Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2001 17:24:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: AASWOMEN for 03/16/01

	AAS Committee on the Status of Women
    weekly issue of 03/16/2001, ed. by Meg Urry and Patricia Knezek

This week's issues:
1. Correction - CSWA special session at Pasadena AAS meeting
2. Some responses to the AAS members' priorties for CSWA planning
3. An informal report on women in Science and Technology in Sweden
4. A book to check out on women who have Nobel prizes in science
5. A good idea for reaching students interested in astronomy

1. Correction - CSWA special session at Pasadena AAS meeting
From: Meg Urry

The Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy will hold a session on 
Monday, JUNE 4, from 2:00-3:30, not January 4 as reported in the last issue.

2. Some responses to the AAS members' priorties for CSWA planning

From: Paula Szkody

I think the goal of CSWA should be a very straightforward one: to provide 
women in astronomy equal access, opportunity and rewards in all aspects of 
their astronomical careers. This includes equal representation at all levels 
of career ladders, committees, prizes and equal salaries. We should focus our 
efforts wherever the above is not valid.

From:  Kris Sellgren

The goal of the CSWA should be to make itself obsolete; i.e. to have
the status of women in astronomy indistinguishable in quantifiable
*and* subtle unquantifiable ways from the status of men in astronomy.

More concretely:

* Followup on the MIT report.  It's the first time that discrimination
has been quantified *and* that the university has responded by rectifying
the quantified imbalances.  We need to take the momentum of that and
push hard now.  If it takes a class action lawsuit (as the chemists are 
thinking of doing), that would be painful but it might be the only way 
to get US-wide action.  Trying to fight the MIT battle university by 
university would exhaust us all.

* Creative solutions to the 2-body problem.  I see this as the
largest barrier to women's success in astronomy.  On average, women
astronomers choose other scientists as partners, those partners if male 
are usually older and further along in their careers, even if only by
2 or 3 years, and so on average it is always going to come down to 
choices between moving to the town where the woman's great postdoc 
offer is, moving to the town where the man's great tenure-track offer
is, or trying to see how long one can keep a long-distance relationship
going.  Adding children into the picture just makes things worse,
since again on average women do the vast majority of childcare, which
may be a rich and rewarding personal experience but inevitably cuts
back on the woman's scientific productivity.  We can all think of 
exceptions to these blanket statements -- couples where the woman is 
the superstar and the man is the tagalong, couples where the man does 
50% or more of the childcare -- but they are *exceptions*, not the 
average.  I don't have any creative solutions myself to the 2-body 
problem, except to comment that people don't play around enough with 
the concept of shared appointments.  It's a tricky concept, because you 
could conceivably end up with one partner getting tenure and the other 
not, or you tenure both and then they get divorced.  Worse, the 
temptation for the university is to pay two people in a split appointment 
as one or 1.5 people, not two.   And split appointments are solutions
only for astronomer couples, not for an astronomer whose partner is
a biologist or linguist or marketing executive.

* If we had infinite time and resources, we should seriously address
the fact that women progress to the next level in science in smaller
fractions than men at *every* level, from K-12 to full professor.  There's
not just one huge barrier, there's a series of hurdles that both men
and women have to jump over but the height of the hurdle is just a
little higher for women every step of the way.  Again it would exhaust
us to fix every hurdle, in every K-12 math and science classroom, in
every college physics/math/lab course, in every astronomy/astrophysics
graduate program, in every astronomy postdoctoral selection committee,
in every faculty hiring committee, in every tenure committe, etc etc.
I don't know how to tackle this problem in a cost-effective way that
doesn't exhaust all the time of all women astronomers in the US.
But maybe we would benefit from seriously taking a look at countries
where the fraction of women in science and/or astronomy is far higher,
and where women don't seem to drop out of the field because they are 
bleeding from a thousand invisible cuts.  France and Italy come to
mind as places where women scientists flourish.  What are they doing
differently from us?  At what career stage do the numbers start to look 
significantly different between them and the US, and can we focus on
that career stage first?  Is the difference simply the difference in
availability of childcare, or the maternity leave policies, or the
role that networking plays in getting faculty jobs, or differences in
how science is funded there vs. in the US?  Or does it all come down
to what happens at adolescence, and we need to focus all our efforts
there?  If we could identify one or two major factors that make the 
difference between the US and a country where women are plentiful in 
the physical sciences, that would really help to decide where to focus 
efforts to make the US change.

3. An informal report on women in Science and Technology in Sweden
From: Duilia de Mello

[Here is] an informal report on how things are going here in Sweden regarding 
women in Science and Technology. As you know, the number of females in Sweden 
who choose careers in Science and Technology is extremely small, except for
some areas like Chemistry. It is so small that it is not worth doing 
statistics... On the other hand, more than 50% of the politicians are females 
in Sweden.  So, I don't understand really what is the matter with the young 
females in this country. Perhaps, it will change in the future, but women have 
been active here for a long time and we should see more young females in these 

I work at Chalmers Technical University (Onsala Observatory) and, as you can 
guess, I am one of the very few females in this big University. However, I'm 
begining to believe that some people at Chalmers, like the President of the 
University, are trying to do something about improving the number of females.
He has started a series of meetings with the young females (Research 
Assistants) in order to discuss this issue! He has hired women to help him on 
that too. One of them is specialized in female issues and has given a series 
of talks to the managers to familiarize them with these issues. He also has a 
manager who coordinates  the  meetings and who is well informed of these
issues. Just the other day she sent us a link to the MIT meeting! Anyway, the 
main goal of these meetings is to find out how to attract women into Science 
and Technology. In particular, how to open positions which are attractive to 
women. Last meeting we discussed this and there is no consensus... Some think 
that positions should be opened for females only and some think that position 
with affirmative action should be opened. Well, I will keep you posted on how 
things develop here.

Anyway, I think it is really important to keep discussing how we can 
help/participate on the "MIT-led efforts". As I said, even here in Sweden the 
managers are using the "MIT-led efforts" as an example/model. Perhaps, the 
idea of hiring women specialized in female issues is good. At least the 
Swedish males feel more comfortable in talking about that to specialists and 
to hear advices from them.

4. A book to check out on women who have Nobel prizes in science
From: Lynn Scholz

[Eds. note:  This book is definitely worth taking a look at!]

Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous
Discoveries, Revised Edition

5. A good idea for reaching students interested in astronomy
From: Kristy Dryer

[Eds. note:  If an web site like the one suggested below already exists,
please let us know! Tom Balonek of Colgate University pointed out that Tom
Arny at the University of Massachusetts has compiled a list of schools in
the U.S. and Canada that have undergraduate programs in astronomy.  See:

RE:4. Request for advice for student entering astronomy [from 03/09/01 issue]

We should really put together a web FAQ for these questions -- I hate to
think that each one of these queries is getting tons of wisdom from the
list that I don't get to see.