Tuesday, January 6, 2009

AAS 213th Meeting: CSWA Town Hall recap

Today's panel discussion featured six women in various stages of their careers: Virginia Trimble, Meg Urry, Jennifer Hoffman, Jane Rigby, Ginny McSwain, and Caty Pilachowski. Geoff Clayton, chair of the CSWA, started off the discussion with an interesting question: is there still a role for the CSWA these days?

On the face of it, barriers have largely been swept aside. Women can attend graduate school. Women are allowed into observatories. Women can receive tenure at Ivy League universities. There was a time when this wasn't the case. Still more promising, the percentage of women in astronomy at the undergraduate level and entering graduate school is approaching parity. However, there was a general consensus that the fight is not yet over. Women still get discriminated against in more subtle ways. Also, there are still few women at the top level, and until equity is reached at all levels, there is still room for change.

During the discussion, a number of concrete suggestions were made and I'll simply list them here:
  • There is a Women in Astronomy Database, which is a useful resource for finding women to invite as speakers, ask to apply for jobs, serve on committees, etc. This database is user-maintained however, so you need to add yourself to the database and keep your entry up-to-date. I think this resource is under-utilized, so I'm posting it here in hopes that advertising it will remind people to update their listings. I just updated mine!
  • Mentoring is extremely important. MentorNet is a great place to find a mentor, but you can only use it if your institution subscribes to it. But, if you join AWIS (Association for Women in Science), you can join MentorNet through them, even if your institution does not subscribe.
  • The APS (American Physical Society) has a program where if your institution invites two women to give talks, APS will pay for a third one to come.

Also, Geoff put in a plug for this blog at the beginning of the session, so now there's a whole new pile of readers, yes? What are your thoughts from the session?