Date: Sun, 13 May 2001 12:58:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: AASWOMEN for 05/04/01 & 05/11/01

        AAS Committee on the Status of Women
    Weekly issue of 05/04/01 & 05/11/01, eds. Meg Urry & Patricia Knezek 

This week's issues:

1. An article on Margaret Geller's resignation from Harvard University in 
   The Chronicle of Higher Education
2. Further comments on CSWA goals and Kelle Cruz's posting on 4/20/01 and
   Amanda Baker's posting on 4/27/01
3. Another link to information about careers in astronomy (original posting
4. Additional information on available learning tools in physics and 
   astronomy aimed at children around 12 years old (original request posted 
5. To submit to, subscribe to, or unsubscribe from AASWOMEN (repeat)

1. An article on Margaret Geller's resignation from Harvard University in 
   The Chronicle of Higher Education
From: Laura Kay

Friday, May 4, 2001

  Noted Harvard U. Astronomer Resigns Over Tenure Dispute

  A highly regarded female astronomer at Harvard University --
  the first woman on the faculty there to be elected to the
  National Academy of Sciences -- has resigned after a
  longstanding tenure dispute.
  Margaret J. Geller, who has criticized the university for
  gender discrimination in its promotion practices, holds a
  joint position with the Smithsonian Institution and Harvard.
  Her resignation means she will no longer teach undergraduate
  courses or be listed as a Harvard professor. She will continue
  to work at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,
  which is based in Cambridge, Mass.
  Ms. Geller, who first joined the Harvard faculty as an
  assistant professor in 1980, was promoted to professor in
  1988, after passing through the same review process as
  tenure-track faculty members. But her appointment conferred
  only a title, not tenure.
  By 1992, she had won a so-called genius grant from the John D.
  and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and had been elected to
  the National Academy of Sciences. She approached Jeremy R.
  Knowles, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, about her
  tenure status. "I asked him to essentially make an honest
  woman out of me," she said. When the university didn't change
  its position, she said, "I probably should have resigned
  Instead, she stayed, growing tired of explaining her situation
  and frustrated when the university would portray her as a
  tenured female scientist. Harvard, she said, expected her to
  have a commitment to the university, but the university wasn't
  willing to make the same commitment to her that it makes to
  other full professors.
  In May 1997, the university offered her a Mallinckrodt chair,
  a prestigious endowed professorship given to professors in the
  natural sciences and medical school. "I was euphoric because I
  finally thought they had come to their senses," she said. As
  her students began to plan a celebration, Ms. Geller called
  the dean's office to go over the details. She learned that the
  appointment would not come with tenure.
  The eight male science professors who hold Mallinckrodt chairs
  are all tenured. Two other men in the astronomy department
  with joint appointments also have tenure or a tenure-like
  arrangement, she said.
  Ms. Geller simply sat on the offer, neither declining nor
  accepting it. "The dean had offered me what I thought I always
  wanted, a named chair at a prestigious university, and he
  offered it in a way I couldn't accept," she said.
  Mr. Knowles issued a statement praising her contributions to
  Harvard and expressing regret for her resignation. In the
  statement, he said the university and Smithsonian are working
  on a plan to provide financial support from Harvard for the
  joint faculty members "in the improbable event that the
  Smithsonian discontinued funding for these appointments."
  "We regret that Professor Geller has decided to resign before
  this resolution has been reached," he said.
2. Further comments on CSWA goals and Kelle Cruz's posting on 4/20/01 and
   Amanda Baker's posting on 4/27/01

From: K Mead

Regarding the goals of CSWA, Amanda Baker (4/27/01 issue) talks about 
"equality" between the sexes.

The fact is that, as Baker says,  women in astronomy are _not_ treated the 
same as men; expectations for women are _higher_ than for men. And women are 
evaluated, informally and formally, against a higher standard.

There are 3 parts to what follows. First, a commentary on how women are 
treated differently than me. Second, a one paragraph personal story. With 
those two topics as perspective, I then discuss the higher expectations that 
women face.

First a comment about how women are treated unequally. For one thing, women
get less support than men. Ironically, this is partly because support is not 
given as freely to those _perceived_ as less talented, and partly because
the men in the field feel more comfortable being supportive of other men. 
It's human nature to feel more comfortable with those who are like us. Some 
men are simply uncomfortable around women. Remember, scientists (mostly men) 
are nerds. Nerds, by definition are less socially adept than the captain of 
the soccer team or the president of the student body. Female nerds are 
slightly different than male nerds because they have a personality aspect
that allows them to do something that's somewhere between unusual and 
socially unacceptable. Male nerds who become scientists are doing something 
that's typical for males in our society.

So, in a sense, it's human nature to behave in a certain way. But scientists 
working in a professional community have to put aside their personal 
preference for a computer terminal to another human being. A professional 
maintains a standard of conduct, which includes attention to fairness, even 
if that attention and its consequences take the scientist out of his or her 
personal comfort zone. The need for individuals to work as a community is 
also a requirement of human nature.

As an aside, a little story about myself. Since I always did science, and was 
thus always in the gender minority, it took me a long time to gain insight 
into how being in a 13% minority effected my psyche and my view of my 
abilities. At the Women in Astronomy meeting in 1993 (7 years after my 
Ph.D.), I was in the majority for the first time ever as an astronomer. It
was about a 90% majority (Meg can correct me on that number.) I suddenly 
realized that I was just like the other people at the meeting! I wasn't a 
less capable astronomer, I was just female - _that's_ why I never quite felt 
comfortable. To the majority, I was an alien.  And I didn't even realize how 
much like an alien I felt until I took that trip from Mars to Venus.

