Date: Fri, 19 Dec 2003 13:40:07 -0500 (EST)
Subject: AASWOMEN for December 19, 2003

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Weekly issue of December 19, 2003
eds. Patricia Knezek & Michael Rupen

This week's issues:
1. So many committees, so little time (Chronicle article)
2. Discussion of family & tenure [continued]
3. AAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships
4. Assist. Prof., Univ. of Toledo

1. So many committees, so little time (Chronicle article)
  [Please note that the online address for non-subscribers expires
   *TODAY*, Friday 19dec03, so please look at this quickly! -- Eds.]

From: Carla Eastis

  Perhaps you've already seen this article from the Chronicle,
but I wanted to be sure you were all aware of it given your
interest in the retention and development of minority and
women faculty.
Take care, hope to see you all soon!
    Carla Eastis
    WFF Research Associate

This article, "So Many Committees, So Little Time," is available
online at this address:

This article will be available to non-subscribers of The
Chronicle for up to five days after it is e-mailed.

The article is always available to Chronicle subscribers at this

1. So many committees, so little time (Chronicle article)
2. Discussion of family & tenure [continued]
  [This continues a discussion started by a letter in the December 9 WIPHYS
  asking for ideas on how postdocs in physics might be made more 
  accommodating to women, and especially to women with children.  Some
  of these are quite long but the issues raised, and the variety of
  responses given, seem to warrent reprinting here. -- Eds.]

From: Kris Sellgren

I think whether you drop out of a science career, or succeed at one,
doesn't depend as much on whether or not you have children, or
whether or not you have other important, time-consuming things
going on in your personal life (eldercare, health problems, personal
committments to some cause).  I think it depends more on perseverance
and luck.  

The perseverance is the most important.  Many women in astronomy and/or 
physics have horrible stories to tell of overt discrimination, covert 
discrimination, sexual harassment, and so on.  Many of these stories 
have appeared in this newsletter.  The question is, after you have been 
discriminated against or harassed, do you give up?  Or do you fight and 
fight and fight to be allowed to do work that you love and are capable 
of doing?  

There is also a factor of luck.  It can make all the difference, when 
you hit a rocky patch in your career, whether you have a mentor or 
colleague who is willing to argue for you.  Whether your last paper was 
ok, or brilliant (we can't all be brilliant all the time :).  Whether 
your department chair or supervisor is a jerk or not (they are not *all* 

For every conceivable situation, there are cases of people who made
it through, and people who didn't.  Vera Rubin pointed out that *every* 
woman astronomer in the NAS had children.  She thought that having 
children was an *advantage* in your career.  Yet, we also see women 
dropping out at every stage, overwhelmed by the dual demands of career 
and kids.  

A huge factor on whether a woman can continue a career while having 
kids is her partner (if she has one).  A partner whose idea of 
"helping with childcare" is to play with the baby one hour a day is 
TOTALLY useless.  You would be better off getting rid of the creep and 
finding someone who actually takes parental responsibilities seriously.  
My advice to anyone thinking of having a child with someone: take a 
serious look at their partner's committment to household tasks first.  
If they don't do 50% or 51% of the household tasks, forget them as a 
co-parent.  If they can't be trusted to clean the cat box on a regular 
basis, how responsible are they going to be about changing diapers?
A *helpful* partner, on the other hand, can make having a family
a wondrous thing and a joy to mix with a career.

Another huge factor is one's employer.  Few places that astronomers
work have written policies for family leave.  When you get pregnant,
or adopt a child, there are two extremes.  One is total support from
your department, officemates tolerant of your having the baby in a
playpen in the office, a supervisor willing to give you as much time
off as you need, a supervisor who doesn't blink when you have to leave
early because your kid is running a fever and the day care center is 
sending your kid home.  The other is total hostility -- assumptions 
that you aren't working hard enough, not enough time off to physically 
recover from childbirth and to get the baby into a routine you can plan 
your life around, hostility towards you if you walk out of a faculty 
meeting or a colloquium because if you don't pick up your kid from day 
care that instant, it's a dollar for every minute you are late.  It 
takes research into the "climate" of departments (talk to other parents) 
to learn which are supportive, which are not.

