Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Call to Nominate! And, Self-Nominate Too!

Fellow AAS Members!

The time has come for you to nominate!  Nominate, I say, be it thy colleague, or thyself!

The AAS Prizes are important. They are our community's most visible means to foster and acknowledge excellence in research, education, and service.

Yet some of the research prizes remain overwhelming exclusive of women.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Strength in Numbers

Today’s guest blogger is Katja Poppenhaeger. Katja is a Sagan postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Her research interests are exoplanets and their host stars, with a focus on stellar magnetic activity and its effects on exoplanetary atmospheres. She also is the organizer of the CfA's Women In Science Chats, a series of informal discussions where female CfA postdocs and graduate students can meet with visiting scientists.

A few weeks ago my colleague, Mohaddesseh Azimlu, mentioned how great it would be to have a group photo of all the female astronomers and astronomy students at the CfA. She was about to leave for a new career opportunity in Canada, so we hurried to invite everyone for a photo shot on a cold February day. We got an overwhelmingly positive response from the astronomers: We had 55 people join the picture, and 17 more who could not attend in person sent in photos of themselves to be added to the picture. Here's the result:
(picture credit: Clive Grainger, Katja Poppenhaeger)

AASWOMEN Newsletter for April 11, 2014

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of April 11, 2014
eds: Michele M. Montgomery, Daryl Haggard, Nick Murphy, & Nicolle Zellner

This week's issues:

1. Guest Post: Time to talk about Privilege
2. Cultural Change: Broadening the Metrics for Promotion
3. France A. Córdova Sworn In as NSF Director
4. Career Profiles: Astronomer to Tenure Track Faculty at a Community College
5. Uwingu Invites Applications for Graduate-Student Travel Grants
6. Look past cult of perfection to promote women in sciences
7. Yes, Daily Mail – black and Asian women can be qualified to talk
8. Job Opportunities
9. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
10. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
11. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Friday, April 11, 2014

Guest Post: Time to talk about Privilege

We have another guest post today from Caitlin Casey, a McCue Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Irvine who studies galaxy formation and evolution, including discovering and characterizing diverse types of starburst galaxies and how they relate to more "normal" spiral galaxies in the early Universe.  Caitlin recently cowrote, along with Kartik Sheth, a NatureJobs article entitled The Ethical Gray Zone, based on an extensive community poll on ethics and diversity.  She is also involved in STEM outreach and mentoring within her department and throughout astronomy.

After reading this pretty excellent article on Slate about how to 'look the part' of computer genius (long story short, being an Asian male is pretty helpful), I thought a lot about how the notion of privilege affects STEM research.  Privilege itself is a term that carries a lot of stigma and even vile hatred for some, as if there's an implied prejudice or blame that comes with it. Many folks aren't comfortable with the idea that they have special rights or advantages (or even immunities) based on their physical appearance or life choices, and that these advantages pervade all aspects of life: even, *gasp* their research and work environment.
Do you know what benefits this card carries?

Whenever I point friends or vague internet acquaintances to Peggy McIntosh's white privilege essay or similar compilations for other group privileges (e.g.  for male privilegefemale privilegeclass privilegephysical ability privilegereligious privilegeheterosexual privilege, etc.)  someone usually pipes up and shouts "prejudice!" or sometimes "stereotype!"  They then argue that discussing privileges provides re-enforcement and makes stereotypes even more harmful.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Career Profiles: Astronomer to Tenure Track Faculty at a Community College

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Andria Schwortz, an astronomer turned tenure track faculty at a Community College. If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about this career path, please leave a comment below.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every first and third Thursday of the month.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cultural Change; Broadening the Metrics for Promotion

The UK's House of Commons Science and Technology Committee recently released a set of recommendations for promoting "Women in Scientific Careers". The report includes numerous useful references to studies describing the range of obstacles to recruitment and retention, as well as useful references to studies providing remedies and solutions for these obstacles. 

However, many found the report 'weak', particularly in terms of failing to address the structural changes needed in academia to tackle inequality. For example, women faculty at the University of Cambridge published a letter in the Times Higher Education calling specifically for changes in how academics are assessed so that women do not face disadvantages for taking on tasks in teaching, administration and public engagement, rather than research. The letter says that a broader set of metrics should be used to evaluate performance and determine promotion.