Wednesday, September 21, 2011

AASWOMEN for September 16, 2011

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of September 16, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. How Things Have Changed (for the Better!)

2. Gender-directed Weirdness

3. Which countries have the highest proportion of female graduates?

4. International Conference on Gravitation, Astrophysics and Cosmology

5. Job Opportunities

6. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter

7. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter

8. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

1. How Things Have Changed (for the Better!)

From: Joan Schmelz []

This week's story of how things have changed for women in astronomy comes from Jo Eliza Pitesky of JPL:

My sophomore year, I took the usual one-quarter introduction to quantum physics. It was the early 1980s, and textbook editions weren't updated at the rapid frequency that we see nowadays. The course used the 1971 edition of the Berkeley Physics Course quantum text. Introduction--no problem. Chapter one--no problem. Chapter two--no problem, until reaching the end of the chapter, where there was a cartoon diagram helpfully illustrating "The Linear Size of Things." Most of the examples were fairly innocuous; 10^-5 cm was Tobacco mosaic virus, 10^-1 cm was a flea, 10 cm was a "Cute animal" (with rough drawing of a squirrel). 10^2 cm was "Woman," illustrated with a drawing of a full-frontal naked, curvaceous brunette with nothing left to the imagination.

I remember seeing that particular illustration for the first time in lecture. Since I was a sophomore, I reacted in a sophomoric way and sketched in a new illustration for "Cute animal" that, uhm, leveled the playing field.

No more illustrations like that in physics textbooks that I've seen in recent years. Even having the textbook open on my desk right now is probably a violation of some workplace rule about displaying pornography.

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2. Gender-directed Weirdness
From: Female Science Professor's Blog

During a recent bout of air travel, I picked up some magazines to read during the times when e-readers must be turned off and in an upright and locked position because things might shift during the flight, or something.

I found this quote by Judith Herzfeld (a professor of biophysical chemistry) in the Aug 29 issue of The New Yorker of great interest, and even somewhat entertaining:

".. I find it remarkable for the period [late 1950's] that a new and ambitious, even aggressive, science program was given to a female science teacher, Mrs. Esther Daly. I thought nothing of it at the time, but I suspect that having had a female science teacher in junior high school gave me some resilience for gender-directed weirdness in subsequent science venues."

Oh how I wish I had invented the term "gender-directed weirdness". Can I at least invent the acronym? GDW is, from time to time, kind of a theme of this blog. At the very least, I am going to add it as a label.

When discussing role models in the past, I have wondered if role models (of any sort) have to do anything active to impart resilience (or whatever), or simply just be a person doing a job. We don't have enough information in the little piece from "The Talk of the Town" section of the magazine to determine what Mrs Daly did or did not do while teaching middle school science, but I like to think that her very existence as a science teacher was a powerful statement to the girls (and boys) that she taught, even if a subconscious one (at the time).

Or perhaps that is just me being lazy, hoping to do good without actually knowing how or what to do as a role model. Unlike flying on a plane and being given lots of instructions**, being a role model is a lot less well defined, and it can be hard to know what to do, other than just to be.

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3. Which countries have the highest proportion of female graduates?
From: John Leibacher []

Degrees of Equality Sep 13th 2011, 14:45 by The Economist online

MORE girls than boys now complete their secondary education in 32 of the 34 countries that are members of the OECD, a think-tank, according to a new report published today. Only in Germany and Switzerland do girls lag behind. Moreover, female graduates greatly outnumber male graduates. Overall they account for 58% of graduates within OECD member states in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, up from 54% in 2000. Men, however, continue to dominate the sciences: some 60% of science graduates are male. Women make up almost three-quarters of the graduate body in health and welfare, and almost two-thirds in humanities and the arts. Some of the differences in graduation rates between countries are striking. In Estonia, which has the highest proportion of female graduates, more than two-thirds are women. Many are bound for classroom careers: an astonishing 92% of those studying education are female. By contrast, in Japan, just over two-fifths of graduates belong to the fairer sex, and teaching remains relatively male by rich-world standards.

See the graph at||newe|09-14-11|new_on_the_economist||newe|09-14-11|new_on_the_economist||newe|09-14-11|new_on_the_economist

The report itself is at,3746,en_2649_39263238_48634114_1_1_1_1,00.html

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4. International Conference on Gravitation, Astrophysics and Cosmology
From: WIPHYS, Sept. 13, 2011

ICGAC10 is part of a series of biennial conferences on Gravitation, Astrophysics and Cosmology which take place in the Asia-Pacific area with the following goals: to encourage cooperation among the member countries within an international context; to promote advanced studies on emerging topics; to encourage young physicists to enter these fields.

The ICGAC10 program will consist of oral presentations in plenary and parallel sessions, with review talks on specific topics given by leading researchers. Debates on controversial issues will be programmed during the conference. Poster contributions are welcome, and will be posted during the entire week.

Topics include: Experimental studies of gravity; Quantum gravity; Gravitational waves; Black holes, Wormholes; Strings, Branes and Extra dimensions; Numerical Relativity; Cosmology, Dark matter, Dark energy; Relativistic Astrophysics; Astroparticle Physics, Cosmic rays; Astronomical and space-research instrumentation. For additional informations, please contact Roland Triay ( or Ludwik Celnikier (

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5. Job Opportunities

1. Postdoctoral Prize Fellowship, Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics

2. EVLA/VLBA Postdoctoral Fellows:

3. Assistant Professor in Astrophysics, UColorado, Boulder Interested in candidates working in observational astronomy, theoretical and computational astrophysics, and extrasolar planetary systems posting #814540.

4. Senior Tenure-Track Faculty Position in Observational Extragalactic Astronomy, Case-Western Reserve University

5. Various opportunities are available at NOAO.

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6. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN newsletter

To submit an item to the AASWOMEN newsletter, including replies to topics, send email to

All material will be posted unless you tell us otherwise, including your email address.

Please remember to replace "_at_" in the e-mail address above.

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7. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter

To subscribe or unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter, please fill in the required information at:

If you experience any problems, please email

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8. Access to Past Issues

Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.

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