Date: Fri, 25 May 2001 14:18:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: AASWOMEN for 5/25/01

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Weekly issue of 05/25/01, eds. Meg Urry & Patricia Knezek

This week's issues:

1. Web site that tests for subconscious bias
2. Maria Goeppert Mayer Award nominations needed
3. Three recent reports on the status of women in science, now available
4. Clarification from Neal Evans 
5. Feedback on grants and maternity leave (from 5/18/01)
6. Feedback on Mentoring (from 5/18/01)
7. Feedback on recent postings by Mead and Richmond 

1. Web site that tests for subconscious bias
From: Jonathan Gelbord

I just discovered a web site that I thought would be of interest to
AASWOMEN subscribers. It provides tests for half a dozen subconscious
biases, including a test for gender bias regarding science vs.

The URL is

Once you've gone to this site, click the "Explore your hidden biases"
link on the lower right under the "How Tolerant Are You?" heading.

(The web site was recently set up by the Souther Poverty Legal Center,
which for years has fought violent/hate groups (the KKK, the militia
movement, etc.) in the courts, and for the past several years has had an
ongoing campaign to counter discrimination by teaching tolerance,
focusing on school children...)

Regards -

2. Maria Goeppert Mayer Award nominations needed

The Maria Goeppert Mayer Award is a prestigious prize given
annually by the APS to women who have received PhD degrees
within the last 10 years. Most of the MGM winners have gone on
to illustrious careers in physics, and some have been elected 
to the National Academy of Sciences or received other forms of
recognition. Several winners in recent years have been
astronomers (Andrea Ghez in 1999, Jackie Hewitt in 1995, 
Ewine van Dishoeck in 1993).

Consider nominating a young woman physicist this year. If you
yourself are eligible, consider asking your department chair or
group leader to nominate you, so that your entire organization can
bask in reflected glory. Nominations are due July 2, 2001, and
candidates must have received their PhD July 1, 1991 or later to be
eligible. More information on the prize can be obtained on the APS
website ( Nomination
materials should be sent to the chair of the selection committee,
Ellen Zweibel, JILA, Campus Box 440, U. Colorado, Boulder CO

3. Three recent reports on the status of women in science, now available

(a) NSF Report on Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities
in Science and Engineering: 2000

This report is now available on line as an HTML document from the 
National Science Foundation at

It updates ongoing monitoring of the situation of women in science,
and includes many useful graphs and plots.

(b) Study on females and minorities in chemistry

A study by Donna J. Nelson (U. Oklahoma) is reported in the 
Spring 2001 issue of AWIS magazine

The results were widely reported (in abbreviated form) elsewhere, 
including by the Associated Press (Washington Post, May 20, p. A12, 
and many other newspapers), Science (18 May 2001, pp. 1291-2), 
and The Chronicle of Higher Education (21 May 2001).

(c) EU Report on "Women in Science: The Gender Dimension as a
Leverage for Reforming Science"

The EU committee has just published a report as a result of initiatives 
around the topic "Women in Science" taken by the committee during 
the period 1999-2001.

The title of the report is "Women in Science: The Gender Dimension as a 
Leverage for Reforming Science". It contains recommendations and is therefore 
worth reading!

It can be down-loaded from

Anja C. Andersen>
Department of Astronomy & Space Physics
Uppsala University        

[Ed. note: this link did not work for me, so Anja sent an

[With the above link y]ou get to a page where you can download 
the report as pdf or word file. It is in Danish. but since it say 
"Rapporten i PDF-format = the report in PDF-format" and "Rapporten 
i word-format = the report in word-format" I think that it should 
be straight forward.

I have also located it at the European Commision homepage. There it 
can be found on 
where it can be downloaded as a pdf file (it is the first report on 
the list). This page is in english. [Ed.: this one worked for me.]

4. Clarification from Neal Evans 

Some of my colleagues here noticed that my statement that 2/3 of our
recent class of graduate students were women could be read as 2 out 
of 3 students. In fact, it is 10 out of 15 students. This was the 
largest class we have ever had; the incoming class next year is 6, 
of which 2 are women, a more typical class.

