Date: Thu, 9 Aug 2001 18:49:04 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: AASWOMEN for August 10, 2001

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Bi-weekly issue of 08/10/01, eds. Meg Urry & Patricia Knezek

This week's issues:

1. Mentoring Opportunity via email
2. Name Dropping at Conferences
3. "The Computer Gender Gap" -- article in The Boston Globe, 07/31/01
4. Carnegie Symposium Honoring Vera Rubin
5. Additional comments on the Chronicle of Higher Education article, and 
   responses to it published in the issue of 07/27/01. 

1. Mentoring Opportunity via email
From: Judy Johnson

MentorNet Call For Mentors

Be a mentor! MentorNet is an online mentoring program which pairs community
college, undergraduate, and graduate women in engineering, related sciences
and technologies, and math with engineers and scientists working in industry
and national labs. MentorNet mentors who were involved with last year's
program reported spending an average of 20 minutes per week while gaining
personal satisfaction and skills from guiding future colleagues.

If you are interested in encouraging more women to pursue their interests in
scientific and technical studies and careers, please consider serving as an
online mentor through MentorNet.

We need at least 3,500 mentors for the fall of 2001 to be paired with students 
from over 100 colleges and universities!

For more information and to sign up, go to:

MentorNet's sponsors include: AT&T, Intel, Ford Motor Company, IBM, Cisco
Systems, Alcoa Foundation, U.S. Department of Education's FIPSE, U.S.
Department of Transportation, Hewlett Packard, IEEE, Microsoft, SPIE, Texaco, 
SAP Labs, DuPont, Oracle Corporation, Los Alamos National Laboratory, NASA 
Ames Research Center, OSA, Educational & Productivity Solutions, Engineering 
Information Foundation, National Science Foundation, Lawrence Livermore 
National Laboratory, and Motorola
2. Name Dropping at Conferences
From: Zodiac Webster

'Tis the season for conferences and I wanted to share two of my pet 
peeves about conferences with you. 

1) Some of us don't know who you are talking about when you refer
to a scientist by their first name only in a talk. You may be on
a first name basis with that person or have been in the field for
15 years, but it is tough to get the lay of the land when only
first names are mentioned. 

2) When you talk about your wonderful student, use their full name. 
Get their name into circulation!!! Don't say "my student" or just 
"First Name". Use their full name so they get better name recognition
in the future. It is very disappointing to hear my up and coming 
friends referred to by only their first name. _I_ know who is
being referred to, but the other 100 people at the conference don't

Astronomy is not as small a field as it once was. There are more
John's, Susan's, Jason's, and Amy's than there once were. 

   Thanks for your attention. 
   Zo Webster

3. "The Computer Gender Gap" -- article in The Boston Globe, 07/31/01
From: Meg Urry

[Eds. note:  Below is a reprint from the WIPHYS Posting for Aug 02, 2001.
We thought the article would be of general interest.]

By the time they get to college, young men see a future for
themselves in computer science. Young women don't. Concerned
and embarrassed that women account for only 15 to 20 percent of
their computer science majors, a number of top colleges are
looking for ways to attract more women to careers in computers.

4. Carnegie Symposium Honoring Vera Rubin
From: American Astronomical Society

Pre-registration Deadline: 15 August 2001.

Following the 199th Meeting of the AAS in January, the
Carnegie Institution of Washington will host a 1.5-day
Symposium in honor of Vera Rubin's many contributions
to astronomy. 

This Symposium, entitled "Galaxies: Mind Over Matter",
will be held at Carnegie's headquarters in downtown
Washington, DC, on 10-11 January 2002. It will begin
with a public lecture by Allan Sandage (OCIW) and will
be followed by a full day of scientific talks on subjects
ranging from extrasolar planetary systems to the large-
scale matter distribution in the universe.

The scientific program and details on how to pre-register
can be found at the Rubin Symposium website with URL:

5. Additional comments on the Chronicle of Higher Education article, and 
   responses to it published in the issue of 07/27/01. 

From: Lynda Williams

Response to Megan Donahue's reaction to CHRON HI ED editorial.

