AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of October 22, 2010
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. The Legacy of Anita Hill

2. Policies on Student-Professor Dating

3. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

4. Best Policies for Gender Equity?

5. The Cost (and Value!) of Breastfeeding and Doing Astrophysics

6. Smith College Executive Education Program for Women

7. Padova Postdoctoral/Predoctoral Position

8. STScI Education and Public Outreach Content Specialist

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

10. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

1. The Legacy of Anita Hill
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

Anita Hill is back in the news this week. It reminds me of the bad old days and
how much worse it was for women in astronomy before her testimony at the
Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. When I was a graduate student, my thesis
advisor did not discriminate against me based on my gender; he never said,
"Sleep with me if you want an 'A'." What he did to me was much more subtle, but
what he did to me did not have a name . . . not until Anita Hill testified
before congress. Now it's called sexual harassment.

Thank you, Anita Hill, for giving a name to what happened to me.

When I was a grad student, my own husband did not understand why I couldn't work
all day, why I couldn't listen to my advisor, and why I had to write my thesis
without supervision. Several years later, he sat glued to the television
following every twist and turn of the Thomas confirmation hearings. "Now I
understand what you went through," he said when the hearings ended.

Thank you, Anita Hill, for helping my husband to understand what happened to me.

When I was a grad student, many observatory/computer staff offices were
decorated with pin-ups of naked women. It was hard to ask for
help/socialize/even just say "good morning" in such an environment. All those
posters disappeared after the Hill-Thomas hearings.

Thank you, Anita Hill, for transforming my workplace into a more professional

Every university, corporation, and government lab now has a sexual harassment
policy and procedure. I personally was involved in writing the procedure for the
AAS. Sexual harassment still happens, but at least victims now have recourse.

Thank you, Anita Hill, for having the courage to change society.

2. Policies on Student-Professor Dating
From: Meg Urry [meg.urry_at_yale.edu], Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

The last two issues of AASWOMEN contained items related to Student-Professor
dating. The recently adopted policy of Yale University is among the strongest we
have seen, and may represent the way of things to come. We feel that it is only
a matter of time before universities sign on to a policy where professors are
not allowed to have sexual/amorous relationships with undergraduate students,
period (and relations with other students are not allowed for anyone in
supervisory or potentially supervisory role with respect to that student). The
policy statement goes to some effort to explain the reasoning, so it is quoted
in full below.

Students don't often think of themselves as vulnerable, but we each know of
several Student-Professor relationships that have destroyed the student's
future. A relationship with an undergrad is inherently too unequal, and it is
the job of university policy to protect the students.

Yale University Policy on Teacher-Student Consensual Relations

The integrity of the teacher-student relationship is the foundation of the
University's educational mission. This relationship vests considerable trust in
the teacher, who, in turn, bears authority and accountability as a mentor,
educator, and evaluator. The unequal institutional power inherent in this
relationship heightens the vulnerability of the student and the potential for
coercion. The pedagogical relationship between teacher and student must be
protected from influences or activities that can interfere with learning and
personal development. Whenever a teacher is or in the future might reasonably
become responsible for teaching, advising, or directly supervising a student, a
sexual relationship between them is inappropriate and must be avoided. In
addition to creating the potential for coercion, any such relationship
jeopardizes the integrity of the educational process by creating a conflict of
interest and may impair the learning environment for other students. Final
ly, such situations may expose the University and the teacher to liability for
violation of laws against sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Therefore,
teachers (see below) must avoid sexual relationships with students over whom
they have or might reasonably expect to have direct pedagogical or supervisory
responsibilities, regardless of whether the relationship is consensual.
Conversely, a teacher must not directly supervise any student with whom he or
she has a sexual relationship.

Undergraduate students are particularly vulnerable to the unequal institutional
power inherent in the teacher-student relationship and the potential for
coercion, because of their age and relative lack of maturity. Therefore, no
teacher shall have a sexual or amorous relationship with any undergraduate
student, regardless of whether the teacher currently exercises or expects to
have any pedagogical or supervisory responsibilities over that student.