Neal Evans

5. Feedback on grants and maternity leave

From: anonymous	
Subject: Stopping the Clock on Grants

I am a researcher on grants from federal agencies including 
NSF and NASA, and had a little-one about a year ago. What I 
did was to take vacation/sick/disability leave - effectively 
not working much for about 6 weeks but had enough results/effort 
stored up to write nominal progress reports when needed (e.g. 
the quarterly NASA reports were the worst, although that contract 
had only just started so it was slightly easier). Then I did 
no-cost extensions for those grants for which it was easier 
(the NSF), and charged/worked mostly on the other ones where 
no-cost extensions were not an option. I also went to less-than-
full-time to take care of my little-one. From what the administrators 
at the agencies, plus our own grants admin people could find out, 
"pregnancy and childbirth/maternity leave is not a scientifically 
justifiable reason for no-cost extensions or reduced effort". 
(I was on bed-rest for the last 1/3 of my pregnancy, and ended up 
going less-than-full-time and working on my laptop from home 
6 hr/day with a rigged vertical desk.) So the reasons I gave for 
the no-cost extension were valid, but admitedly slightly stretched. 

It's always struck me as ironic that the federal agencies that
say they promote women in the sciences do not put their best foot
forward in the very areas where some real help would be appreciated.
Being able to put a 'hold' on a grant or contract would help everyone - 
think family medical leave. While breastfeeding, I could not travel
without my child because I was very very prone to mastitis - yet
when I arranged for my + my child's airline tickets to be, together,
about a QUARTER of other scientists attending an agency-requested
meeting (stayed the Sat. night, went to a slightly further-away
much cheaper airport and drove to the meeting site), there was NO 
way I could get any help on my child's 1/2-price airline ticket.
And there was NO help trying to arrange child-care at said meeting
(we ended up paying for both my child and my husband to come along - 
yes, I could have not gone, but I felt I had to to this particular
workshop - and it ended up being a good meeting. But still....).

So, only suggestion - find a sympathetic person in your grants & contracts
administration department, and start getting creative. I could
not find any 'legal' way to stop a grant/contract clock. Going part-time,
taking advantage of easy no-cost extensions, doing a 'trade'
(you pay someone else now, they pay you later - not legal but
common-practice), hiring a post-doc/grad student...those were the
only avenues I found available. 

If anyone knows of any other methods, PLEASE SHARE. What I've
disclosed can put me in big trouble with the agencies, but I have
yet to find any honest way to get maternity leave from federal grants.
They've succeeded in covering their collective behinds against fraud
to the point that the entire system is completely anti-family,
whether the grantee is male or female. Perhaps someone who is familiar
with FMLA law can figure out if it could apply here even if the 
grantee's institution doesn't qualify? Just an idea...

[Name withheld]

From: Megan Donahue
Re: Taking maternity leave with NASA grants.

I've applied for no-cost-extensions (NCX) to NASA under such 
circumstances and I have never been denied one. An NCX adds 
another year to the funding profile, so 3 months is really 
very easy to accomodate. 

- Megan

From: "Simkin, Susan M"
Re: Question about maternity leave for grant holders
NSF has several options for dealing with interruptions in the time 
sequence of a grant -
     1. The PI can ask for extensions.
     2. The PI can defer a Continuing Grant Increment (CGI) thus 
	extending the grant duration.
     3. Both of these can be done individually or in combination.

My personal experience is that people seeking maternity and/or post-natal 
leave sometimes have very complex, individual needs and these should be 
approached flexibly. This flexibility is certainly present in the general 
NSF grant "rules" and the PI's needs should be discussed and breaks in 
the grant arranged with the "cognizant Program Officer" (Just be sure to 
do it in time! - certainly at least 3 months before a report is due!)
Most formal maternity leave policies do not allow much individual
flexibility (particularly when they "obey government rules") and I see the
NSF policy as preferable. - Comments?

Susan M. Simkin

6. Feedback on Mentoring

From: "Simkin, Susan M"
Re: Women Mentoring (or at least influencing) Males Professionally 
(I hate the word Mentoring!)

I am convinced that the reason I became and continued to be a astronomer
rests on 3 factors:
     1. I had an undergraduate (male) professor who "identified with 
	women" (say no more) and who encouraged me to go to graduate school.
     2. I was admitted to graduate school by a man who was at that time 
	"in counseling" with a woman who was very pro-professional women. 
	(We are talking about the 50s here!)
     3. My postdoctoral advisor was a man (Kevin Prendergast) who worked 
	with Margaret Burbidge.
By the time I got past my post-doc period it was too late to stop me.

7. Feedback on recent postings by Mead and Richmond 

From: "Dick White"
Subject: Kathy Mead/Michael Richmond

I read with dismay Michael Richmond's comments in the 5/18/01 
AASWOMEN Newsletter and it seems worthwhile for me to offer 
another perspective. 