I applaud your response to that silly editorial in the chron!
It was so sophmoric it bordered on idiotic!  What also bugged me, in 
addition to your points, was that she implied that women fail on some
'investment' contract we enter into when we accept funding for 
graduate school. AS IF we are bound to some social contract like an 
indentured servant!  AS IF most grad students don't pay back all of
their 'investment' by working as research assistants and TAs for 
slave wages with little or no benefits!  I quit a phd program (not 
proud of it) because of a 'switch and bait' advisor and because once
I got into it I realized it was not for me.  Life is too short and 
precious to spend 4-8 years suffering in a bad situation - let alone, 
to spend the rest of your life doing something you really don't want 
to do.  How can you know that until you try? IMHO pressuring female 
grad students into a sense of indebtedness to some social contract is 
a baaad idea that will not increase retention but make more of us run, 
run, run away from sciences!

I'm in another phd program. I intend to finish but when people ask me 
what I'll do with it I say: I'm going sailing!  It is nobody's damn 
business! I don't owe anyone! I work my tushie off enough right now 
to compensate for the 'investment'!  Lovon!


PS: Yeah Megan! Let's have a constitutional convention!!!


From: Judy Pipher

I did not read the Chronicle of Higher Education article referring to
supportive or non-supportive spouses, but I did read the three reponses
in the July AASwomen.

I am not married to an academic, but it seems to me that the choice of
a mate who respects you as a person, who will not attempt to run your life,
who will offer whatever support you require, and who expects the same
of you, is independent of the spouse's position: in fact these
characteristics are the sine qua non of a successful marriage partner.
Non-academics and academics both can work with you as an academic to
find an area of the country where both of you can find fulfilling
positions. Sometimes sacrifices (in my case a greater than 1 hour
commute) may be necessary so that you can live together. Other couples
work out different compromises, as mentioned in the newsletter. And
individuals' priorities change with time and circumstance as well. 

It has been many years since I faced these choices - good luck to the
current crop of young women who are pursuing both marriage and a career.

   Judy Pipher


From: Jo Pitesky

Telling prospective grad students early on that successfully pursing an
academic career requires a tremendous amount of commitment and geographic
flexibility is a good idea. Telling them as undergrads would be even better!
But, Dr. Williams seems to want to discourage *women* from the get-go if
they're going to quail from pursuing an academic career at all costs.

A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with five co-workers. It was a reunion of
sorts, since we had all overlapped in grad school. The other five (all male)
had all done highly regarded postdocs. Except for one who was still a
post-doc, *none* of the others were doing science. They had decided to focus
on family, or on other activities outside of work, or needed to find work in
this particular geographic area. In other words, they're just like me, though
I'm still doing a bit of science and I didn't do a postdoc. But they're all
male, so that must be good enough reason not to question their commitment to
an academic career, or accuse them of taking slots that could have gone to
other, more dedicated individuals, right?

I didn't think much of the author's airy assurance that the student's partner
could just find another law job in another major city. My husband is an
attorney. If I applied for and accepted a job in another state, he'd have to
pass the bar yet again, a non-trivial undertaking in most states. Multiply
that by several post-docs, each in a different location. Ugh. I don't know
which would be worse-having the job application cycle and bar study periods in
serial or parallel.

This isn't just an issue for attorneys, of course, and we all know the various
ways that two-career couples deal with the relocation issue. Dr. Williams
seems to feel that dealing with this complicated issue can be boiled down to a
straightforward "female graduate students should make clear early in their
romantic relationships that they may have to move. If their partners are not
flexible and supportive, the women can attempt to educate them -- or find new
partners." Yet, in a press release for her book, Dr. Williams says "quick,
glib advice can be hazardous to your mental health," and "Just because a
person is an expert doesn't mean that his or her advice is right for you, or
that a second expert wouldn't give you the opposite opinion.Ultimately, when
it comes to relationship problems we would all be more successful if we used
experts to help focus our thinking, but not to run our lives. The best
decisions are the ones we make for ourselves after learning how to think like
experts about a problem." Maybe I should send copies of this to the Cornell
psych grad students?

Finally, there's the idea that the only reason to get a PhD is to work in an
academic setting, and that any grad student who doesn't end up as a professor
was a waste of effort and limited resources. Maybe that's truer in
psychology, but (if demand from non-academic employers is any guide) that's
not the case in the sciences. Talk about an ivory tower view of life!

