Thursday, April 21, 2011

Start-Up Advice for a New Faculty Member

Recently a female postdoc who has worked with me was offered a faculty position. She had never negotiated a start-up, so I gathered some advice from colleagues and added some of my own. I repeat it here in the hopes it will be useful to others.

things that are useful to ask for:
- teaching release: one less course for your first semester
- grad students: minimum 1 person x 3 years; get numbers from department
- travel: $15,000 (you want to represent your new department at meetings)
- research equipment including computers (fancy ones)
- more travel
- publishing costs (no joke I've spent more than 30k in publishing in the last 5 years).
- undergrad stipends

As a different colleague put it:
-Remind her that now that she has received an offer, she is in the position of power to ask for what she wants.

-She should think about what she really needs for the first few years to be successful, and ask for that (grad student salaries, computer, travel, etc.). It is in the department's interest to give her the things she needs to be successful.

-Also add some stuff which she would like to have but is not an absolute necessity. This gives her a bit of padding which, if necessary, can be reduced during start-up negotiations.

With some hesitancy this person asked for everything she really needed. She asked me privately: Will they think I’m greedy? Will they want to hire someone cheaper?

In fact they gave her 100% of what she asked for.

-Doug Duncan []

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Taking my own advice: Calling scientists who nursed past a year, please share!

So, all of a sudden it seems like there are a million babies showing up in 2011 and I find myself encouraging the expectant parents to have their baby be breast-fed. I generally mention that they should not feel like they should try to figure it out on their own, resources like La Leche League (a support group for nursing mothers) or working mothers’ nursing support groups arranged through local hospitals are available. There are studies showing that this kind of support is critical to maintaining a nursing relationship with a child.

So it is time for me to take my own advice. My daughter just passed her first birthday. I realized recently that I don’t know what this “looks like.” Personally, I nurse 4-5 times per day (a couple of these are overnight) and I still pump twice per day on a work day. I love the connection with my daughter, but hey, life is demanding and I wonder about making it to the WHO-recommended two year mark. Being a scientist, I loved the data I have read on the biological (and other!) benefits of nursing to two years, but being a scientist and mother, I have a full work load and a now very active little toddler. Right now (at one year ) I feel like nursing to two years may be like running a marathon. However, I know that the second year is very different from the first, so it isn’t like I am just repeating everything I already went through.

So, now I am asking for feedback from working scientist mothers who nursed well past a year. Although I'm obviously reaching out to astrophysicists, feel free to forward this request to your scientist buddies in other fields! I want to know “what does this look like?” (what did it look like for you?) How did you make it work? How did you handle the challenges of travel? How did you handle the peer pressure to stop? What resources helped you? (I have heard about the book “Mother Your Nursing Toddler”, for instance, is that helpful or dated in 2011?). How did you feel about continuing the relationship that long?

You can post a fairly anonymous reply to this blog OR you can email me directly Ann.Hornschemeier AT (preferably before end of May 2011). Please let me know if I should keep your comments anonymous as I hope to compile them for my blog in June.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Tape Measure

[Note: This is a copy of a post at]

During the summer of 1994, MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins realized that, unlike her male colleagues, she was not given sufficient lab space needed to conduct her research. When she asked for lab space data to support her request, it was not made available. So with a small tape measure she measured her lab space and that of several cooperative male faculty members. She found that her space was much less and asked administrators for help. Progress was slow. She consulted with other women science faculty at MIT, which quickly revealed a pattern of unequal treatment. With the support of Dean Robert Birgeneau and President Charles Vest, a committee was formed to investigate the status and equitable treatment of women faculty in science at MIT. The committee gathered data, interviewed the senior women faculty, and reported to the Dean in 1996. A public report was released in 1999. This “MIT Report” started a wave of changes in the analysis of and response to gender inequity in research universities nationwide. It was one of the most important events at MIT and for women in science and engineering during the last several decades.