As a professor at a college for women, I have subscribed to AASWOMEN 
as a way to understand better the challenges faced by my students and my 
female colleagues. I have appreciated Kathy Mead's frequent and often 
outspoken contributions. Did her last contribution exaggerate? Perhaps, 
but each one of her points struck me as plausible. Are we scientists nerds? 
To some extent, though the individuals who can succeed solely on the 
basis of brilliant work without communication skills are few. Do women 
scientists have to meet a higher standard of social skills? I suspect so.
I can think of few scientists of either sex who satisfy the description as 
"rumpled," but how many women would take the risk? Most importantly, 
are the surviving female astronomers smarter than their male counterparts?
Probably, given the additional obstacles that women must surmount to 
achieve a career in science. Do any or all of these remarks comprise a 
put-down of male scientists? I didn't take them that way.  

Unfortunately, the association that arises to my last remark is the 
diversity of responses to sexist chatter in the workplace.  Some women 
don't react strongly to sexist remarks; others feel them deeply. 
Neither reaction is right or wrong, but our observatories and laboratories 
and classrooms are better without such distractions. This newsletter, 
however, is not the workplace, but -- as I understand it -- primarily 
a place for women in our profession to share their experiences and 
insight, and for all of us to learn how we might open astronomy to 
success solely on the basis of merit. For this reason, I support the 
editors' decision on posting Kathy Mead's remarks.

I hope that Michael Richmond will stay tuned in to this discussion. We 
all have much to learn from it, including his feelings at reading 
Kathy Mead's comments. 

      Richard White
      Five College Astronomy Department
      Smith College

From: Sabine Moehler
Re Michael Richmond's post

>  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.
If I decided not to speak anymore to any male astronomers who issued 
stereotypes about women in science or women in general, I would have 
to be very silent in many situations.

>  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? 
Because - in my opinion - when discussing gender inequality - there 
will always be someone who feels hurt/angered. If the editors decide 
to moderate this newsletter by taking out statements that *may* anger 
someone it will - again in my opinion - not be worth reading it anymore. 
Please leave the AASwomen newsletter open for discussion, even if 
sometimes people are angered. I still remember a posting that drove 
me up the wall by stating that "having children is someone we all look 
forward too" - but I really liked the lively dicussion that followed 
my annoyed comment.

I am afraid, dear editors, that you will be damned if you do (moderate) and 
damned if you don't. Still I vote for no moderation - I simply don't see any 
need for it.

best wishes
Sabine Moehler

From: Zodiac Webster
Subject: re: Kathy Mead comments add-on

When Michael Richmond said his "first reaction was shock and
anger... It made my stomach hurt.." I was reminded of a
story I heard from a female engineer friend who invited her
male boss to an all woman scientific research conference.
After the conference the woman asked her boss what he
thought. First he was surprised with the quality of work
done. More importantly, he said he had been very self
conscious about asking questions and making comments since
he was the only man in the room. My friend said that he then
had an epiphany of order "That must be how the women who
work here feel every day!" 

Sometimes it is not enough to just talk about inequality or
injustice. Sometimes a visceral reaction is required to
get the point across. Unfortunately, we can't _all_ invite
our male bosses to women-only astronomy conferences so they
can each experience "the look" and have their own epiphany!

Letters like those of Kathy Mead's can reach a broader
audience and cause a reaction. Hopefully people who have a
negative reaction will think about situations where they may
have done something similar to someone else and be reminded
_not_ to do that in the future.

So I agree with Michael Richmond that a diet of such
inflammatory letters in this forum would become old, I
believe there is a place for them every now and again. 

Zo Webster

From: "Simkin, Susan M"
Re: Discussion of Margaret Geller and Kathy Mead

I note that:

1. I agree with the newly appointed president of Princeton that 
"tenure is not favorable to women" - I would go further and argue 
that tenure is really an exercise in conformity (rather than a 
guarantee of "academic freedom") as well as a way of maintaining 
the "Old Boys" long after they have become senile and gobbled up 
all the resources. (I also note here that I have resigned from a 
tenured position - so my mouth and my money match.)

Most people view tenure as a "prize to be won" and really don't 
think much about the academic freedom aspect (which is why it can 
be easily morphed into an exercise in conformity - and when it is, 
becomes an actual detriment to academic freedom - since it assures 
the continuation of the status quo.)

Where does Kathy Mead fit into all this? - One of the original uses 
of academic freedom (and tenure to protect it) was the free exchange 
of ideas.  To do this (freely exchange ideas) people have to agree 
to ground rules like a) Do not personalize their arguments and 
b) Do not take general arguments as being personal.