Now, finally, back to expectations. Women are not treated equally in
astronomy, they are expected to be better -- intellectually and personally.

Women are expected to be physically attractive, dress well, and have good 
personal hygiene.  This is not a joke. (I hope it's mildly amusing, but it's 
also true.) Do an informal survey for yourself in your department (if it's
a large one) or the next AAS meeting. Notice how many successful men are 
rumpled looking. I've never seen Vera Rubin, Margaret Geller or Sydney Wolfe 
look rumpled.

A woman's intelligence and talent are not noticed unless they are 
exceptional.  The median smartness of women in astronomy is greater than 
that of men. At the same time they absoutely must be deferential to men. It 
is my personal observation that the group of successful female astronomers 
is 2 or more sigma more accomplished scientificially (measured even in a 
"male" way such as more papers, but particularly noticeable when considering 
the quality of papers or ability to communicate verbally.)

But the group of successful women has an astonishingly small dispersion of 
personal appearance, personal style and interpersonal skills. A woman must 
be smart, tough and attractive without being threatening to men. Women have 
to be smart enough to be taken seriously, but not so smart as to make the 
men feel inferior. She must be tough but not a bitch. And she must be 
interesting to look at, but not sexually threatening or intimidating.

Anyway, the point is that a woman must walk an indescribably fine line 
personally and intellectually. Men don't (appear to) have to walk a line at 
all. Expectations of women's intellect and behavior are much higher than 

Some women adopt these expectations of other women.  This is a useful 
adaptation because it validates the expectations of the men who dominate 
the community. In turn, the men are more welcoming to these "adaptive" 
women. Sometimes these women are even tougher on other women than the men 
are. It is frequently the adaptive women who have the view, "no one helped 
me succeed in this field, why should I be supportive of other women?" This 
view validates that of less-welcoming men, which are historically the people 
that are at the top of the hierarchy in the Astronomical community.

These higher expecations of women influence subtle decisions and judgements
that astronomers make of each other. These are the decisions and judgements
that Amanda Baker discussed in her posting. While someone's subconscious
opinion of a woman might be "too nerdy" or "too outspoken" [i.e.not
deferential] they might express this by subtle derision in questioning her
work in a proposal review, or to a colleague or at a meeting. Or in making a 
hiring decision, someone might say a man's education is from "stronger" 
institutions than a woman's even if they are actually comparable or if the 
woman's papers are actually more important. There are countless scientific
excuses, I mean reasons, to give instead of "I'm not comfortable with a 

Respectfully Submitted,
Kathryn Mead

From: Anja Andersen

I would like to comment on Amanda Baker comment!

In response to Amanda Baker's comment I would like to point your attention to 
the fact that a danish anthropology study has been made on the point on who 
succeeds in physics studies. The institute studied was the Niels Bohr Institute 
in Copenhagen and what was found was that the men that did not "fit into the 
picture/system of a physics" had a harder time getting a master/Ph.D.-degree 
than even women did. It was obvious that women did not fit the picture/system, 
so the system tried to be aware of this and at least the women were aware of 
this fact. While men were expected to "fit in" just because they were men! 
This means that men that are different from what is expected of a standard 
physics had many obstacles to tackle and very few managed.

This is in favour of the points raised by Amanda Baker but at the same time I 
got very frustrated when I read her comments since I cannot help thinking "do 
we really need yet another study to show that women have more disadvantages 
than some men in a career path in science??". Whatever the reasons I think 
that actions have to be taken - today! We have fire brigades that extinguish 
fire without understanding every detail of how the fire arose. Now we have 
problems with equality in research careers and it must be possible to find 
solutions without waiting to understand every detail of how it has arisen?

If we improve the conditions for women I am convinced that a positive side 
effect will be that there will be more room for others also.

I would like to point your attention (and the attention of CSWA) to two 
reports which are worth reading regarding the points above. One is from the 
Danish Ministry of Research and is titled "Women and Excellence in Research" 
and can be found at:  The other 
report is from the European Union and is called "Promoting excellence through 
mainstreaming gender equality" it can be downloaded in pdf format from

Although there are differences between the US and Europe I do think that we 
can learn a lot from each other on this point, so please read these reports 
before you start a long a time-consuming investigation about if there is a 
problem at all!!

Anja C. Andersen, Uppsala University, Sweden

3. Another link to information about careers in astronomy (original posting
From: Luisa Rebull

Here's my collection of women in astronomy links:
It includes the links that were posted here and on Kris Sellgren's page,
as well as several more I've collected. 


4. Additional information on available learning tools in physics and 
   astronomy aimed at children around 12 years old (orignal request posted 

From: Marlene A. Lee

Here's an astronomy book that is "lively" in format and would make good 
reading for young adults and adult amateurs (like me):

Title: Get a Grip On Astronomy by Robin Kerrod
Publisher: Time-Life Books ($14.95 US); copyright 1999 by Ivy Press 
Limited, 2-3 St. Andrews Place, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 10P England. 
ISBN 0-7370-0047-3. According to the book liner notes, Kerrod has authored 
a number of children's books and is a fellow of the British Royal 
Astronomical Society. 

You may want to review a copy and decide for yourself.

Respectfully submitted,

Marlene Lee
McMinnville, Oregon

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