I have been fortunate to get to know and to work with Nancy Hopkins and many other MIT women faculty members during the last year as we prepared for a major symposium on women in science and engineering that was held at the end of March, 2011. It was exciting to contribute to this celebration and to play a small role as catalyst for a new report assessing the change in the status of women faculty during the last decade and making recommendations for further steps needed for gender equity. This was one of the most satisfying experiences of my faculty career. Nancy’s tape measure has shown me that the strength of a community, an institution, and even an individual often resides in our ability for self-reflection and change. Who wants to use the tape measure next?

Ed Bertschinger

Monday, April 4, 2011

AASWomen for April 1, 2011

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of April 1, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. Senior Women: Physics & Astronomy Departments

2. Sexual Harassment: A Call to Shun

3. The Scientific Gender Gap

4. The Status of MIT Women Faculty in Science and Engineering

5. A First Anniversary: Motherhood and Astrophysics

6. Chronicle Articles

7. Job Announcements

8. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN Newsletter

9. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN Newsletter

10. Access to Past Issues of the AASWOMEN Newsletter

A Celebration, With Caveats

[Note: This is a copy of a post at]

One week ago MIT hosted a major symposium, Leaders in Science and Engineering: The Women of MIT. Under preparation for more than a year, it was one of 6 symposia MIT selected to commemorate its 150th birthday. One week later, I remain excited by the outcome. It included the finest collection of talks across science and engineering, delivered by the greatest set of speakers, that I have ever witnessed at any conference, at MIT or elsewhere. The research presentations were given by women. A few men participated as panelists or session chairs. I was very fortunate to have been the chair of the organizing committee, and to have brought together a dream team to inspire everyone in attendance. Every MIT speaker accepted the invitation and spoke. It was the best conference I have ever attended.

The messages conveyed by this symposium are so important and have such implications for the future of science and engineering that I will be writing several blog entries about it. This first one is an overview.

The symposium had two interwoven threads. The first was the amazing research that our stellar faculty are doing - and these faculty happen to be all women. I'm very grateful to my co-organizers, especially Katrin Wehrheim of Math and Hazel Sive of Biology, for emphasizing this aspect and for helping to select the speakers. It was a superb treat to hear leaders of their fields give beautiful presentations in molecular biology, neuroscience, computer science, fluid dynamics, global ecology, gravitational physics, and more. All of us -- and the speakers themselves -- were exhilarated by the breadth and excellence of research presented. The collection of these recorded talks will be a treasure trove for students and an inspiration for girls wondering what they can achieve by pursuing science or engineering. Indeed, we were delighted that high school girls came to the symposium from as far away as Phoenix, Arizona. I hope that thousands more, and eventually millions, will watch the videos when they are posted online. If you are a young woman wondering how science or engineering can be relevant to your life, you should watch these videos!

The second thread involved the status of women faculty in science and engineering before the famous 1999 MIT report, in the years following, and looking ahead to the future. This is where the caveats to celebration arise. Nancy Hopkins gave a remarkable keynote address that made very clear how women faculty have been discriminated against and how they continue to be treated unequally to the detriment of the university and the nation. Shirley Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, gave a broad perspective on the national impact of MIT's response to gender discrimination while detailing the challenges remaining. Charles Vest, President of MIT when Nancy Hopkins and the women faculty in science first revealed inequitable treatment, gave a personal account of his transformation "from being part of the problem to being part of the solution." Two outstanding panels discussed "Recruiting, Mentoring, Retention, and Leadership" and "Shaping Policy in Academia and Across the Nation". Alumna Gioia de Cari returned to MIT -- where she had been harassed while a math graduate student two decades ago -- to give a moving performance of her solo play "Truth Values." Unfortunately, the harassment she experienced has not entirely disappeared for women today, a point I will return to in the future.

In later blog entries I'll share more about the Symposium and what it meant to me. The attendees felt that it was an historic event, one that could mark a turn in the progress towards full gender equity at MIT and elsewhere. Lately there has been a lot of interest in the business world in "disruptive innovation," a term coined by Harvard scholar Clayton Christensen. I will share some best practices discussed in the symposium and will explain why diversity, equity and inclusion appear to be a disruptive innovation with the potential to transform universities in the next decade.