AAS Committee on the Status of Women 
Issue of April 2, 2009 
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery 
This week's issues: 
1.  Harassment: Serial Offenders 
2.  Scarcity of Women in Sciences 
3.  Reports on Women/Minorities Pursuing STEM Careers 
4.  Are We There Yet? 
5.  Chinese Female Astronauts:  Must Be A Married Mom 
6.  Practicing Gender Equality in Science 
7.  Future bright for Harvard's female faculty 
8.  Networking while on a career break 
9.  ASP Cosmos in the Classroom & Travel Grants 
10.  Instructor/Assistant Professor, US Military Academy 
11.  How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN 
12.  Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN 
1. Harassment: Serial Offenders 
From:  Gerrit Verschuur [Verschuuraol.com] 
[Last week's issue of AASWOMEN contained a plea for help from an   
anonymous victim. Several of you wrote in with advice, and those   
e-mails have been forwarded to Anon. We also received the following   
more general reply, which we think everyone should read -- Eds.] 
On rereading "Anonymous Request for Advice" (AASWOMEN March 26, 2010)   
I again feel a surge of anger. All weekend I have been mulling over   
how to respond to Anon who feels trapped in a situation in which an   
unprofessional advisor is making her life miserable. I am writing this   
draft in a doctor's waiting room before a check up and it is not doing   
my blood pressure any good. What upsets me so much is that Anon's   
situation is not unlike that which confronted someone I know very   
well.  In her case the relationship to her advisor did became toxic   
(as Anon fears for herself) when her advisor's sexual and   
psychological expectations were not met.  In response, he poisoned the   
atmosphere in which she had to work. To cut a long story short, she   
was hung out to dry and graduated without any help from him.  However,   
she was unable to continue in the branch of astronomy she loved   
because he refused to write her a recommendation. Had that situation   
presented itself today he would have been taken to court. Thus the   
case described by Anon resonates deeply. She should not have to run   
the risk of a similar fate.  Thus I struggle to come up with advice   
that will offer Anon some solace. 
Anon tells us that her advisor has a history: He is a serial offender.   
It turned out that my friend?s advisor is such a person as well. How   
do we deal with the serial offenders?  Perhaps there is a hint of a   
lesson to be learned from what is happening in the Catholic Church at   
present.  All weekend we have been bombarded with news items and   
editorials about the scandal that is rocking the Church.  The   
parallels deserve examination. In one case, hundreds of young boys   
were molested by a serial offender and yet the bishop did nothing to   
intercede. It is not too far-fetched to liken a university department   
to the church, the chair to the bishop, and the tenured faculty to the   
priests. The victims of sexual harassment, or any form of the blatant   
abuse of power, which is what that is, have no one to turn to.  Anon   
is scared that if she reports what she is experiencing she will get a   
"cage rattler" label and that she will then suffer even more   
indignities. And so, after many years, the number of victims of the   
serial offender grows until, as is now happening in the Church, enough   
of those victims are heard and the whole thing blows up. Perhaps some   
day the department in question will be forced to confront the fact   
that it has, for too long, turned a blind eye to the problem. 
But none of what I have written above is of much help to Anon.  It   
only paints a context. What can we advise? Perhaps we need to look at   
what should be axiomatic in any university department, which is that   
all interactions must be conducted in a professional manner. Yet who   
can confront the serial offender that his behavior is unprofessional?   
Can Anon tell her advisor that he is behaving unprofessionally toward   
her without risking a reaction that may jeopardize her graduating and   
obtaining a good reference? Like the church, the department is run by   
a group of "male bosses protecting one another in that repugnant and   
hypocritical old boys' network," in the words of Maureen Dowd writing   
in her recent column about the Church. How can we get the chairs of   
university departments or directors of observatories to take this   
problem seriously? At the very least we can beg them to remind their   
faculty and staff that they are professionals and must treat their   
students and colleagues accordingly.  Perhaps if enough of the readers   
of AASWOMEN make copies of Anon's letter and this one, some of the   
department chairs might be motivated to determine if any of their   
students have been subjected to the sort of inappropriate behavior   
that Anon refers to.  A survey that guarantees the respondent?s   
anonymity might alert the department to problems so that those in   
authority can "clean house." (Perhaps the CSWA can come up with a   
suitable questionnaire.) 
The bottom line is that any woman deserves to be given an opportunity   
to pursue her love for astronomy in a professionally encouraging   
environment.  One's physical endowments, or whether or not one is   
"bubbly and feminine," in Anon's words, should play absolutely no role   
whatsoever in reaching a judgment of that individual?s capabilities.    
If my friend had been granted this right her life would have turned   
out very differently and the individual who made her life hell would   
long since have been fired. That is now water under the bridge. The   
best we can hope for now is that Anon will be able to become the   
scientist she wants to be and that her department will come down hard   
on her advisor who, in her words, reduced her to body parts and whose   
history is surely known to his colleagues. 
Wherever Anon is enrolled I can only hope that she never has to suffer   
the injustice that my friend had to live with. It is for just this   
reason, to help create a level playing field for all concerned, that   
the Committee of the Status of Women in Astronomy was set up. Their   
task is far from complete. Righting the wrongs that persist will   
create a hassle for those in charge but they have to be courageous   
enough to deal with the issues now.  Otherwise their ?church? will be   
made to pay later. 
