Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why the AAS Needs the CSWA

I’ve spent some time this summer compiling information on the History of CSWA (more on that in the weeks to come). During this historical journey, I reread some of the old issues of the STATUS magazine and come across an article in the Oct 1987 issue written by then CSWA chair (and current AAS VP) Lee Anne Willson entitled, “Why the AAS Needs the CSWA.”

This is a topic that comes up every once in a while, and Lee Anne’s thoughtful and articulate summary is well worth reading. She summarizes five points:

- provides increased visibility to the community of women astronomers;
-monitors the AAS policies and publications to prevent bias;
-collects and distributes information on careers in astronomy;
-provides a channel for complaints concerning discriminatory policies or practices; and
-promotes discussion and sharing of ideas concerning the extra complications associated with the combination of an astronomical career with the other obligations.

To read more:

http://www.aas.org/cswa/status/status_oct1987.pdf

I was a newly minted PhD when this article came out in 1987, and in some ways, CSWA is still working on the same issues. Should we be discouraged because we have not made more progress? No! I feel that my career in astronomy has now been long enough to have personally witnessed real progress. Although sexual harassment and discrimination still exist, the number of incidents has waned significantly. It is true that this progress has uncovered a new set of problems, e.g., unconscious bias and astronomical bullying, but we are developing methods to deal with these as well. As I happily cram as much science as possible into what is left of the summer, I realize that I am grateful to Lea Anne and all the other CSWA members who went before me and made it possible for me to do the astronomy I love so much. A full list of all those members going back to the founding of CSWA (and before) is coming soon. Stay tuned!


From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]