Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WiA 2009: criticisms

By and large, the Women in Astronomy and Space Sciences last week was a success. This is not to say that it was perfect. Among the criticisms I've heard:
  1. The continuing emphasis on faculty jobs as the ideal career trajectory. From Alyssa (aka Mrs. Comet Hunter):

    The thing that bothered me was the implication that people who took these careers only did so because they couldn’t get a tenure-track position for whatever reason (children, geographical location, health, having to work part-time, etc.). Why is it so hard to understand that some of us actually want these jobs? That we strive for them from very early on? It’s not a consolation prize for us. Please stop treating us like second-class citizens just because we don’t want an academic job.

    (Read more about her views here and here.)

  2. The lack of a discussion about how the current economy will affect women and minorities in astronomy. I've discussed this some myself. The best way to promote diversity in science is to encourage more people to study science. However, if there aren't enough jobs for everyone, are we misleading all these people we are training to become scientists?

  3. The exclusivity of the White House tour. I feel like I fielded more complaints about this subject than any other. A few weeks before the conference, we finally got word from the White House about our tour request. We were given a grand total of 40 slots for the tour, but the conference attendance was more like 250. An executive decision was made to invite about 20 senior women. We felt it was important to also include the views of junior astronomers, so the remaining invitations were extended to recipients of the early career travel grants, because they had already gone through a review process. Because of security issues we had to finalize the list one week ahead of time. Perhaps this could have been handled better to make fewer people left out, but decisions had to be made quickly during crunch time.

Any other criticisms about the meeting out there? Now's your chance to get that bee out of your bonnet!