B. Career Advancement and Recognition
The "classic" career path for a professional astronomer has
been a progression through undergraduate and graduate school, a postdoc
or two, and then a research faculty job at a major university.
Statistics indicate that women are lost from this "progression" in
proportion greater than for men, for a variety of reasons such as
unsupportive work environments, lack of role models, and insufficient
opportunity for recognition of their performance. Recognition often
comes in the form of professional awards and invited presentations,
where women frequently have been underrepresented relative to their
achievements. Informal mentoring is easy and widespread for young people
who resemble those already in the field but often is nearly inaccessible
to those from underrepresented
groups. We offer several recommendations to ameliorate this situation:
Follow-up Suggestions for Implementation:
- Academic institutions should provide regular evaluation, mentoring
and career counseling to young faculty members.
- Universities and individual departments should set up formal
programs to train mentors for younger students and professionals,
with attention paid to both career and family issues. In addition,
the AAS should sponsor periodic special sessions or short
training programs at the semi-annual general meetings. The
individual astronomy and physics departments then should take the
responsibility of implementing a mentoring program, so that their more
junior members have a mechanism to acquire support and advice. Specific
areas of interest for training and mentoring would include information
about rules (both written and unwritten), expectations, networking, and
the general decision-making process of a particular institution.
- Ph.D.-granting universities should recognize the potential of
graduate-student applicants from institutions that traditionally serve
underrepresented groups. Departments should develop working
relationships with faculty at these institutions, and establish
specific mentoring programs for graduate students who may undergo
"culture shock" upon arrival at a major research university.
- Decisions on advancement should result from an open process, based
on specific criteria that are spelled out in advance. Senior
faculty and other senior personnel must provide an environment that
enables all junior faculty to have an equal opportunity to succeed and
advance in this process.
- Organizations and academic institutions should offer women equal
opportunity for scientific recognition in the form of awards (AAS
awards and others) and invitations to present invited talks in a
variety of circumstances, including AAS meetings, topical professional
meetings, and traditional colloquia/seminars. Prize nominee
pools and invited speaker lists should adequately reflect the diversity
of the astronomical profession. The institutions responsible for
selecting awardees and invitees should review periodically their
policies and progress in this area, in order to ensure that the
achievements of women are being represented fairly.
- Along with direct contributions to science, criteria for success
should include teaching and other functional terms of employment.
Specifically, outreach and education activities are important both for
the future of astronomy and in relation to possible career paths;
involvement in such activities should be supported and rewarded at all
levels, including hiring decisions and performance evaluations.
Paradoxically, individual women sometimes are heavily burdened with
committee service in an effort to achieve greater diversity; this
additional service also should be recognized in advancement decisions.
- The responsibility to create institutional changes that promote
equity in astronomy lies first and foremost with the senior and more
established members of an institution. However, individuals at
a more junior level have a strong interest in such change and should
participate as is feasible. In addition, these younger astronomers
should not be thwarted by apparent barriers, but should
enthusiastically pursue their own goals and dreams for scientific
achievement and career advancement.