Petersen, 1985; Voyer et al., 1995). While no definitive evidence proves that strong spatial abilities are required for achievement in STEM careers (Ceci et al., 2009), many people, including science and engineering professors, view them as important for success in fields like engineering and classes like organic chemistry. The National Academy of Sciences states that "spatial thinking is at the heart of many great discoveries in science, that it underpins many of the activities of the modern workforce, and that it pervades the everyday activities of modern life" (National Research Council, Committee on Support for Thinking Spatially, 2006, p.1).
Read more atBack to top.
2. On Planck's Law, Blackbodies and the Physics of Diversity
From: Jessica Kirkpatrick via womeninastronomy.blogspot.com
[Reproduced from the June 2014 Issue of STATUS: A Report on Women in Astronomy. The article below is written by Dr. Jedidah Isler, Syracuse University, Department of Physics.]
Diversity and inclusion are important, yet vexing, issues that we struggle with in every arena. Academia and, more specifically, astronomy are not exempt. Many interpretations of the experiences of diverse people have been offered, but unfortunately, many have fallen short in pivotal ways.
As an astrophysicist, I see the beauty and logic that physics allows us to impose on the cosmos, but also on a broader array of issues. Sociophysics, for example, "uses concepts from the physics of disordered matter to describe some aspects of social and political behavior."  I would like, then, to describe a few diversity issues in terms of a physical concept that astronomers are familiar with, namely Planck's Law. This analogy is not perfect, but it affords us a mechanism to address some of the complexity of diversity conversations and direct us towards more globally beneficial diversity practices.
Read more atBack to top.
3. Hacking a respectful and caring community in your department
From: Ed Bertschinger via womeninastronomy.blogspot.com
Astronomy graduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign requested a departmental colloquium on diversity and inclusion, which I gave two weeks ago. Kudos to the department for agreeing to this and for advertising it widely, and to those who attended. The experience may be useful to others, so I share it here.
The punchline first: the graduate students are disappointed at how little progress there has been in increasing faculty diversity. Even when proactive efforts are made by department leadership, change happens slowly at best. Increasing the representation by 50% or even 100% seems like a drop in the ocean given the small numbers of women in most astronomy and physics departments, especially if there are 0 or 1 women faculty in the department. Are we settling for permanent inequity if we talk about 25% women and not 50%? And what about other problems of underrepresentation and marginalization?
Read more atBack to top.
4. Personal Experience with Hiring
From: Neil Gehrels via womeninastronomy.blogspot.com
My Astroparticle Physics Laboratory at Goddard has 14 scientists, most of whom are physicists and 50% of whom are women. That is a high female fraction for a largely physics-oriented organization and I thought it would be useful to write today about how it came about.
Read more atBack to top.
5. It's Not Your Kids Holding Your Career Back. It's Your Husband.
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu] and Matthew Greenhouse [matthew.a.greenhouse_at_nasa.gov]
By Jessica Grose
Almost a decade ago, the writer Linda Hirshman exhorted ambitious women to marry men with less money or social capital than they had. In articles and her book, Get to Work, she told women that they should avoid ever taking on more than half of the housework or child care. How to do it? Either marry a man who is extremely committed to equality, or do what she says is the easier route and "marry down." Hirshman explained in the American Prospect that such a choice is not "brutally strategic," it's just smart. "If you are devoted to your career goals and would like a man who will support that, you're just doing what men throughout the ages have done: placing a safe bet."
This was a highly controversial piece of advice at the time, but Hirshman might have been right. A new study of Harvard Business School graduates from HBS's Robin Ely and Colleen Ammerman and Hunter College sociologist Pamela Stone shows that high-achieving women are not meeting the career goals they set for themselves in their 20s. It's not because they're "opting out" of the workforce when they have kids, but because they're allowing their partners' careers to take precedence over their own.
Read more at
Read the Harvard Business Review article, 'Rethink What you "Know" About High-Achieving Women', by Robin Ely, Pamela Stone, and Colleen Ammerman atBack to top.
6. No Passport Required: A Look at Where Women Have It Best
From: Sethanne Howard [sethanneh_at_msn.com]
AAUW has published a link to the list of the top ten countries where women have it best:
9. The Philippines
The World Economic Forum has some opinions on the matter. They recently released their Global Gender Gap Report 2014, which ranks 142 countries in a hefty 395-page report that breaks down things like political representation, the pay gap, and health. Note the US does not make the top ten list. We have a long way to go.
Read where women have it best at
Read more on the Global Gener Gap Report atBack to top.
7. Ten Simple Rules to Achieve Conference Speaker Gender Balance
From: Johanna Teske [jteske_at_carnegiescience.edu]
by Jennifer L. Martin
Be warned: "Competing interests: This article is about achieving gender balance at conferences, because women are often underrepresented in invited speaker lists. I am a woman, and so could be considered to have a conflict of interest."
Read more at
Also noteBack to top.
8. Blue Waters Graduate Fellowship
From: Steven Gordon [sgordon_at_osc.edu]
We are pleased to announce the opening of the application period for the Blue Waters Graduate Fellowship. The fellowship is designed to support PhD students who are engaged in a program of study and research that is directly relevant to the use of the Blue Waters supercomputer. Fellowship recipients will receive a stipend of $38,000 for the year-long fellowship and up to a $12,000 tuition allowance.
Fellowship applicants should be in the second or third year of their PhD program and engaged in research that can take advantage of the Blue Waters supercomputer. Applicants must be U.S. Citizens or landed immigrants. The application deadline is February 4, 2015.
More information about the fellowship can be found atBack to top.
9. Job Opportunities
For those interested in increasing excellence and diversity in their organizations, a list of resources and advice is here: http://www.aas.org/cswa/diversity.html#howtoincrease
-3 Faculty Positions in High Energy Astrophysics, Galaxy Formation and Evolution, and Time Domain Astrophysics - The University of Bath
-CCST Science and Technology Policy Fellowships
-Instructorships in Physics and Astronomy - Rice University
-Faculty Positions in Astroparticle Physics/Cosmology - Rice University
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