AAS Committee on the Status of Women  
Issue of March 26, 2010	 
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery 
This week's issues: 
1. Anonymous Request for Advice 
2. Summit on Gender and the Postdoctorate II 
3. Women Making Gains on Faculty at Harvard 
4. Inspiring Women in Science 
5. Progress, but Long Way to Go for Women in Science 
6. Juggling Books and Babies 
7. NASA Planetary Science Summer School 
8. Women of Color Awards 
9. Factors that Encourage and Discourage Women and Minorities in Pursuing STEM 
10. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN 
11. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN 
1. Anonymous Request for Advice 
From: Anonymous Female Astro PhD Student 
[Please send advice to aaswomenaas.org -- Eds.] 
I'm a late-type graduate student who is suffering from what seems to be an  
incredibly hostile relationship and I don't know what to do. I am about a  
year from graduating and my relationship with my advisor is complicated  
at best and toxic at worst. My decision to work with this person was  
probably ill-advised, but I am not in a position to start over. 
I understand that getting a Ph.D. is full of struggles, but for some reason,  
mine seems to have had more landmines than are typical. For instance, a  
friend of mine overheard one of the professors in our department talking  
with someone about my advisor's fascination with my breasts, at an  
astronomy conference.  I fight tooth and nail to be taken seriously by my  
advisor, while my position is undermined by other people "of power"  
reducing me to a body part: my breasts. The actions of this professor are  
beyond inappropriate, but he is not who I have to deal with every day, and  
is not someone that has any say in my graduation or my success. My  
advisor is. 
Truth be told, my advisor has a history. I have only seen glimpses of his  
past, from asides from other women ("oh, is he still chasing all of the  
female grad students?") to innuendos made to other grad students, but  
never anything overt dealing with me. At the same time, being around him  
has made me feel creepy from time to time. As such, I go out of my way  
to wear baggy clothes and avoid anything form fitting. I've done this since  
undergrad. I would notice once in a while that advisor's attention was not  
fully on me, and would readjust the way my shirt was hanging or put a  
pullover over it, or would laugh uncomfortably to a subtle sexual joke  
(they happened occasionally) but I was not willing to assume that he  
wasn't trying to behave more appropriately, and if anything had ever been  
overt, I would have not let it slide. The caveat is that unless things are  
completely overt, I tend not to notice them. 
I'm scared that reporting this will get me a "cage rattler" reputation. I really  
want to continue on in academia, and know this would be a serious blow  
to that goal. In order to harbor a better relationship with my advisor, I've  
taken to acting more bubbly and feminine. It seems to have smoothed over  
our interactions, but I can't believe that I am putting on this mask to  
placate an advisor who seems to be extra sensitive to me disagreeing or  
acting strong, adding this new development to everything else, this "tactic"  
is even more worrisome. I now feel undressed by him. How can I have any  
normal interactions with someone that I now worry is undressing and  
objectifying me? 
I have no idea what to do, and am sort of paralyzed by anger by the whole  
thing. I want to be a scientist, and know that speaking up will jeopardize  
that. If I could, I would just ignore this all, put my head down, but I'm so  
buried in the non-science part of being a graduate student that I am having  
a really hard time dissociating the science from all this other baggage.  
AASWOMEN, I could really use your help and advice. 
Thanks for listening. 
2. Summit on Gender and the Postdoctorate II 
From: HannahWomen in Astronomy Blog 
When scientists try to address a problem, we focus on the data. So a good  
bit of the meeting was devoted to data on postdocs, or at least what there  
is of it. It turns out that it's fairly hard to even count the number of  
postdocs in the country. Even within a single institution, it might be hard  
to count the number of postdocs, because titles and funding sources are  
not uniform. Nevertheless, some statistics do exist, and those sources  
include the NSF's Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) and Survey of  
Doctoral Recipients (SDR); and Sigma Xi's "Professionalizing the  
Postdoctoral Experience, with highlights summarized in Doctors Without  
Orders. I wasn't able to write down all the statistics presented, but the  
presentations should all be made available online eventually.  
Read more at: 
3. Women Making Gains on Faculty at Harvard 
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelzmemphis.edu] 
An article by Tamar Lewin appeared recently in the NY Times on Women  
at Harvard: 
Five years after Lawrence H. Summers, then the president of Harvard  
University, suggested that innate differences might explain why women  
are less successful in science and math careers than men, Harvard is, in  
some ways, a different place.  
Lawrence H. Summers, now a White House adviser, resigned from  
Harvard in 2006. Professors can get up to $20,000 to help pay for child care, 
there are new programs to encourage young women to pursue science and research  
careers, and seven of the 16 members of Harvard’s Council of Deans are  
now women.  