(Addendum.  Yes, my BP was high when it was measured after writing   
this draft.  But after 15 minutes it settled back down again!) 
2.  Scarcity of Women in Sciences 
From: WiPhys, March 31 
In an era when women are increasingly prominent in medicine, law and   
business, why are there so few women scientists and engineers? A new   
research report by AAUW presents compelling evidence that can help to   
explain this puzzle. Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology,   
Engineering, and Mathematics presents in-depth yet accessible profiles   
of eight key research findings that point to environmental and social   
barriers " including stereotypes, gender bias and the climate of   
science and engineering departments in colleges and universities "   
that continue to block women's participation and progress in science,   
technology, engineering, and math. The report also includes up to date   
statistics on girls' and women's achievement and participation in   
these areas and offers new ideas for what each of us can do to more   
fully open scientific and engineering fields to girls and women.  To   
download the report, please see 
3.  Reports on Women/Minorities Pursuing STEM Careers 
From: WiPhys, March 25 
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.  You can read the article at 
4.  Are We There Yet? 
From:  Hannah Jang-Condell [hannahastro.umd.edu] 
[Thank you Hannah for pointing us to this article -- Eds.] 
In 1970, 46 women filed a landmark-gender-discrimination case.  Their   
employer was NEWSWEEK.  Forty years later, their contemporary   
counterparts question how much has actually changed.  Read the article   
5.  Chinese Female Astronauts:  Must Be A Married Mom 
From:  Hannah Jang-Condell [hannahastro.umd.edu] 
[Thank you Hannah for pointing us to this article -- Eds.] 
China's first two female reserve astronauts, selected earlier this   
month from a pool of 15 female fighter pilots, are required to be   
wives and mothers.  You can read more on this article at: 
6.  Practicing Gender Equality in Science 
From: Michele M. Montgomery 
The European Union has collected 10 years worth of information on the   
situation of women in science and on funding measures that encourage   
and retain women in science and technology careers.  They have   
developed a set of "Guidelines for Gender Equality Programmes in   
that is based on collection and assessment of practices developed in   
Europe, North America, and Australia.  They have also generated a   
database of gender equality programmes in science and technology which   
is available at 
http://www.pragesdatabase.eu/default.aspx . 
For example, at this website, search for 'astronomy' in the field of   
'promoter' to see which programs are available and by whom in Europe,   
North America, or Austrialia.  I thank Anke Lipinsky of the Leibniz   
Institute for the Social Sciences, Bonn, Germany, for pointing me to   
this site. 
7.  Future bright for Harvard's female faculty 
From:  WIPHYS, April 2 
This New York Times article reports on the improvements for female   
Harvard University faculty members since its female President Drew   
Gilpin Faust has been at the helm. 
8.  Networking while on a career break 
From:  WIPHYS, April 2 
If you are taking a career break there are still ways to sustain and   
build your network for a later return to the field.   Read more ways   
to keep your network going if you are taking time away, please see 
9.  ASP Cosmos in the Classrom & Travel Grants 
From:   Michele Montgomery [montgomeryphysics.ucf.edu] 
Calling all astronomy instructors!  The Astronomical Society of the   
Pacific (ASP) has announced its 2010 meeting to be held August 2 - 4   
at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  The meeting is to be held   
jointly with another hands-on symposia, Earth and Space Science:    
Making Connections in Education and Public Outreach.  Weekend   
workshops on teaching astronomy for teachers in grades 3-12 and those   
who work with them are to be held the weekend prior to the meeting   
(July 31 - August 1).  Travel grants are available for U.S. Citizens   
and instructors of astronomy at community colleges, 4-year liveral   
arts collees and state universities that do not have significant   
programs in astronomical research, and graduate students or post-docs   
who are entering into astronomy teaching positions next year.  More   
information can be found at 
10.  Instructor/Assistant Professor, US Military Academy 
From:  WIPHYS, April 2 
Applications are invited for this full time position beginning on or   
about 27 June 2010.  This is a 36-month term position without the   
possibility of renewal.  Applicants must hold an earned Ph.D. in   
physics, nuclear engineering or a related field and possess an   
exceptional ability and a strong interest in teaching undergraduate   
physics.  Duties will include teaching introductory calculus-based   
physics courses, and possibly teaching in the physics electives or   
nuclear engineering programs.  Research opportunities are available. 
Applications should be received NLT 16 April 2010.  The Ph.D. must be   
completed by time of appointment.  Applicants must be citizens of the   
United States.  Salary is highly competitive and commensurate with   
qualifications and experience.  For information about the department   
visit us at www.dean.usma.edu/Physics/physics.htm.  Send letter of   
application, curriculum vitae, a statement of teaching philosophy and   
career goals, not more than 3 letters of recommendation, and official   
transcripts to the 
Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering 
ATTN:  Ms. Gloria Gerard 
United States Military Academy 
West Point, New York, 10996 
The United States Military Academy is an Equal Opportunity,   
Affirmative Action Employer.  Women and minorities are encouraged to   
11. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN 
[Please remember to replace "" in the below e-mail addresses.] 
To submit to AASWOMEN: send email to aaswomenaas.org 
All material sent to that address will be posted unless you tell us otherwise 
(including your email address). 
To subscribe or unsubscribe to AASWOMEN go to 
and fill out the form. 
If you experience any problems, please email itdeptaas.org 
12.  Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN 
Past issues of AASWOMEN are available at 
Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.