Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Career Profiles: Geochemist to Planetary Scientist

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy is compiling 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 Dr. Amy Riches, a freelance scientist whose work has the goal of unmasking the magmatic and interior compositions, origins, and evolutionary chapters of asteroids formed over 4.5 billion years ago, as well as Mars and the Earth-Moon system. As a broad-based petrologist and isotope cosmo/geochemist her studies generate coordinated mineral and 'bulk rock' data sets via frontline investigative approaches. The findings arising from these examinations of rocks from space are needed to resolve long-standing controversies concerning the origins of our habitable home world, as well as the search for habitable bodies elsewhere in the cosmos.

As part of her wider contributions to the scientific community, Amy enjoys driving inclusive activities such as scientific meetings and edited volumes that have advocated for and stimulated new multidisciplinary directions of study at international levels. In addition, she has led a number of public talks, articles with international media reaching many millions of readers, online showcases, and interactive outreach activities designed to enhance the engagement of global societies with planetary science themes. You can reach out to Amy at her email ajvriches AT gmail.com and catch up on her work at her website https://amyriches.org.

To access our previous Career Profiles, please go to http://womeninastronomy.blogspot.com/search/label/career%20profiles

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Meet Your CSWA Intern, Rachel Wexler

Flight suit photo at NASA Langley in June!
Rachel Wexler is a fourth-year undergraduate student in the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech. She will graduate in spring 2020 and continue studying at Georgia Tech to earn a master’s degree in public policy. Throughout her time at Tech, she has worked as a research assistant on a project that examines the transmission of knowledge about women in science and technology. Rachel is originally from Sanibel Island, Florida. She is currently leading the CSWA's write up of recommendations to the AAS based on our survey findings.

What is a public policy student at Georgia Tech?

Public policy students at Georgia Tech study a combination of politics, economics, sociology, statistics, and research methods to prepare for a future as problem-solvers in the public and private sectors.

Describe the first time you made a personal connection with public policy.

I come from a family with strong connections to politics and government – My dad is a lobbyist, and my mom and my sister have both worked in political journalism. Studying policy at Georgia Tech has helped me discover that I am less interested in politics and more interested in the nuts and bolts of policy research, evaluation, and implementation.

How did you end up working with the CSWA on this project?

Last summer, I had the incredible opportunity to intern with the Astrophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA. While at NASA, I worked with the CSWA to help create policy recommendations for the science funding agencies (NASA/NSF) to help end harassment and advance career development for women and other under-represented groups in astronomy. This semester, I have been working with the CSWA to draft recommended actions for the AAS to take to work towards greater diversity and inclusion in astronomy. We plan to submit this work to BAAS, and I will present our progress as an iPoster at the AAS meeting in January! The past year has been a whirlwind – I still can’t believe I had the opportunity to intern at NASA, and I am thrilled to be able to travel to Hawaii and present the work I have been doing with the CSWA. I want to thank the CSWA for giving me this opportunity, especially, Pat Knezek, who brought me on board through NASA’s internship program and is an amazing woman and mentor!

Who inspired you?

I am inspired by so many incredible women, I don’t even know where to start! My interest in gender equity in the workplace probably started with my mom, who started working in journalism at a time when there were very few women in the field. I am also inspired by my Georgia Tech mentor, Dr. Mary Frank Fox, who is a prolific researcher in studies of gender, science, and technology. I draw a lot of inspiration from the friends I have made at Georgia Tech, who are all working hard in their fields and will go on to do great things in their careers.

What community issues are important to you and why?

I am fascinated by the benefits of diversity. Studies show that diverse groups are more likely to devise creative solutions to problems, and that when women are in charge, new, important questions get asked. I am most interested in workplace climate, because the benefits of diversity come to life in environments where everyone feels safe, valued, and excited. In my career, I hope to continue to research and implement creative strategies to improve the climates of all kinds of organizations.

What do you do for fun?

I play a lot of board games with my friends. When I’m at home in Florida, I love to go to the beach and swim in the ocean.

What are your goals as a part of the CSWA?

I hope that the work that I have done with the CSWA serves as a helpful resource as they continue to advise the AAS and plan out new initiatives in the coming years.

What are your future plans?

Not sure yet, but I am excited to work on my master’s at Georgia Tech and start exploring job opportunities after that!

Cross-post: Tips to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Image Credit: errantscience.com

By UW Health

At work, are you afraid colleagues might find out you’re not as capable as they may think? Do you feel like any praise you receive for success is because people are just trying to be nice, not because you actually deserve it? Rather than celebrating increased responsibilities or promotions, do they instead cause anxiety because – in your mind – now you’ll have to work even harder to keep them from learning the truth about your abilities?

Here’s a secret – a lot of people feel that way. In fact, roughly 70 percent of us do at some point in our lives. While change can always cause feelings of doubt, for some people the feelings of inadequacy run so deep that no amount of success or achievement can sway them. And there is a term for it – imposter syndrome.

Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain explains that imposter syndrome can be debilitating if left untreated. “In addition to causing stress, anxiety and depression, it can impact lives in other ways. Individuals with imposter syndrome may avoid pursuing new job opportunities out of fear. Feelings of shame may make it difficult to speak up for themselves or advocate for what they believe is right.”



