AAS Committee on the Status of Women 
Issue of April 6, 2007 
eds. Joan Schmelz, Geoffrey Clayton, & Hannah Jang-Condell 

This week's issues: 
 
1. Paid Maternity Leave to Women at Berkeley 
 
2. Princeton Expands Benefits for Graduate Students with Children 
 
3. WIPHYS Discussion Thread on Childcare: AAS Meeting Participant 
 
4. WIPHYS Discussion Thread on Childcare: the AAS Perspective 
 
5. Response to Gender Gap in Physics 
 
6. Moms-Go-Home Myth 
 
7. Dorrit Hoffleit Centennial Celebration 
 
8. How to submit, subscribe, or unsubscribe to AASWOMEN (New!) 
 
[Eds. note: Please be patient as the AAS switches servers and AASWOMEN 
experiences some adjustment glitches. If you have submitted an item in 
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1. Paid Maternity Leave to Women at Berkeley 
From: Jennifer Hoffman [jhoffmanastron.Berkeley.edu] 
 
At the CSWA session at the Seattle AAS meeting, we discussed family 
leave policies at various institutions, and I thought this related bit 
of news was worth passing along. At UC Berkeley, the Graduate Council of 
the Academic Senate has just passed a provision allowing six weeks of 
paid maternity leave for female doctoral students. As a friend of mine 
commented, "It would've been better if they also gave men paternity 
leave, but it's certainly a good step in the right direction." 
 
This article has the details: 
http://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2007/03/07_maternity.shtml 
 
The full text of the policy is here: 
http://www.grad.berkeley.edu/policies/memo_doctoral_parent.shtml 
 
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2. Princeton Expands Benefits for Graduate Students with Children 
From: Jennifer Hoffman [jhoffmanastron.Berkeley.edu] 
 
Another story related to family leave policy just appeared in the 
Chronicle of Higher Education: 
 
http://chronicle.com/daily/2007/04/2007040503n.htm 
 
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3. WIPHYS Discussion Thread on Childcare: AAS Meeting Participant 
From: Vicky Kalogera [vickynorthwestern.edu] 
 
My experience with the childcare options at the last AAS meeting in 
Seattle was extremely disappointing and frustrating. The AAS web site 
had just 1-2 sentences about offering child care services on site (the 
convention center) and provided a phone number to call. I called that 
number about 5 times (2 the week before I went to the meeting and 3 more 
during the meeting); I would always get an automated message, asking me 
to leave my name, phone number, and what I need and someone would call 
me back. No one ever called me back. My husband (another AAS member who 
was also attending the meeting) and I ended up splitting the day between 
child-caring and going to talks separately. 
 
On the first day of the meeting I talked to a number of AAS officials 
who were supposed to be responsible for the conference organization. All 
but one were not even aware that such a posting existed on the AAS web 
site; the one person who knew about it kept telling me: "AAS is not 
responsible for this child care arrangement; we just got the phone 
number from the Convention Center and put it on our web site". The 
Convention Center representative told me: "we don't have any connection 
to this child care service; we just provide the phone number" 
 
This was the first time that my husband and I attended a meeting 
together with our baby son (13 months old) and it was just horribly 
frustrating to get this kind of response. In my opinion the AAS 
conference organizers stuck 2 sentences on their web site about child 
care services provided as window dressing without ever bothering to 
check that this childcare company was responsive, and they did 
absolutely nothing after I complained; in fact their attitude was: "why 
is this our problem"? 
 
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4. WIPHYS Discussion Thread on Childcare: the AAS Perspective 
From: Susana Deustua [deustuaaas.org] 
 
It is true that in the current set up the AAS has no responsibility when 
childcare contractors/companies do not respond or fail to meet their 
obligation. The childcare issue has been a constant buzz, though always 
in the background and rarely directly addressed. Maybe if enough people 
raise this as a priority to the Council and the Executive Officer then 
perhaps the AAS Council will authorize or otherwise find the resources 
to offer childcare as a regular part of the meetings. Currently the only 
help the AAS offers is a very modest "childcare scholarship" (($400 per 
year TOTAL is available thanks to an anonymous bequest) that only covers 
a minute portion of the cost.
 
