Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 23:14:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: AASWOMEN for 05/18/01

 AAS Committee on the Status of Women
    Weekly issue of 05/18/01 (+ a bit), eds. Meg Urry & Patricia Knezek

This week's issues:

1. The importance of mentoring girls *and* boys
2. Question about maternity leave for grant holders
3. Comment on Scott Smallwood's notes about Margaret Geller
4. Comments on Kathy Mead's posting from last issue
5. Summary of women's discussion at the University of Texas
6. Web page listings on astronomy as a career
7. Astronomy book for children
8. Meeting on Women in the Life Sciences, June 22-3, Heidelberg
9. International conference on women in physics
10. Job at Northern Arizona University
11. STATUS - subscribing to, or writing for, the CSWA newsletter

Ed. note: this issue is an unusually long one, thanks to a flood
interesting and provocative emails. Please bear with us -- we
expect most issues to be considerably more compact!

1. The importance of mentoring girls *and* boys
From: Anita Cochran, University of Texas

I was listening (only partly) to the radio last week when they interviewed
a women who had just won some big award for her web pages about/for
women (as I say, I was only partly paying attention so I remember
only this was an industry person in San Francisco but nothing more).
She was talking about the mentoring process. She pointed out that
women should mentor girls but also that they needed to mentor boys, too.
Her point was that if boys are only mentored by men who hold opinions
that women are not as capable as men for any particular job, then the boy
will grow up believing that too. However, if a boy sees a woman in a
position of respect and she is capable, he will grow up with a very
different attitude.

I must admit, I had not thought of this before but it is a good point.
We can change the role of women in the future not only by helping
young girls, but by changing the focus of young boys.

Anita Cochran  inter:  
               snail: Astronomy Dept., The Univ. of Texas, Austin, TX, 78712
               at&t:  (512) 471-1471

2. Question about maternity leave for grant holders

Does anyone know if there is a policy regarding maternity 
leave for NASA and NSF grants? I want to know if other women 
have "stopped the clock" temporarily while they are on leave 
from their institution. I will be taking maternity leave for 
3 months this fall and will have two grants during that time. 
I won't have any activity on them, however, while I am gone. 
Any advice? 

[Ed. note: This question was posted anonymously via a third
party. Please mail responses to .]

3. Comment on Scott Smallwood's notes about Margaret Geller
From: Sarah Maddison

Don't you think it's amusing that when an article is written 
about an esteemed male scientist, he will be referred to as 
"Dr/Prof Blah" thoughout the article, whereas when a woman is 
discussed, she is usually introduced as "Dr/Prof So-n-so", 
but often reverts to "Ms So-n-so". Interesting isn't it?

Note that it wasn't just Scott Smallwood that did this, as 
last week's article about Margaret Geller did the same. Taken 
individually such comments seem pedantic, but this type of 
sexism is so inherent I find it almost frightening... 

Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing               
Swinburne University of Technology

4. Comments on Kathy Mead's posting from last issue

(a) From: Stupendous Man
    Subject: turnabout is fair play?

  In a recent issue of AASWOMEN, Kathryn Mead asserts that all scientists
are alike, except that female ones are better than male ones:

> 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.

  She asserts that female scientists look better than their male

> Notice how many successful men are 
> rumpled looking.

  Having claimed that women are more socially adept and better looking
than men, she goes on to the final blow:
> The median smartness of women in astronomy is greater than 
> that of men.

  Congratulations, Kathryn!  You win.  Despite the fact that I was
one of the captains of my high school soccer team, you are correct
that I just don't have the social skills to interact with you.
I'm unsubscribing from the AAS Women's mailing list, and plan not
to attend the meeting of the Committee for the Status of Women
in Astronomy at the Pasadena meeting.  

  I wish you the best of luck in persuading other socially inept,
rumpled, stupid male astronomers to do the same.  

                                           Michael Richmond

(b) [Ed. note: Meg Urry responded to Michael Richmond saying she
hoped he would reconsider, that dialogue is the name of the game
here, and that one shouldn't assume those who post messages
speak for the entire group of subscribers. Here follows the
salient part of her message, then his response.]