Friday, November 22, 2019

AASWomen Newsletter for November 22, 2019

AAS Committee on the Status of Women AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of November 22, 2019
eds: JoEllen McBride, Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Maria Patterson, and Alessandra Aloisi

Henrietta Leavitt, from item 3
This week's issues:

1. Kick-off Post for Two-Body Problem Series

2. New Video Interview Series from the Europlanet Early Career and Diversity Committees

3. How Henrietta Swan Leavitt Helped Build a Yardstick to Measure the Universe

4. The Scientist Who First Showed Us The Double Helix: A Personal Look At Rosalind Franklin

5. Supporting Parents and Caregivers in Science, Engineering, and Medicine

6. The Long Road to Getting, and Keeping, More Women in Science

7. Navigating the 'Old Boys' Club' of Science, With a Friend

8. Why I'm not applying for promotion

9. Want more women and minorities in STEM? Address social oppression in the classroom, says new research

10. 5 Ways to Welcome Women to Computer Science

11. The mental health of PhD researchers demands urgent attention

12. Are you guilty of equity offset?

13. Job Opportunities

14. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter

15. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter

16. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Kick-off Post for Two-Body Problem Series

Image Credit: SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

The two-body problem refers to the complications of dual-working partners finding jobs in the same location. This is a special issue for academics for several reasons, principally 1) academics are more likely to be partnered with other academics and 2) jobs in academia are scarce and finding two in the same location is difficult. For women, especially those partnered with men, this becomes even more precarious as academics who identify as women are far more likely to have a partner in the same field or within academia. They are also more likely to “follow” their partner, resulting in compromising their career path for the ability to live with their partner and family.

The CSWA has recognized the impact of the two-body problem on careers for women in astronomy, and frequently posted to this blog. However, our last posts about this issue were in 2014, and we believe it is time to kick-off a new series, bringing in personal stories, insights from the hiring standpoint, and looking for solutions. If you would like to contribute a post, email the Blogger-in-Chief, JoEllen McBride (joellen.mcbride_at_gmail.com).

In this kick-off post, we are sharing an interview with Timothy D. Swindle, Department Head and Director of the Department of Planetary Sciences and Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, who shared his insight into how departments and schools can address the problem. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Why is your department/school taking steps to address the two-body problem?

Almost half the people that we want to hire, male or female, have a partner who is also in academia. If we want to successfully recruit them, we probably have to help them solve that problem. If their partner is an M.D. or a lawyer or a schoolteacher, it's not an issue that we can address as a university, although we will try to provide contacts in the community.

What negotiated resources, tangible benefits, or other offers have departments implemented that have been effective? What has not worked?

Offering a tenure-track faculty line, complete with a start-up package that is large enough to allow for success, is usually effective. If the partner is not already in a tenure-track position, a staff position with a few years of security may be effective.

It is often not effective when the offer for the partner is (or appears to be) a step down in rank, e.g., from a tenured position to tenure-track or lecturer, or from tenure-track to staff.

Is it effective when departments make the offer or does the school/institution need to be on board?

The institution needs to be on board to allow the departments to make effective offers. In my institution, we have usually been successful when the partner was also in the sciences. The science departments typically have 20 or more faculty, and the department heads all recognize that there is a good chance that we will be the one shopping a partner in the future. Additionally, the dean has not held partner hires against us for future hiring plans, even if the partner doesn't align perfectly with our strategic needs. On the other hand, we have lost hires when dealing with departments in other colleges, especially smaller departments. Even if they liked the partner for a position, their dean would give no assurances for planned future hires.

Every situation is different. It works best when both partners are very strong so that the department hiring the second partner can make a strong case. But we have also had some cases where one department (or college) would cover the startup or the first few years of the partner's salary, perhaps in return for some indirect cost return. The negotiations can become involved. But the bottom line is that it's essential that the university administration, at the level of dean and above, be supportive.

What improvements have you seen in the hiring process for faculty with partners?

There is a growing recognition that a substantial fraction of the people a university wants to hire as faculty will have a two-body problem. Our department has been in an era of hiring, partly due to growth, partly to retirements, and our success rate for scientists with academia-minded partners, though not quite as good as for those who are single or have spouses in other fields, is not far off. Being better at solving the two-body problem does give an institution an advantage, given the number of talented couples on the job market.

Another improvement in the last decade or so has been the increased effectiveness of parental leave policies, allowing parents to take more time with newborns without it counting against the tenure clock. I have seen this both at our institution and at others. I know that is widespread, but a couple thinking of having children should check on that.

Anything else you'd like to add?

One of the very difficult things about this is that, unless it is a targeted hire of a couple in the same area, there is usually one partner who is the second body. Will that person be accepted as a scientist in their own right? My suspicion is that it is easier in a larger department and in a department with a more substantial history of dealing with the issue. I know of cases where that has been a problem, and that can be hard on an individual and on a relationship. For a couple where one gets a job offer, it's worth asking if there are other couples or spousal hires in the department, and if so, finding out their perception.

Tim Swindle is a Professor of Planetary Sciences and Geosciences at the University of Arizona, where he is the Head of the Department of Planetary Sciences and Director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. He has negotiated the hiring of 21 faculty members in the last decade.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Cross-post: Increasing gender diversity in the STEM research workforce

Women experience substantial, gender-specific barriers that can impede their advancement in research careers...We outline here specific, potentially high-impact policy changes that build upon existing mechanisms for research funding and governance and that can be rapidly implemented to counteract barriers facing women in science. These approaches must be coupled to vigorous and continuous outcomes-based monitoring, so that the most successful strategies can be disseminated and widely implemented. Though our professional focus is primarily academic biomedical research in U.S. institutions, we suggest that some of the approaches that we discuss may be broadly useful across STEM disciplines and outside of academia as well.

Read more at:


The CSWA is currently working on their own set of recommendations to the AAS for a more inclusive astronomy in the form of a Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society (BAAS) article. Those recommendations will be presented at AAS by Rachel Wexler, a senior at Georgia Tech who is working with the CSWA on this project.