There was an ad hoc childcare committee several years appointed by the 
Council that looked into the issue of providing childcare at the 
meetings. That committee looked at how other societies deal with the 
topic. The conclusion was that most do not offer on-site childcare, 
leaving it up to the parents to sort out on their own. When onsite 
childcare is offered at a meeting, the upfront cost is on the order of 
$20,000 - $30,000 for a typical 4-day meeting. This covers liability 
insurance, care providers' pay, and rental of a room or rooms. Often the 
meeting sponsor must provide the toys, furniture etc at additional cost 
and is legally liable should there be a mishap. The childcare providers 
(whether KiddieKorp or others) often require parents to sign up for a 
minimum number of hours (usually 3-4) per day. The hourly cost, whether 
$7 or $15, to the parents, does not cover all the expenses associated 
with onsite childcare. You need to have ~50 kids per hour or ~500 kid 
hours per day to break even -- not likely at an AAS meeting. 
 
Thus a meeting sponsor, and for us, that would be the AAS, must be 
willing to absorb the roughly $5000 per day cost (or "loss" depending on 
how you look at it) associated with providing on-site childcare to 
meeting attendees. Personally, I think it's a benefit to the profession 
if we can support being a scientist to be not incompatible with family 
responsibilities.
 
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5. Response to Gender Gap in Physics 
From: Megan Donahue [donahuepa.msu.edu] 
 
In response to Jenn Bush with concerns about the gender gap in physics: 
 
I've been on our graduate recruiting committee at Michigan State physics 
and astronomy, and as a student at Colorado (in astrophysics) I 
participated in graduate selection there. 
 
What I can say is that the GRE score is a usually only a small factor in 
the overall decision. Unlike selective undergraduate institutions, we're 
not reviewing thousands of applications. A single committee can read the 
letters, the essays, review the transcripts and standard test scores for 
everyone. In every process I've seen, there was no automatic triaging or 
ranking based on numbers alone. 
 
What does get scrutinized very hard? 
 
Very poor GRE scores. These are scores well below the average in the 
applicant pool. The experience is that a person with a very poor Physics 
GRE has a difficult time making it through qualifying exams or required 
grad courses. Almost all applicants do fairly well on the math GRE -- 
that exam does not really sample the mathematics needed to do well in 
physics/astronomy grad school anyway. I suspect people with low math GRE 
scores don't kid themselves about grad school. The verbal & writing GREs 
have more scatter, and that score gives some indication about how well 
and carefully a person reads and writes, but here again, it's the 
unusually low score that gets our attention, as a potential concern (for 
domestic students). 
 
But what I look at most carefully are the course choices and grades in 
the upper-level physics courses, the letters written by people of the 
applicant's choice, and the applicant's essay itself. A history of B/C 
performance in those courses may indicate a lack of mastery needed to 
advance. A lack of upper level courses indicates a need for additional 
undergraduate courses to catch up. Lukewarm letters that only discuss 
classroom performance give no indication for the applicant's capability 
to do research. And finally, an essay that goes on about how the 
applicant has always wanted to study cosmology/black holes/the stars, 
and how the universe is a giant and fascinating place is barely 
readable. 
 
Tell us about your research, how you solved problems, what you have done 
to fulfill this desire to learn. A description of desire without any 
evidence of your drive to satisfy that desire is something anybody can 
write, and unfortunately, something of a yawner to read. (I wish someone 
had told me that before I wrote MY grad school essay!) 
 
I don't see much evidence in women being excluded from grad school at 
the admissions level. In astronomy, there are plenty of women in the 
applicant pool. Our admission slate in astronomy is typically ~50% 
women. 
 