Meg Urry to Michael Richmond: 
  My view of AASWOMEN is that it is a forum for diverse views, 
  and that postings do not by any means constitute endorsement 
  by the group as a whole. In fact, I am sure there are many 
  readers who agree with you, and I for one would be very 
  disappointed if you stopped subscribing because you felt 
  you were in a minority. I fear that others have unsubscribed 
  in the past for similar reasons (or just because it was boring, 
  who knows?) So my hope, when we took over in December, was to 
  raise interesting topics for discussion and to host a reasonably 
  lively discussion. But not to alienate anyone or to establish 
  any kind of editorial tone (except for what we, Pat and I, explicitly 
  put in Editors' Notes, for which we take full responsibility). 
  Please help us keep the diversity going! I hope you will reconsider, 
  and do let me know if you want us to post your email or perhaps 
  to post another one.

(c) Michael Richmond to Meg Urry:
  I appreciate your comments. I was thinking over the course
of last night that simply leaving wasn't going to help solve
any problems -- that's absolutely true. Why did I react that
way? Well, I'll tell you. It will probably be a familiar 

  When I read the message, my first reaction was shock and 
anger: "how dare she lump all male astronomers into one group, and 
then assert that they are all identical?" It made my stomach
hurt, and it caused a blush response (though I think we manly
types prefer to describe the effect of blood rushing to the 
head and face as "causing one to see red", rather than "causing one to 
be red" :-)

  So Kathy's posting was very effective in causing me to feel what
(I imagine) a woman would feel when she encounters the same sort
of stereotyping. In that way, the posting has given me insight
into the problem, from the "other side's" point of view.  Perhaps
that was her point.

  Now, here's the crux of the matter. My SECOND thought was
"how dare the editors of the newsletter publish that letter?"
If the goal of the newsletter is to bring people together, 
to exchange ideas on how one may address issues of inequality,
then why publish an inflammatory set of statements that will
only anger and polarize some readers? 

  The editor writes:

> My view of AASWOMEN is that
> it is a forum for diverse views, and that postings do
> not by any means constitute endorsement by the group as 
> a whole.

  I do understand this point of view. I do not agree with it.
If we take this point of view to an extreme, it would seem that that
an escalating exchange of flames and name-calling ("You're ugly", 
"Well, you're stupid", etc.) is a valid contribution to the 
Newsletter. Would such an exchange help to solve any problem?

  If the editors decide not to moderate the Newsletter, and
to allow any person to speak his or her mind without comment,
then I will choose not to participate. Why should I subject
myself to stomach aches and flashes of anger? Again, to draw
an extreme analogy: suppose we were all to meet face-to-face
in an auditorium, and each of us was given the opportunity 
to step up to a microphone and speak. Would it really help
to allow a person to insult everyone else in the room?
Would you expect a person who was disparaged to come back,
again and again, for more sessions? Why?  

  The editor writes:

> So my hope, when we took over in December,
> was to raise interesting topics for discussion and to host
> a reasonably lively discussion. But not to alienate anyone
> or to establish any kind of editorial tone

  I don't believe that you can "not alienate anyone" unless
you moderate the discourse. I do feel alienated by Kathy Mead's

  Again, I do understand your reluctance to inject any
of your own views and feelings into the Newsletter. But I'm
not going to upset myself by reading it. The current cost
of participating outweighs the eventual benefit. That's
just the way I see it.

  If you think it would help to include my first response and
this second one in the next issue of the Newsletter, feel free
to do so. I wish you the best of luck, because I think you're
working for a good cause, and I know it's not easy.

                                         Michael Richmond

5. Summary of women's discussion at the University of Texas
From: Neal Evans

[Ed. note: CSWA member Neal Evans recently had a meeting with women
in the UT Astronomy Department, which is summarized below. We thought 
these issues would be of interest to readers of AASWOMEN, and hope 
this summary stimulates similar discussions at your institutions.]