There are also a ton of life events that are just as demanding on
your time as raising a child.  A parent with Alzheimer's.  A partner 
who is hit by a car and is now confined to a wheelchair.  A child 
with Down's syndrome.  Getting cancer yourself.  That's the short list, 
and it could be much longer.  I know one astronomer who dropped out for
several years due to a bipolar disorder (formerly "manic-depression").  
They thought they would never work again.  Then, medications improved, 
and this astronomer is back in the field, productive as ever.  That's 
a success story.  I know another astronomer whose child became terminally 
ill and took several years to die.  The other parent disappeared, so the 
astronomer's career went on hold for several years.  When the ordeal was 
over, the astronomer couldn't see any way to recover professionally.  
You can't put "year1 - year2: taking child to hospital for endless 
rounds of chemotherapy" on your CV.  That's a tragic story.

The age issue: this is discrimination, as surely as refusing to hire
someone because of their skin color.  It's a lose-lose situation to
sue for discrimination.  But, you can look for another position where
they are more open-minded.  I got two tenure-track offers the year
I turned 35; how can 36 be too old?  I know astronomy grad students
who started their PhD's in their mid-30s.  Five or ten years from
now, are they going to be unemployable because of their age?  I
think not, if they find the right department and have the right CV
for the position.

Kris Sellgren
Astronomy Dept., Ohio State University

[This and several following letters comment on a posting by Prof. A.W. Peet
 of Toronto (December 12), which read in part:
    In other words: dear friends, please do not devalue non-mothers. 
    This is probably the oldest form of discrimination against women in
    the book. The real issue here is work life versus **personal** life.
 -- Eds.]

> From WIPHYS of December 15, 2003
I would like to respond to one aspect of the recent posting
by Prof. Peet.  I certainly agree that broader work-life balance
is an important issue, and affects everyone.   But I do think
that it is reasonable to have a discussion focusing mostly
on issues related to parenthood, if a group wants to.

There are two important ways in which parenthood
(whatever one's family structure or sexual orientation;
whether one gives birth or adopts) is worthy of separate
discussion and attention:
 1.  There are reputable studies (mentioned earlier
     in this thread by others) which have demonstrated
     specific impact of parenthood on women's careers,
     as opposed to men's careers, even though members
     of both sexes are parents.
  2.  Parenthood is often a very public part of one's
     personal life.  If one is ever pregnant, is ever forced
     to bring a child to work or miss work due to childcare
     emergencies, must fly abruptly to another part of the
     world to finalize an adoption, etc., then it becomes
     impossible to  keep colleagues from knowing one
     is a parent.

While other aspects of a personal life may be equally
time-consuming, or may also happen to be most pressing
during the "tenure-clock" years, I think the items above
may single out parenthood at present.

Prof. Elizabeth H. Simmons
Michigan State University

> From WIPHYS of December 15, 2003

As a mother of four, I take issue with Prof. Peet.  Once you have
children, you have an enormous responsibility and a demand on
your time and energy that can only be compared to a person with a
serious medical condition.  It was for that reason that I did not seek

I do not de-value non-mothers.  In fact, I think women who are
leery of motherhood shouldn't be mothers unless they have
husbands or partners who are willing to give up professional
potential to care for the child or children.  The  caregivers carry
burdens that either lessen their professional effectiveness or that
result in children not being given the support and attention they
need.  When my children grew up and left home, that was when I
was able to turn to my work life with the attention that IT

Happy holidays to all,
Jane Carter Webb, Ph. D.
Emeritus Associate Professor of Physics,
  Computer Science & Engineering
Christopher Newport University
Newport News, Virginia 23606 

> From WIPHYS of December 15, 2003
Amanda Peet makes an excellent point. Let us not run down each
others' choices, or condescend to them.

As it happens, this morning I heard about a female faculty member
(not in our field) with young children who was advised NOT to
apply for a one year extension of her tenure clock because "it would
make her look weak". I think it's unfortunate that family leave is
stigmatized in this way.

