Friday, April 3, 2009

AASWOMEN for April 3, 2009

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of April 3, 2009
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. National Women's History Month website link - Comment

2. Advice for 'Being Ignored'

3. Response to 'Being Ignored' post - Advice for Committees

4. Sheril Kirshenbaum's blog about sexism in science

5. Rising to the Challenge

5. APS Meeting: Childcare grants corrected link


6. Job Openings at the IAEA

7. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN

8. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

1. Comment on National Women's History Month website link
From: Ivan King []

[This is in response to last week's post about National Women's History Month, which contained a link to a website with information about the contributions of women to astronomy and space science exploration -- Eds.]

The link above is to a sadly unbalanced page. Aside from the trivial error of misspelling Herschel, this page has a completely unjustified tilt toward the manned (and womanned) space program, at the cost of pushing science to the background. What about Antonia Maury, Henrietta Leavitt, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin -- all of whom made reallly important contributions -- and in our own era, Margaret Burbidge, Vera Rubin, etc.?

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2. Advice for 'Being Ignored'
From: Joan Schmelz []

[In an earlier newsletter, we asked for advice for the following situation. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the following list, compiled by Joan Schmelz. This list is also posted on the CSWA website along with other topics at , and on the Women in Astronomy blog ( ) -- Eds.]

Have you ever been in this situation: you're sitting in a meeting and make what you think is a great suggestion; you're ignored. Ten minutes later, someone else makes a similar suggestion and everyone thinks it's just the greatest idea. Are you invisible? Did you imagine it? Were you really speaking out loud?

How can women deal with being ignored and/or having their ideas dismissed? Of course, this can happen to men too.

-Make sure you get an adequate seat at the 'table' (so that you are not hiding in a corner);

-Choose your timing: wait for the 'right opportunity' to jump into the conversation (not always easy);

-Speak slowly and clearly; offer more than a quick quip;

-Make sure everyone can hear you; this may be especially challenging if you are naturally soft spoken or if English is not your first language.

-Don't downplay your remarks: do NOT say, "I guess ..." or "This may not be important, but ..." or "This may be a stupid question, but ..." or end with " ...don't you think?"

-Don't be afraid to say something like, "I am glad that xxx agrees with my previous suggestion ..." if another person seconds your opinion.

-If you notice this happening to someone else, try to find a way to attribute the idea to the original speaker: "xxx said that 10 minutes ago!" may not be as effective as something like, "As xxx suggested ..."

-If possible, enlist the support of your peers. Example: a group of grad students meeting with their research advisor. Student xxx makes a suggestion and is ignored. xxx explains what happened off-line and asks his/her peers to look out for future examples. He/she suggests that they all try to back each other up at future group meetings.

-The situation is tougher when you do not have supportive colleagues; you might be the only female director, department chair, manager, etc. at the table. Most of the advice above applies, but it might be even more challenging to be heard. If you know the agenda ahead of time and have one important point to make, you may want to rehearse it out loud; you might even over prepare so you can answer questions in the same well-rehearsed way. There is, unfortunately, still some truth to the old adage that women have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good. This is especially true when you are pushing up against the glass ceiling.

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3. Response to 'Being Ignored' - Advice for committees
From: Sue Simkin []

Many years ago (back when even women - with astro PhDs - who were 8 months pregent were invisible!), I attended a meeting of 11 prominent astronomers who were in the early planning stages for a new telescope facility. (All identifying features have been deliberately suppressed!) I had ideas but was not even in a position to express them. However, I was able to carefully watch and listen to what went on. EVERY SINGLE ONE of the (all male) participants spent 10 minutes or more carefully explaining the same idea! (An idea I felt was not only obvious but missed the point of the meeting). They then spent the rest of the day carefully explaining why THEIR idea was right and every one else's (practicly identical) idea was mistaken.

I have always used this as an example of why most committee meetings make so little progress. Nowadays I find some rather aggressive women also play the same game with the men with the same results. It really does not advance any one's "visibility" because everyone does it and everyone else ignores it.

I believe what is needed is a lot more introspection on the part of all participants at meetings to sort out the "common" ideas from the truly useful ones and a procedural way to identify the ones everyone believes and put them aside in favor of ones that are new and useful. This requires a real cultural change. (Some people believe that a "strong man - or woman" can do this as a leader but I believe the only thing this does is replace the "strong man's" platitudes for those of the group.) If we can ever develop a society where this ritulastic "one man upmanship" is eliminated, it will be both a lot more interesting and a lot more productive! But it took many decades (and the invention of good counterceptives and cultural permission for their use!) before we (as women) arrived at where we are now. What will it take to revise society's ritulistic incorporation of (male) reproductive imperatives to free men from this impediment to creative development?? (I am equating this type of male behavior to that of stock traders and referring to the studies published in the following: Coates JM, Herbert J (2008), "Endogenous steroids and financial risk taking on a London trading floor." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105(16):6167-72 and the popular article based on this: "Trading on Testosterone" , DAN MITCHELL, NYT, April 19, 2008)

My point here is that most men ignore other men (as well as women) and also lack insight into their own motives. Women who try to play theis "game" are no more helpful in advancing science than are men. Not an encouraging point if what you are trying to do is advance your career - sorry.

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4. Sheril Kirshenbaum's blog about sexism in science
From: Liz Bryson []

From Discover Magazine... Contains many links within that continue the discussion.

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5. Rising to the Challenge
From: Women in Astronomy blog [ ]

Join the discussion and share your story about the challenges you have faced in your scientific career at the Women in Astronomy blog at It's in response to the following:

The theme for April's Scientiae Carnival is Rising to the Challenge:

Tell us about that most firey fire through which you have had to walk in your scientific career. How did you overcome the challenge? Did you have help along the way, or was it a solo effort? And what did you learn? Why are you a better scientist given the difficulties that you have encountered?

Hannah Jang-Condell gets us started with her story:

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6. APS Meeting - Childcare grants corrected link
From: WIPHYS, March 31, 2009

[The link from the WIPHYS newsletter including in last week's AASWomen newsletter about the childcare grants was incorrect. The correct link is below -- Eds.]

There are funds remaining for childcare grants of up to $400 to APS April meeting (May 2-5) attendees who are bringing small children or who incur extra expenses in leaving them at home (i.e., extra daycare or babysitting services). A grant from the Elsevier Foundation augments existing funds from the APS. The deadline has been extended to April 20. Details are at:

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7. Job Openings at the IAEA
From: WIPHYS, April 2

The latest job vacancies at the IAEA can be found at . Should you know of potential candidates, please do not hesitate to share these vacancies with them. We particularly encourage women to apply. The full listing of open vacancies, as well as procedures for applying are available at .

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8. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN

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9. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

Past issues of AASWOMEN are available at

Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.

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