So, getting into grad school is not a matter of small distinctions 
between GRE scores. While a low score is a red flag, I've never heard 
someone comparing two applicants by saying, well, he got an 85th 
percentile score and she got an 79th percentile score, so he must be 
better. That's just not the way grad admissions works, because one high 
score doesn't predict probability of success. Even the most selective of 
places have to look at the full applicant package in order to choose the 
students they feel are the most likely to thrive. 
 
Finally, I see no evidence that the female applicant pool in astronomy 
is any higher caliber than the male applicant pool. There is 
self-selection in whether someone applies to graduate school, and as far 
as I can tell, we're not getting a statistically interesting overload of 
deluded males thinking they can go on to grad school with say, D's and 
low GRE etc. etc. It appears as the advice undergrads are given (and the 
advice they heed) is on average, gender-neutral. 
 
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6. Moms-Go-Home Myth 
From: Michael Rupen [mrupenaoc.nrao.edu] 
 
This is an interesting article on what they call the "opt-out myth": the 
idea that highly educated/talented women choose to leave work for family 
more often than men, and that that explains much of the gender gap at 
the top. This is published in Columbia Journalism Review but the Web 
version has some additional information and links: 
 
http://www.brandeis.edu/investigate/gender/optoutmyth.html 
 
They also discuss the increasing demands of the workplace, which are 
making it more and more difficult to juggle jobs and home life. To quote 
one interesting paragraph: 
 
"Underlying all this is a genuinely new trend that the moms-go-home 
stories never mention: the all-or-nothing workplace. At every income 
level, Americans work longer hours today than fifty years ago. 
Mandatory overtime for blue- and pink-collar workers, and eighty-hour 
expectations for full-time professional workers deprive everyone of a 
reasonable family life. Blue-collar and low-wage families increasingly 
work "tag-team" schedules so that someone's always home with the kids. 
In surveys done by the Boston College Sloan Work and Families Research 
Network and by the New York-based Families and Work Institute, among 
others, women and men increasingly say that they'd like to have more 
time with their families,21 and would give up money and advancement to 
do it, if doing so didn't mean sacrificing their careers entirely. Men, 
however, must face fierce cultural headwinds to choose such a path, 
while women are pushed in that direction at every turn." 
 
Not news I suppose, but it's nice to see a rebuttal to the various NY 
Times etc. stories on the subject. 
 
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7. Dorrit Hoffleit Centennial Celebration 
From: William van Altena [vanaltenastro.yale.edu] 
 
Last April 28 and 29, friends, former students and colleagues of Dorrit 
Hoffleit gathered in New Haven for a conference celebrating the 
beginning of The Hoffleit Centennial year. The two days were filled with 
papers reviewing her impact on the many fields of research and education 
that occupied her interests during more than 75 years of research. 
Sessions included: 
 
Women in Astronomy and the History of Astronomy, Education, the Solar 
System, Spectroscopy and Photometry, Variable stars, Catalogs and a 
session of Poster Papers. On the evening of the 28th we all enjoyed a 
reception accompanied by a video of testimonials and good wishes 
followed by a banquet. The proceedings of the conference are being 
published by the L. Davis Press and will be ready to ship in 
approximately three months. The conference was supported in part by 
grants from the NSF and Yale University. 
 
The Centennial year celebrations were brought to a close on March 13th, 
at the New Haven Lawn Club with a luncheon attended by 94 friends and 
colleagues who honored Dorrit's 100th birthday, which had actually 
occurred the previous day. A toast of best wishes and reminisces was 
made by Pierre Demarque, followed by the presentation of a gift from the 
Astronomy Department by Chair Jeff Kenney and Bill van Altena conveyed 
best wishes from those not able to attend. 
 
Dorrit has been overwhelmed with birthday greetings and asked that I 
convey her appreciation to all who sent her best wishes. 
 
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