CSWA member Neal Evans met with women in the University of Texas
Astronomy Department on April 6. The purpose of the meeting was for 
Evans to learn what issues concern women in his department and what 
the CSWA could contribute. There were about 12 women at the meeting; 
most were graduate students but several senior researchers and lecturers 
were present as well. This number represents about half the women in 
the department. The discussion was wide ranging and not necessarily 
in the order presented here. 

On CSWA issues, many of the younger women did not know about the CSWA, 
STATUS, or the weekly newsletter. Evans showed a viewgraph with the 
relevant web and email addresses. He later circulated those to the 
entire department (not just the women). Those who did know about STATUS 
thought it was important to maintain the paper version. We also discussed 
the issue of changing the rules on AAS early-career awards from age 
to years from PhD. Everyone agreed that this affected only a small 
fraction of people but some said that it was symbolically important. 
Some people were unsure how this change would clearly help women who 
want to have children, since they were likely to do so before age 35 
or within x years after a PhD anyway. Some agreed with Evans that this 
was not strictly a women's issue, but an issue of age-discrimination. 
Men or women who enter the field after doing other things should not 
be penalized.

On more general issues, we discussed the isolation that many women 
have felt as they pursued physics degrees, often being the only women 
in the class. This had bothered some but not others. The unusually 
high proportion of women in the current first year class (2/3) provided 
one of the first departures from this sense of isolation for some of 
the students. In contrast, the fact that only one tenured or tenure-
track faculty member is a woman was widely considered unsatisfactory.
The question of whether gender balance should be considered explicitly 
in faculty hiring elicted a range of reactions. Some felt that it should 
not at all, others that it definitely should. The centroid of opinion 
was probably something like this: when the choice is down to a small 
number of equally qualified finalists, gender balance could be considered 
at the same level as how well the person would interact and enrich 
the department, etc. The importance of having women in advanced 
positions was discussed in this context. As an example, the situation 
in Mexico, where women astronomers are numerous, may be traced to the 
early influence of a pioneering woman. Some who were at the meeting 
in San Diego cited the many testimonials by women about the importance 
of Margaret Burbidge as an example of this effect.  

The always difficult issue of the 2-body problem came up, but no new 
ideas for solving it were advanced. The family/work tradeoff problem 
was discussed. We learned that the tenure clock can be stopped for 
maternity or illness at UT, but few do this. There is no formal 
maternity leave here. Some comparison with the situation at other 
institutions would be of interest. We wondered if a policy that would 
allow a semester free of teaching, but not other duties, with continued 
pay could be implemented. The CSWA might usefully make available 
information on people's rights under the Family Leave Act. Examinations 
of discrimination patterns, as was done at MIT, interested people, but 
clearly this would need to be done for a larger unit, such as the College 
of Natural Science. 

Several women reported what we might generously call "discouragment", 
such as overhead conversations about women being not good at something. 
When asked whether they had personally had such experiences in an 
academic setting, about half said yes. The fraction reporting such 
experiences was smaller among the younger women. We discussed the 
stereotyping implicit in the "Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars" 
approach. There was general agreement that, in the mean, there are 
real differences, but that application of the mean to individuals 
ignored the fact that everyone has a mix of "male" and "female" aspects. 
Furthermore, there seems no evidence that either of these aspects is 
more suited to doing good science. Some did comment that successful 
women often had to downplay their feminine side to be accepted in the 
scientific establishment.

Several studies were suggested. First, we might look into what has 
happened to women who were graduate students in the past at UT. Do we 
see any patterns in their subsequent careers that are different from 
those of men? Second, and possibly a CSWA project, would be a study 
of faculty hiring. It was noted that only a small fraction of applicants 
for the recent position at UT were women (smaller than the fraction 
from the likely pool of possible applicants). Is this universal, or 
did this have to do with the nature of this position, in which a major 
part of the teaching duties would be in a College-wide program to 
prepare public school science teachers? It would be interesting to see 
if women are systematically under-represented in the application process, 
and how this compares to the fraction that make short lists, and that 
are finally hired.