Ellen Zweibel
Professor of Astronomy and Physics
University of Wisconsin, Madison 

> From WIPHYS of December 16, 2003
Sherry Towers suggests a government funding 
program particularly aimed at women with children
at the postdoctoral level.  Switzerland has such a program, called
the Marie Heim-V^Ōgtlin Grants (named after the first Swiss female
doctor). It is available to women who are doctoral candidates or
postdocs and who had to reduce or interrupt their work, usually for
family reasons.   Recipients are funded for two years at a university
or research institution and can work anywhere between half and full
time. A brief summary (in English) is at 


> From WIPHYS of December 16, 2003
Thanks to the many of you who took the time to write
supportive notes in response to my previous posting.
More than I can say, I am very grateful for the support and
kind words.  I have still been thinking about pro-active ways to
change the most gender discriminatory aspects of this field.
One long-standing issue is pay inequities for females
vs males.  This message concentrates on postdoctoral pay

In America, most fundamental physics research is funded
through grants obtained through the NSF, DOE, and DOD.
My husband (who just started a physics faculty position
this year) is in the process of filling out a DOE grant
application.  It did not escape my attention that the
"rule of thumb" figure for standard postdoctoral pay
that was given to him by his university was significantly
more than what I currently make.  And I know of at least
a couple of other female physicists who make a lot less than I
do (even though one of whom has a few more years experience
than I have). 

Of course, we don't have direct access to all the salaries
of our postdoctoral colleagues so that we can compare
what we make to those who are employed at the same university, or
even at similar universities.  We may just suspect that we are
being paid less than the "academic standard" because of the
many studies that show there is a wide spread epidemic of
gender-based wage discrimination (and not just in physics).

A suggestion: perhaps a proposal should be put forward to the
funding agencies that they  annually publish, based on data collected
from all grants, a data set that contains information like the years-
from-Phd and salaries (and gender?) of postdocs, along with some
type of code indicating the sub-field in which each postdoc works
(ie; condensed matter physics, experimental particle physics,
etc...I'm sure these codes must already exist).  Personal information
(like names, SS numbers, etc) need not be part of the file.  Thus,
when a postdoc lands a job, she (or he) can take a look at the data
file and determine whether or not the offered wage is competitive
with the standards for that particular sub-field. I personally would
rather see a full data set published rather than "reduced" data (ie;
tables showing mean wages, etc).   I find that reduced data almost
invariably never has the exact information I need.  The data set
should be made public and easily available.

I think universities would be a lot less prone to paying female
postdocs many thousands of dollars less per year than their male
counterparts if they knew that those females had direct access to
the salary information of their colleagues.  Plus, such a plan would
be cheap and relatively easy to implement (the funding agencies
already collect this information anyway).  It wouldn't solve all the
pay inequities, but it might at least be a deterrant to gender-based
wage discrimination for those who are paid out of grants from
public funding agencies.

What do people think?
Sherry Towers 

> From WIPHYS of December 16, 2003
In response to Ellen Zweibel's posting (12/15/03)

>As it happens, this morning I heard about a female faculty member
>(not in our field) with young children who was advised NOT to
>apply for a one year extension of her tenure clock because "it
would >make her look weak". I think it's unfortunate that family
leave is >stigmatized in this way.

I think this is really outrageous and we need to devise strategies to
"out" this sort of behaviour.  Can you - either openly or secretly -
write to your university Dean or Vice Chancellor etc. to let them
know that such comments are being made at your university and
what is the universities policy on such matters?  Do people think
such actions would be useful?  Maybe we can start a more
coordinated "dob in bad bosses" campaign!

Sarah Maddison 
 Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

> From WIPHYS of December 17, 2003
First, I would like to thank Prof. Peet for her important
message, with which I wholeheartedly concur.  Those who wish to
discuss the practical issues associated with raising children should
be cautious about the rhetoric they use.   All too often, it is
uncomfortably close to many sentiments used in the past to
discriminate against women and justify differential pay.

Early in my career, in my 4th year as a postdoc, the stipend
associated with my position was quite small.   When I asked
the dept. chair if I could supplement my fellowship by teaching
a course one semester, he replied that those positions were
reserved for men WITH Children.  At the same time, I was seeking
a regular faculty position, and often heard that my lack of
teaching experience was a problem!

It is also worth remembering, that a tenured faculty position 
at a major research institution is something that only a very
small minority of physicists, male or female, achieve and that
there are many other rewarding career paths.   Physicists can
also have positions in government, industry, and small colleges,
to list the most common.  Some of these seem (superficially) to
be more compatible (e.g., via flexible hours) with raising a 
family than other; however, there are examples of successful 
women with families in almost all options (including astronomers
who need to make long visits to observatories in distant locations).