These ground rules are hard to follow in our culture. (I know I fail 
even though I try to apply them - Most people do not even try.)

If you find these comments to be too rambling - they are meant to be 
thought provoking and open ended.

Susan M. Simkin
Program Director, Extragalactic Astronomy  & Cosmology
NSF, Division of Astronomical Sciences

From: Cara Rakowski
Re: UT discussion/Mead/etc.

Yet another reader's particular perspective:
Generalizations are always dangerous, when applied to a specific person. 
I would put it slightly stronger than the sentiment expressed by the UT 
Astronomy department, and assert that the variation from individual to
individual is always far more significant than that from one lumped  
together group of people to another. (As a small child I'd often be very 
frustrated that my interests, math, fishing, science fiction, would be
called "male" interests. They're not "male" or "female" interests, they're
_my_ interests).

The funny thing is though, it never occurred to me, upon reading Kathy
Mead's comments, that anyone would be offended. Firstly, because having
listened to generalities all my life, it no longer occurs to me to try to
relate them to individuals anymore. Secondly, because a variety of
opinions are expressed in this forum, lots of which I disagree with, and I
whole-heartedly support Meg Urry's position that this newsletter be a
place where a dialogue can occur.  However, I think it's important to know
that this posting did offend someone. In email, it is very difficult to
tell the tenor in which things are said, which can lead to unnecessary

There were a number of months where I didn't want to read the CSWA
newsletter. There was a whole slew of truly depressing stories of
oppression, which I'd read when I got to work in the morning, and then not
be able to settle down to work for a good long while because I was so
outraged that these horrible stories really could have happened. Okay, so
maybe I overreact, but I'm not being oppressed, no one's discouraging me,
nor have they ever, really, and to get all upset about the general
situation of women in astronomy each week, with nothing in particular to
do about it, well, doesn't seem that useful.

I come from a wierd perspective myself. My father is a scientist, and so
I've never known these "socially adept" people to whom Kathy Mead alluded,
nor did it ever occur to me, growing up, that science was a strange,
socially unacceptable, field to go into. Until reaching graduate school
(where I am now) I was rarely outnumbered as a women in physics. For
instance, in my freshman year at Brown there were ~45 potential physics
majors, only 7 of whom were female, but by sophomore year that had changed
to 12 majors, 6 women and 6 men. This final ratio seems "normal" to me. It
is normal, it reflects the population as a whole and at Brown. I do not
understand why, at least in my generation, physics and astronomy is not
normally distributed between the sexes.

I didn't fully recognize how much I missed a "normal" atmosphere until I
was in one again. I had the great fortune to spend a year in the X-ray
group at Saclay. They are approximately half female, at all levels of
tenure. Maybe it was the difference between France and the US, maybe it
was simply the individuals (I haven't been to enough institutions to know
the scatter in group dynamics), but it just felt so natural. I got a whole
lot more work done too, though there are undoubtably other reasons for

It frustrates me that even when a group that is hiring new people pays
attention to trying to attain diversity, often the goals are so low.
Increasing the number of women, or having more female faculty than
average, is viewed as an accomplishment. Of course these are steps in the
right direction, but I find it hard to applaud a group for finally hiring
their first female faculty member, or miraculously managing to have 2 out
of 10 faculty be females, and therefore through shot-noise be above
average. I strongly feel that a 50-50 distribution should be what is
considered normal for any department. Any thing else is just wierd,
regardless of whether this applies to every department in the country.

However, I said "feel" for a reason. It can hardly be called a goal, when
I have no actions that I think should be used to accomplish it. I think it
is high time for actions, I'm just not entirely comfortable with what they
should be. For instance, my father, as chair of a biophysics department,
decided to do something about the gender diversity in his group. What he
did was research, and keep his eye out for women in the field who were
either unhappy with their current position for various reasons, or who
seemed to be moving up the ladder more slowly than their research record
would appear to warrant. He then actively recruited these specific people
to apply, and during his tenure as chair 4 out of 5 hires he made were
women, making his department more than 1/3 women.

Was this partially spurred on because he has a daughter in science?
Definitely.  Was it an immoral thing to do? I didn't think so at the time,
but I know some people, some of them female, who are concerned that smart
male astronomers are not getting hired because people are looking
specifically for women.

I think the situation right now is simply bizarre, and I think actions
need to be taken. So I'd like to hear what actions people think are
useful, reasonable and effective. Although it is useful to have a forum
where we can share our experiences and thoughts (as I have just so
long-winded-ly done), I'd much rather be doing something about it.

Cara Rakowski