6. Web page listings on astronomy as a career
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. 


Dr. Luisa Rebull                       NRC Research Associate
NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab M/S 169-506    voice 818-393-3475
4800 Oak Grove Drive                   FAX 818-354-8895
Pasadena, CA 91109

7. Astronomy book for children


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

8. Meeting on Women in the Life Sciences, June 22-3, Heidelberg

posted by Anja Anderson ( 

[Ed. note: we have not shortened this as much as for meetings
generally because the content is directly relevant to this 

There will be a 1.5-day meeting on women in the life sciences, 
called "The Glass Ceiling for Women in the Life Sciences" on 
June 22 - 23, 2001 at the EMBL in Heidelberg. During the first 
of four sessions reports on the current situation will be given 
by Mary Osborn and Mary Clutter. Mary Osborn chaired a recent 
report for the European Commission on the situation of women in 
the Sciences in Europe. Mary Clutter is the Assistant Director 
for Biological Research at the NSF and is very much involved in 
the issue of the underrepresentation of women in the sciences in 
the US. Louise Ackers from the University of Lancaster will 
summarize the results of a survey conducted among TMR Marie Curie 
fellowship recipients. Joanna Wroblewski from the Karolinska 
Institute will report on the latest study conducted on gender 
bias affecting recruitment of faculty. 

In the second session several women scientists at different stages 
of their careers will give a brief outline of their paths through 
science (including Mariann Bienz, Susan Gasser, EMBL scientists 
and former EMBO fellows). The third session will consist of two panel 
discussions, one on the employment policy of research institutes and
the other on science funding. In the fourth and final session discussion 
among the participants will focus around the questions: 
   What actions need to be taken in order to increase the number of 
	women at the professorial and post doctoral level? 
   Who has to take action? 
   What is the time frame for measures to take effect? 
   What can we expect? 

The goal is to increase awareness and discuss and define measures 
that will remedy the gender imbalance in science in the near future. 
For more information and registration please link to the website at or contact us via email at

Frank Gannon
EMBO, Executive director

Gerlind Wallon
EMBO, Programme Manager
EMBO Young Investigator Programme
Postfach 1022.40, D-69012 Heidelberg
Meyerhofstr. 1, D-69117 Heidelberg

9. International conference on women in physics

posted by Anja Anderson (

The Women In Physics Conference page is now available at .
As new information becomes available the page will be updated. 
If you have any question or have additional information please 
send it to me at and/or Marcia Barbosa, Chair 
IUPAP Working Group at .

Jacquelyn Beamon-Kiene 

10. Job at Northern Arizona University

From: Kathy Eastwood Kathy.EastwoodNAU.EDU


The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northern Arizona University in
Flagstaff, Arizona seeks a visiting Assistant Professor beginning August 20,
2001. The position is for one year, with possible renewal of up to two
additional years contingent on funding and successful evaluation. Applicants
must have a Ph.D. in physics, astronomy, or a closely related field. The
primary responsibility will be teaching introductory physics; however, the
ability to teach introductory astronomy is a plus. The candidate should also
have an ability to work with students, colleagues, and community members from
diverse cultures.  The department has active research programs in astronomy and
condensed matter physics. 
Applicants should submit a curriculum vitae, a short statement describing
teaching experience and philosophy, a short statement describing research
interests (if applicable), and the names and contact information of three
references. Send application materials to the chair of the search committee,
Dr. David Cornelison, at Department of Physics and Astronomy, Northern Arizona
University, Box 6010, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-6010.  Please do not submit
applications electronically. Address inquiries to either or 

Review of applications will begin June 15, 2001, and continue until the
position is filled. Northern Arizona University is a committed Equal Employment
Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution.  Minorities, women, veterans and
persons with a disability are especially encouraged to apply.

11. STATUS - subscribing to, or writing for, the CSWA newsletter

The new issue of STATUS should be in subscribers' mailboxes shortly,
and additional copies will be available at the AAS meeting in 
Pasadena. To get your very own subscription, send your mail address 
to .

For future issues of STATUS, we are soliciting articles, book 
reviews, short biographies of women scientists, "Notes from a 
Life", cartoons, or other material. We are also looking for 
new editors (people with ideas for interesting topics); if 
you are interested, please contact Meg Urry ( 
and Lisa Frattare (