The Baltimore Charter for Women In Astronomy
``Women Hold up Half the Sky'' -- Ancient Chinese saying
We hold as fundamental that:
- Women and men are equally capable of doing excellent science.
- Diversity contributes to, rather than conflicts with, excellence
- Current recruitment, training, evaluation and award systems often
prevent the equal participation of women.
- Formal and informal mechanisms that are effectively discriminatory
are unlikely to change by themselves. Both thought and action are
necessary to ensure equal participation for all.
- Increasing the number of women in astronomy will improve the
professional environment and improving the environment will increase
the number of women.
This Charter addresses the need to develop a scientific culture within
which both women and men can work effectively and within which all can
have satisfying and rewarding careers. Our focus is on women but actions
taken to improve the situation of women in astronomy should be applied
aggressively to those minorities even more disenfranchised.
Astronomy has a long and honorable tradition of participation by women,
who have made many significant and highly creative contributions to the
field. Approximately 15% of astronomers worldwide are women but there
is wide geographical diversity, with some countries having none and
others having more than 50%. This shows that scientific careers are
strongly affected by social and cultural factors, and are not determined
solely by ability.
The search for excellence which unites all scientists can be maintained
and enhanced by increasing the diversity of its practitioners. Great
discoveries have always occurred in times of cross-cultural enrichment:
along trade routes, in periods of geographical exploration, among
immigrants and multinationals. The introduction of new approaches
frequently results in new breakthroughs. Achieving such diversity
requires revised, not lesser, criteria for judging excellence, free
of culturally-based perceptions of talent and promise.
A review of available information on the relative numbers and career
histories of women and men in science reveals extensive discrimination.
Access to the profession -- graduate education, hiring, promotion,
funding -- is not always independent of gender. Unequal treatment of
women in the laboratory, the lecture hall and the observatory, more
subtle but at least as important as overt discrimination, creates a
chilly climate which discourages and distresses women, alienates them
from the field, and ultimately damages the profession.
Existing inequities can be eliminated only partially by legal stricture
or they would not continue today. Improving the situation requires
awareness of the very real barriers women currently face, including
sexual stereotyping, opportunity and pay differentials, inappropriate
time limits on advancement, overcritical scrutiny and sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment, ranging from an uncomfortable work environment to
unwanted sexual attention to overt extortion of sexual favors, can force
confrontation between junior astronomers and older, better established
colleagues who can strongly influence career advancement;
it diverts attention from science to sex, places
an undue burden on the harassed, and damages their self-esteem.
The entire profession must assume the immediate and ongoing responsibility
for implementing strategies that will enable women to succeed within the
existing structures of astronomy and allow the desired acceptance of
diversity to develop fully.
- Significant advances for women have been made possible by affirmative
action. Affirmative action involves the establishment of serious goals,
not rigid quotas, for achieving diversity in all aspects of the profession,
including hiring, invited talks, committees, and awards.
(a) Standards for candidates should be established and publicized
in advance. Criteria that are culturally based or otherwise extraneous
to performance or the pursuit of scientific excellence should not be
(b) Women should participate in the selection process. If insufficient
numbers of women are available at particular institutions, outside
scientists can be invited to assist. Men must share fully the
responsibility for implementing affirmative action, as they hold the
majority of leadership positions.
(c) The selection of women should reflect on average their numbers in
the appropriate pool of candidates and normally at least one woman
should be on the short list for any position, paid or honorific.
When women are underrepresented in the pool, their numbers should
be increased by active and energetic recruitment.
(d) Demographic information for each astronomical organization
should be widely publicized. If the goals for affirmative action are
not achieved, the reasons must be determined.
- The criteria used in hiring, assignment, promotion and awards
should be broadened in recognition of different pacing of careers,
care of older and younger family members, and demands of dual-career
households. Provision for day care facilities, family leave, time off
and re-entry will instantly improve women's access to an astronomical
career and is of equal benefit to men.
- Strong action must be taken to end sexual harassment. Education
and awareness programs are standard in U.S. government and industry
and should be adopted by the astronomical community. Each institution
should appoint one or more women to receive complaints about sexual
harassment and to participate in the formal review process. Action
against those who perpetrate sexual harassment should be swift and
- Gender-neutral language and illustrations are important in the
formation of expectations, both by those in power and those seeking
entrance to the profession. Documents and discussions should be
sensitive to bias that favors any one gender, race, sexual orientation,
life style, or work style. Those who represent astronomy to the public
should be particularly aware of the power of language and images which,
intentionally or unintentionally, reflect on astronomy as a profession.
- Physical safety is of concern to all astronomers and of particular
significance to women, who often feel more vulnerable when working
alone on campus or in observatories. This issue must be addressed by
those in a position to affect security, making it possible for everyone
to work at any hour, in any place, as necessary.
Call to Action
Improving the situation of women in astronomy will benefit, and is the
responsibility of, astronomers at all levels. Department heads,
observatory directors, policy committee chairs, and funding agency
officials have a particular responsibility to facilitate the full
participation of women: to nurture new talent, to ensure the
effectiveness of teaching, and to examine and correct patterns of
inequity. The profession should be responsible for regular review
and assessment of the status of women in astronomy, in pursuit of
equality and fairness for all.
A rational and collegial environment which allows full expression of
intellectual style is necessary for achieving excellence in scientific
research. Women should not have to be clones of male astronomers in
order to participate in the mainstream of astronomical research. Women
want and deserve the same opportunity as their male colleagues to achieve
excellence in astronomy.
Martina Belz Arndt,
Karen S. Bjorkman,
Susan W. Boynton,
Frederick R. Chromey,
Geoffrey C. Clayton,
France A. Cordova,
Deborah C. Fort,
Diane L. Fowlkes,
Sherri D. Godlin,
Eva K. Grebel,
Heidi B. Hammel,
Robert J. Hanisch,
Helen M. Hart,
Lori K. Herold,
James E. Hesser,
Judith A. Irwin,
Deepa R. Iyengar,
Debora M. Katz-Stone,
Denise V. Kitson,
Olivia L. Lupie,
Karen J. Meech,
Windsor A. Morgan, Jr.,
Lauretta M. Nagel,
Angela V. Olinto,
Mercedes T. Richards,
Claudia A. Robinson,
Laura Ann Ruocco,
Penny D. Sackett,
Regina E. Schulte-Ladbeck,
Anouk A. Shambrook,
Lisa E. Sherbert,
Linda (Dix) Skidmore,
Ulysses J. Sofia,
Paul Vanden Bout,
Fabienne van de Rydt,
Liese van Zee,
William J. Wagner,
Nolan R. Walborn,
William H. Waller,
Harold A. Weaver,
Reva K. Williams,
James P. Wright,
Katharine C. Wright,
Eric W. Wyckoff,