Monday, July 9, 2012

AASWomen for July 6, 2012

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of July 6, 2012
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. Women in Science article - follow up

2. Wave-Particle Duality

3. From Astrophysics to the Hill

4. Science: Best Way to Reach Out to Young Women

5. Girl Scouts Report on STEM

6. Twitter feeds...

7. Job Opportunities

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

1. Women in Science article - follow up
From: Meg Urry []

I've just read all the AASWOMEN postings I missed this past spring and I can't resist responding to the article by Philip Greenspun about why women (or presumably, anyone) should not be in science. The article (linked in a posting from the April 29 issue: ) quotes some numbers that certainly do not reflect reality in the fields physics and astronomy:

"The average trajectory for a successful scientist is the following:

age 18-22: paying high tuition fees at an undergraduate college age 22-30: graduate school, possibly with a bit of work, living on a stipend of $1800 per month age 30-35: working as a post-doc for $30,000 to $35,000 per year age 36-43: professor at a good, but not great, university for $65,000 per year age 44: with (if lucky) young children at home, fired by the university ("denied tenure" is the more polite term for the folks that universities discard), begins searching for a job in a market where employers primarily wish to hire folks in their early 30s "

In fact, our graduate students make closer to $3000 per month; astronomy postdocs usually make more than $50k and prize postdocs are up to $65k per year; assistant professor salaries vary quite a bit depending on the institution (and the cost of living in whatever location) but they are often much higher than $65k; and tenure often comes well before age 44 .

Mercedes Richards rightly pointed out that this article doesn't recognize how enjoyable it is to be a scientist. Even more clear is the fierceness with which professors hang on to their jobs and younger scientists compete for such jobs. In most universities, you can't get faculty to retire - they like it too much. If it were such awful, ill-paid work, they would be eager to leave. I think people want academic positions because they offer a lot of pluses, like being able to follow your own interests and, for the most part, to control your schedule. There are negatives, of course, but somehow we talk more about the negatives than the positives.

Probably this article has now been surfed over by Anne-Marie Slaughter's widely read piece in the Atlantic, as well as the many responses it provoked. Nothing is simple or final on this topic, that's for sure. But at least some of us feel that women can find a very satisfying home in science and in universities. (My quick 2 cents about Ms. Slaughter is that she has written a very thoughtful article filled with important insights - but, as a tenured professor at Princeton, not to mention Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School there, she certainly managed some very high-powered jobs with little apparent difficulty. So what she really means is that women might have difficulty doing one of the top 1000 jobs nationwide, especially if living in a different city than their families. Given the very rarified nature of her commentary, I hope this is not taken as some kind of universal advice for women to abandon their career aspirations.)

Back to top.
2. Wave-Particle Duality
From: Ed Bertschinger via

What does sexism have to do with wave-particle duality? Not much, unless you have been reading the book reviews and letters in Physics Today. The February 2012 issue includes a review by Robert March of Quantum Physics for Poets by Leon Lederman and Christopher Hill, where we learn that "a window shopper at Victoria's Secret illustrates the probabilistic behavior of photons". This allusion seemed quirky but harmless until we read the fuller explication by Richard Wolfson in the June 2012 issue followed by a defense from the book's authors, who assert that "we have not received a single complaint thus far from anyone else that our book is sexist."

The book authors' test of reader reactions was incomplete; in quantum verse, they did not sum over all paths. Wolfson reports that his letter caused another reader to complain to Lederman and Hlll, and Hill told her they would change the example in a future version of the book.

There are a variety of lessons one may draw from this example depending on one's philosophical stance. One conclusion appears free of any personal views toward feminism or quantum wierdness: It is possible to change perceptions .

Is it possible to eliminate the implicit bias that fails to see how one's cultural metaphors exclude others? Sometimes I think that solving this problem is much harder than solving the many-body Schrodinger equation. Astronomers and physicists like intellectual challenges. This one is worthy of our sustained effort.

Back to top.
3. From Astrophysics to the Hill
From: Johanna Teske via womeninastronomy.blg

This week's guest blogger is Johanna Teske, who is finishing her fourth year as an Astronomy graduate student at the University of Arizona, Steward Observatory. Johanna's science research focuses on observing and modeling exoplanet atmospheres, studying in particular their relationship to their host-star atmospheres. She also dabbles in education research, studying on how science fits into the worldview of students and how their enculturation of science helps/hinders their learning and understanding of it. She is excited and honored to be posting on Women In Astronomy.

Johanna writes:

Dr. Anna Quider is currently a Congressional Fellow working in a representative's office on the Hill. She was awarded her Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge after starting there on a Marshall Scholarship in 2007 and continuing through last year on a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. I met Anna when she came to the University of Arizona to speak in an "alternative/non-academic careers" series that we stared last year for our graduate students and post-docs in Astronomy and Planetary Science. Her Congressional Science and Engineering Fellowship is facilitated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), though funded by the American Physical Society (APS).

For the full interview, go to

Back to top.
4.Science: Best Way to Reach Out to Young Women
From: Johanna Teske via the CSWA Facebook page

[Johanna posted a link to Science Friday with two videos using different approaches to attract young women into science. The post was followed by a comment from Nancy Morrison, member of the CSWA. -- eds.]

Make your voice/vote heard!

[Nancy Morrison, CSWA, replied to the post on Facebook]

This reminds me of the discussion in the January, 2012, issue of our newsletter, STATUS, about the Science Cheerleaders. Similar issues were raised. But I wonder - girls and women are not all the same. Maybe more than one approach is needed. Anything that at least makes girls aware that a career in science is an option for women would be a plus.

Back to top.
5.Girl Scouts Report on STEM
From: Kevin Marvel []

The AAS office received a copy (this week) of a statistical report from the Girl Scout Research Institute entitled "Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math". The report has some interesting results that have obvious implications for those designing educational programs or outreach to girls of all ages related to STEM generally. In addition, the section on implications and recommendations is a useful read. Happily, the GSRI has made the report available online as a PDF. The link is provided here.

Kevin B. Marvel, Executive

Back to top.
6. Twitter feeds...
From: Caroline Simpson []

Recent stories from the AAS CSWA twitter feed, managed by Nancy Morrison:!/AAS_Women

Peer Review Pie - a look at gender proportions in the world of peer review:

"Having It All" is Not a Women's Issue

We Need to Tell Girls They Can Have It All (Even If They Can't)

Men Quoted More Often Than Women in News Stories About Women's Issues, Study Finds:

Careers: "Finding Your Mid-Career Mojo," part 2:

Fabiola Gianotti: The woman at the leading edge of #physics

Nice article about Millie Dresselhaus: Carbon Catalyst for Half a Century

Five Women on the 26-Member Team Sharing the Gruber Cosmology Prize

Back to top.
7. Job Opportunities

* Faculty Positions in Astrophysics, Texas Tech University

Back to top.
8. 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.

Back to top.
9. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter

Join AAS Women List by email:

Be sure to follow the instructions in the confirmation email. (Just reply back to the email list)

To unsubscribe by email:

Join or leave AASWomen, or change your membership settings:

You will have to create a Google Account if you do not already have one, using

Google Groups Subscribe Help:

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

Back to top.
10. Access to Past Issues

Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.

Back to top.

No comments :