We need to support and respect women physicists in a variety
of lifestyles and career paths.

Beth Ruskai

P.S.  We should also be cautious about interpretations of 3rd
hand accounts of incidents out-of-context.  Consider the anecdote

   "As it happens, this morning I heard about a female faculty
member   (not in our field) with young children who was advised
NOT to apply for a one year extension of her tenure clock because
"it would make her look weak". I think it's unfortunate that family
leave is stigmatized in this way.

The advisor might also have meant that the woman's record was
already strong enough, and she didn't need an extra year.

 Mary Beth Ruskai              
Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Univ. of Massachusetts Lowell
Research Professor, Dept of Mathematics, Tufts University

> From WIPHYS of December 17, 2003
Hello All,
I was going to wait to send this email but the timing seems 
appropriate.  I just finished an article for CSWP's Gazette on career 
breaks and re-entry type grants.  Some of you many recall my
questions to WIPHYS on this topic last spring and also a couple of
years ago.  The article is a summary of what I found.  I myself took
off time to be a  trailing spouse and a mom.  For a while now I've
been working to get some kind of funding to help me get back on
track.  Keep an eye out for the article.  I'll post a msg when it's out
and also post the link for the list of web resources I've collected. 
This  is currently under construction but will be done by the time
the article is out if not sooner.

Elizabeth Freeland 

(MODERATOR'S NOTE: The next issue of the Gazette will
appear in February-March, prior to the APS March Meeting in

3. AAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships
> From WIPHYS of December 15, 2003
Help shape public policy in Washington, DC. Scientists and
engineers are invited to apply for one-year science and
technology policy fellowships in Washington, DC, beginning
September 2004. These 10 programs, administered by the American
Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), are designed
to provide each Fellow with a unique public policy learning
experience and to bring technical backgrounds and external
perspectives to decision-making in the U.S. government. 
Fellows serve in the Congress, the Department of Homeland
Security, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes
of Health, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the
Agency for International Development, the Environmental
Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, the Food and
Drug Administration, and other federal offices.
Applicants must have a PhD or an equivalent doctoral degree by the
application deadline (January 10, 2004) from any physical,
biological or social science, any field of engineering or any relevant
interdisciplinary field. Individuals with a master's degree in
engineering and at least three years of post-degree professional
experience also may apply. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and
federal employees are ineligible. Stipends begin at $60,000.
For application instructions and further information about the
AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Programs,
1200 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202/326-6700
Under-represented minorities and persons with disabilities are
encouraged to apply.

4. Assist. Prof., Univ. of Toledo
> From WIPHYS of December 18, 2003
The Department of Physics and Astronomy at The University of
Toledo invites applications for a tenure-track position at the
Assistant Professor level, to begin in August 2004.  We are
especially interested in a theorist with expertise in the electronic
structure of nanoparticles, clusters, or macromolecules, who can
complement existing theoretical and experimental research groups
in atomic and condensed  matter physics, as well as astrophysics. 
Areas of research in the department include astronomy/
astrophysics, condensed matter physics and thin films, atomic and
molecular physics, and biological and medical physics.  Faculty
members in the department are expected to develop externally
funded research programs which involve both graduate and 
undergraduate students. Successful applicants will be expected to 
demonstrate excellent teaching and communication skills and a 
commitment to quality teaching at all levels, including the 
introductory level. A PhD in Physics (or a closely related field) and 
previous postdoctoral experience are required.

Questions or requests for further information about the position
may be addressed to Dr. Karen Bjorkman, Search Committee
Chairperson, Department of Physics & Astronomy, The University
of Toledo, 2801 W. Bancroft Street, Mailstop 111, Toledo, Ohio 
43606-3390.  Prospective applicants can learn more about the
department from our web page at  and
information about the university is at  We
particularly encourage applications from women and minority

Applicants should submit a curriculum vitae, research and teaching 
statements, and the names, addresses (including e-mail), and phone 
numbers of at least three references to: Chair, Faculty Search
Committee, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, MS #111, 
University of Toledo, Toledo, OH 43606-3390.   The application
deadline is Friday, January 16, 2004.

The University of Toledo is an Equal Access, Equal Opportunity, 
Affirmative Action Employer and Educator.