“This is not your father’s Harvard,” said Martha Minow, dean of the law  
For the remainder of the article, please see: 
4. Inspiring Women in Science 
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelzmemphis.edu] 
An article by Meg Lowman appeared recently in the Herald-Tribune on  
famous women in science: 
Marie Curie tops a poll of inspiring women in science. Curie, along with  
husband Pierre, first isolated the two radioactive elements radium and  
plutonium. She was born Marie Sklodowska in Warsaw in 1867. Each  
year, in my Conservation Biology class at New College, I conduct a pre- 
quiz to assess student knowledge of the sciences. One question asks  
students to name three famous women scientists, as well as three famous  
male scientists. The list of men is consistently filled with a diverse 
array prominant names. But despite the fact that New  
College attracts the top students throughout Florida and the country,  
almost none can list three women scientists. More than 80 percent fail to  
list even one. 
Approximately 15 percent cite Marie Curie, and usually a handful proudly  
scribble Jane Goodall. Rachel Carson gets an occasional mention, and a  
few individuals write down the name of their professor (likely the most  
savvy students hoping to earn a higher grade?). 
Most high school -- as well as college -- textbooks give many more  
examples of distinguished male scientists than females. Although more  
men than women have historically pursued science, female students need  
role models to inspire career choices. This may in part explain why women  
still fall significantly behind as compared to their male counterparts in  
many science-based careers. 
For the remainder of the article, please see: 
5. Progress, but Long Way to Go for Women in Science 
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelzmemphis.edu] 
An article by Denise Linke appeared recently in the Chicago Sun-Times on  
women majoring in science: 
More American high school and college women are majoring in sciences  
than ever before. 
But businesses and government agencies must do more to keep women in  
science classes and get them into the workforce, sociologist Sandra  
Hanson said during a Women's History Month lecture at Fermi National  
Accelerator Laboratory.  
"We are definitely making progress, but women remain under-represented  
in science and science education," Hanson declared. "Women earned 20  
percent of the Ph.D. degrees in engineering (in 2006), but they represented  
only 12 percent of employed engineers." 
Physicist Sharon Lackey, who introduced Hanson, agreed that sciences are  
no longer a male-only preserve.  
For the remainder of the article, please see: 
6. Juggling Books and Babies 
From: WIPHYS March 24, 2010 
 “Graduate Students Juggle Parenthood with Academic Politics”,  
Washington Post, 3/23/10.  
University of Maryland graduate student Anupama Kothari went into  
labor on a Friday afternoon two years ago. After a Caesarean section, she  
was a first-time mother, with a baby girl with huge brown eyes. Read the  
rest of the story at  
The author of the article, Jenna Johnson, has a blog on the subject of  
family/maternity leave at various institutions  
7. NASA Planetary Science Summer School 
From: WIPHYS March 24, 2010 
NASA is accepting applications from science and engineering post-docs,  
recent PhDs, and doctoral students for its 22nd Annual Planetary Science  
Summer School, which will hold two separate sessions this summer (19-23  
July and 2-6 August) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.  
During the program, student teams will carry out the equivalent of an early  
mission concept study, prepare a proposal authorization review  
presentation, present it to a review board, and receive feedback. At the  
end of the week, students will have a clearer understanding of the life  
cycle of a robotic space mission; relationships between mission design,  
cost, and schedule; and the tradeoffs necessary to stay within cost and  
schedule while preserving the quality of science.  
Applications are due 1 May 2010. Partial financial support is available for  
a limited number of individuals. Further information is available at  
Leslie Lowes 
Manager, NASA Planetary Science Summer School Pasadena, Ca. 91109 
8. Women of Color Awards 
From: WIPHYS March 25, 2010 
For more than two decades, Career Communications Group (CCG) has  
been celebrating diversity in the science, technology, engineering and math  
(STEM) fields. In 1987, CCG introduced the Black Engineer of the Year  
Awards (BEYA) and later, in 1996, the Women of Color Awards (WOC)  
recognizing the accomplishments of diverse men and women in corporate  
America. Since then, this prestigious group of awards has been coveted by  
the nation’s most successful employees and employers and has become the  
hallmark for external and internal corporate recognition programs in the  
diversity space.  
The 2010-2011 award programs: 
The 2009 list of Women of Color honorees: 
The 2010 Black Engineer honorees: 
9. Factors that Encourage and Discourage Women and Minorities in  
Pursuing STEM Careers 
From: WIPHYS March 25, 2010 
“U.S. Gets Poor Grades in Nurturing STEM Diversity", by Erik W.  
The nation’s K-12 education system gets an average grade of D for the job  
it does “engaging and nurturing” minorities to pursue careers in the STEM  
fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and a D-plus  
for such performance with girls, based on results released today from a  
survey of female and minority chemists and chemical engineers. Read  
article at  
10. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN 
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11. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN 
Past issues of AASWOMEN are available at 
Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.