AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of June 11, 2010
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. Pasadena Recommendations: A Third Option

2. CSWA-sponsored sessions at the Miami AAS

3. Daring to Discuss Women in Science

4. Why Do Women Leave Science And Engineering?

5. Visiting Assistant Professor or Visiting Instructor

6. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN

7. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

1. Pasadena Recommendations: A Third Option
From: Edmund Bertschinger [edbert_at_mit.edu]

Maybe you, like me, are in an astronomy or physics department that supports the
principles of the Pasadena Recommendations for Gender Equality in Astronomy but
find that some of the details may present an obstacle. For example, your
promotion and tenure process may not be completely open because committee
meetings as well as the selection of letter writers are confidential, or you may
not have a formula for tenure that you feel is easily characterized. If your
department's only choice in this situation is to fully accept or reject the
Pasadena Recommendations, the outcome is predictable and unfortunate.

A third option exists. Departments can give a qualified endorsement of the
Pasadena Recommendations while describing concerns about or restrictions in
implementing various parts. The Endorsement page:


will soon have a new section for qualified endorsements, enabling departments to
describe their concerns and discuss matters of partial implementation. This may
also give us an opportunity to share new ways to promote gender equity beyond
those ideas listed in the current Recommendations.

Qualified endorsement will give your department the chance to go on record as
supporting gender equity in astronomy (physics is welcome, too!). As we share
experiences with the obstacles they will diminish, enabling us all to focus on
the positive efforts that make a difference.

At MIT, we discussed the Recommendations in our departmental governing body and
found a total of three recommendations of concern. In each case, careful
examination led us to work-arounds that retain the spirit of the recommendations
while adapting them to our local circumstances. For example, the tenure process
can be made more open if the department chair meets with each untenured faculty
member annually to provide feedback and assess progress towards tenure. Written
advice is also very helpful -- both general advice given to all candidates and
specific, confidential advice for individuals.

I am pleased to add MIT to the list of institutions endorsing the spirit of the
Pasadena Recommendations while contributing discussion of our concerns and
matters of implementation. I encourage others to join us in supporting gender

2. CSWA-sponsored sessions at the Miami AAS
From: Nancy Morrison [nancy.morrison_at_utoledo.edu]

At the 216th AAS meeting in Miami, FL, the CSWA sponsored a town hall and a
special session on unconscious bias.

In her introduction to the town hall, CSWA chair Joan T. Schmelz gave an
introduction to the topic, "Designing a 21st Century Astronomy Career Track." In
it, she argued persuasively that issues concerning "female-friendly" and
"family-friendly" workplaces will have to be addressed in order for successful
career tracks to be designed. She also presented some fascinating, current
information on the proportion of women at various professional ranks (slide 12
in her PowerPoint). Lively discussion followed. 

Joan's PowerPoint can be found here:


Session 202, "Addressing Unconscious Bias," began with an introduction by Joan
Schmelz and continued with talks by Patricia Knezek, Caroline Simpson, and
Michele Montgomery. The visuals for all these stimulating presentations can be
found here:


3. Daring to Discuss Women in Science
From: Nancy Brickhouse [bhouse_at_head.cfa.harvard.edu]

[A recent article in the NY Times by John Tierney brings back bad memories of
the speculations of Larry Summers concerning women in science. We wonder why
these speculations refuse to die a natural death. Eds.]

The House of Representatives has passed what I like to think of as Larry's Law.
The official title of this legislation is "Fulfilling the potential of women in
academic science and engineering," but nothing did more to empower its advocates
than the controversy over a speech by Lawrence H. Summers when he was president
of Harvard.

This proposed law, if passed by the Senate, would require the White House
science adviser to oversee regular "workshops to enhance gender equity." At the
workshops, to be attended by researchers who receive federal money and by the
heads of science and engineering departments at universities, participants would
be given before-and-after "attitudinal surveys" and would take part in
"interactive discussions or other activities that increase the awareness of the
existence of gender bias."

I'm all in favor of women fulfilling their potential in science, but I feel
compelled, at the risk of being shipped off to one of these workshops, to ask a
couple of questions:

To read more, click here:


Some thoughts on this article from Hannah can be found on the Women in Astronomy


4. Why Do Women Leave Science And Engineering?
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

A recent article in Forbes by Jennifer Hunt, suggests that women leave science
and engineering because of pay and promotion opportunities, or lack thereof.

American policy analysts are concerned about the declining U.S. share in world
patenting and scientific publishing. Many trace this to the perceived failure of
the U.S. to educate as many scientists and engineers as "competitor" countries.

One possible solution to this problem is to increase the number of immigrants
skilled in science and engineering. An alternative is to increase the number of
natives skilled in these fields, with the underrepresented groups of women and
minorities as obvious targets.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, coauthor of the report "The Athena Factor: Reversing the
Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology," emphasizes yet another
strategy: increased retention of women. The 2008 report identifies the major
reasons why women leave science and engineering at a higher rate than men--from
lack of a buddy network to outright sexual harassment--and proposes ways to make
science and engineering careers more "friendly" to women, such as sponsorship
arrangements with senior executives and clear paths into the management

Are females exiting from science and engineering disproportionately? And if so,
is this exodus simply a hallmark of male-dominated fields in general, or is it
specific to science and engineering?

To read more, click here:


5. Visiting Assistant Professor or Visiting Instructor
From: Karen Bjorkman [Karen.Bjorkman_at_utoledo.edu]

The Department of Physics and Astronomy
at The University of Toledo invites applications for a non-tenure-track
visiting position to begin in August 2010.  Pending final budgetary approval,
the appointment will be for one year with the possibility of reappointment for a
second or third year at the discretion of the university.  The position will
have a primary focus on teaching introductory physics, astronomy, and natural
science courses.  A Ph.D in physics, astronomy, or a closely related field is
required for appointment at the Visiting Assistant Professor level; candidates
with a Masters degree may be considered for appointment at the Visiting
Instructor level.  Prior teaching experience is required.  The candidate filling
this position will be expected to teach twelve credit hours of courses per
semester, some of which may include laboratory or recitation sections.  We
encourage applications from women and minority candidates.  Applicants should
include a current CV, a one- or two-page statement of teaching philosophy, and
three reference letters.  Review of the applications will begin on July 10,
2010, but the position remains open until filled.  

Applications should be sent to: Chair, VAP Search Committee, Dept. of Physics
and Astronomy, MS111, Univ. of Toledo, Toledo, OH, 43606-3390 or by e-mail to
Willie.Brown_at_utoledo.edu .

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7. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

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