   Jo Pitesky


From: Anonymous

I read with interest the varied responses to the article from the
Chronicle of Higher Education on the effect of spouses on women's

I have seen far too many examples of women driven out of science, or
pushed into perpetual soft-money positions, because of their romantic
relationships. If the women in question are happy with their
situations, then that's great. There are many alternative career paths 
for scientists that don't involve the traditional academic one, and 
which can be very rewarding. But when a woman *does* have ambitions 
to pursue an academic career, and is forced to choose her relationship
over her career, this can make her very bitter. That isn't healthy
for any romantic relationship.

Megan Donahue is right that a young woman isn't going to listen to
advice about how important it is to choose a life partner who respects
the woman's life goals. But, those of us who mentor young women in
science have a responsibility to give that advice, even if it is

One way of looking at it: if your life partner doesn't respect your
career goals, or your career accomplishments, they don't respect YOU.
Why waste your life with someone who thinks so little of you? Lots of
factors go into sexual attraction, and short-term relationships can
be with anyone. Recreational sex can have its place in life :) But
once you are looking at a long-term relationship, a woman really needs
to evaluate how supportive her partner is. Do they do an equal share
of the housework or petcare? If not, you can bet they won't do an equal 
share of childcare. Is their conference always more important than your 
observing run? Another warning sign. How often do they volunteer to take 
over your household chores when you are up against a hard deadline that 
you are working 16 hours a day to meet? Do they introduce you at parties 
as their girlfriend, or as , who is working on her Ph.D. in
astronomy? Do they feel uncomfortable when your career is going better
than theirs -- your grades are higher, or you are publishing more papers,
or you are gathering more recognition in your field than they are in
theirs? Are they proud of you? Do they sulk? Or do they covertly or 
overtly undercut you and make you feel bad about being more successful?
What compromises are each of you willing to make in your careers to
stay together? Consider carefully, if they won't make sacrifices that
are similar to what you are willing to make. Questions like these are 
as important in choosing a life partner as other things all of us 
unconsciously consider in choosing a life partner, like the ability to 
compromise on politics, religion, whether or not to have children, and 
other serious life choices.

My own choices in relationships have been not been the best possible 
ones, but here are some of them:

Boyfriend A was great to be with in high school, when it didn't matter
that we weren't in the same classes. But when I went to college and he
started a career as a blue-collar worker, it was disastrous. He was so
threatened by my educational goals that he started criticizing everything
about college as a waste of time and not "real work". That relationship
died after a year of college. 

Boyfriend B seemed ideal -- fellow physics major, taking all the same
classes as me. But when I brought up children, he waved his hand
dismissively and said that would be my job to deal with. And every
time I got a higher score on an exam than he did, he would claim that
I had somehow sabotaged his studying. When he went from accusations to 
threats of physical harm, I moved out. 

Boyfriend C was supportive, proud of my accomplishments, eager to talk
astronomy with me all the time. We agreed not to have kids; we agreed
on everything. We struggled for years to find jobs in the same city,
and finally succeeded with my first postdoc and his tenure-track job.
Then he called me two weeks before my Ph.D. exam to tell me he was
living with his secretary. He subsequently married her and had kids.
I have no clue why he left me, why he chose the timing he did to drop
the bombshell of our breakup (I still managed to graduate, but he did 
very effectively wreck my first postdoc), or why his life goals changed 
so much without his saying a word to me about it.

I've been living with Boyfriend D for 13 years. He has moved, twice, to
different states to follow me to jobs. He has agreed twice to take over
some of my household chores when I had particularly stressful quarters of
teaching. We talk about each others' jobs (he's an ex-astronomer turned
computer whiz). He introduces me as ", a professor of astronomy 
at ." He's proud of my accomplishments; he mentions my 
research every time he teaches intro astronomy, and he made my favorite
dessert for me with "Award Winner", "Congratulations on Tenure", and 
"Full Professor" written on them in frosting for each of those special
occasions. It's not a perfect relationship; no-one's is. But at least 
I know that I haven't made any professional compromises for it, and 
Boyfriend D says he's happy with the changes in his career that have 
resulted from his following me from job to job.