Teachers or students with questions about this policy are advised to consult
with the department chair, the appropriate dean, the Provost, or one of his or
her designees. If an alleged violation of this policy cannot be resolved
informally, a student may lodge a complaint with the dean of the school in which
the student is enrolled or where the teacher exercises his or her supervisory

Violations of the above policies by a teacher will normally lead to disciplinary

For purposes of this policy, "direct supervision" includes the following
activities (on or off campus): course teaching, examining, grading, advising for
a formal project such as a thesis or research, supervising required research or
other academic activities, serving in such a capacity as Director of
Undergraduate or Graduate Studies, and recommending in an institutional capacity
for admissions, employment, fellowships or awards. "Teachers" includes, but is
not limited to, all ladder and non-ladder faculty of the University. It also
includes graduate and professional students and postdoctoral fellows and
associates serving as part-time acting instructors, teaching fellows or in
similar institutional roles, with respect to the students they are currently
teaching or supervising. "Students" refers to those enrolled in any and all
educational and training programs of the University. Additionally, this policy
applies to members of the Yale community who are not teachers as defin
ed above, but have authority over or mentoring relationships with students,
including athletic coaches, supervisors of student employees, advisors and
directors of student organizations, Residential College Fellows, as well as
others who advise, mentor, or evaluate students.

3. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
From: Hannah_at_women_in_astronomy_blog

I recently read Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. The premise of the book is
basically that those we consider geniuses didn't really get there strictly on
talent alone. Rather, luck, opportunity, and hard work play as much, if not a
larger role than any innate ability.

An example of luck might be being born just after the cutoff date for youth
sports teams: Gladwell demonstrates that NHL players' birthdays are heavily
biased toward the beginning of the year for precisely this reason. Opportunity
is like Bill Gates' middle school PTA buying a computer. Hard work is summed up
in Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule, which says that it takes that many hours of
practice to become and expert at something.

It isn't too far a stretch to apply the same ideas to the question of women and
minorities in science. If factors such as luck, opportunity, and hard work play
such a large role in creating geniuses, then unluckiness, misguidance, and
discouragement clearly play a role in preventing people from achieving as well.

Let us consider the case of a hypothetical Jane, who is quite bright, but whose
parents never even consider that she might use a computer, who is encouraged to
follow her proclivities in writing rather than science, who pays a high social
cost for devoting herself to her studies, and who experiences hostility from her
male peers for beating them at what they consider their own game. Her brother
John, who is equally bright, might be presented with different opportunities and
encouragement. Would it then be any wonder that Jane might be directed toward
becoming an English major while John studies math and science?

All this supports arguments that expanding opportunities for minorities and
women and encouraging them to pursue math and science are effective ways to
increase their representation. The question, really, is how to put that into

4. Best Policies for Gender Equity?
From: Ed Bertschinger_at_women_in_astronomy_blog

I've been having lots of discussions with gender equity allies around my
university about how to make academic careers more attractive to women and how
to help level the playing field for women once they are on the faculty. We are
now seeking to reduce barriers through intelligent policies at the level of
universities or research organizations and in the federal funding agencies. A
group of us met recently with the new NSF Director, Subra Suresh, and were
pleased by his interest in these issues.

Three areas seem to me especially challenging and ripe for policy improvements:
maternal or family leave, child care, and accommodations for dual career

Many organizations now have some form of family leave exceeding the requirements
of the Family and Medical Leave Act, at least for faculty-level employees. What
about for graduate students? Postdocs? Staff? What are examples of best
practices? For example, should universities or funding agencies provide for paid
leave? What about for postdoctoral fellows, who are not employees and therefore
not subject to the same regulations as employees? Are these issues that have to
be solved at the top level (e.g. university-wide) or can smaller units make
initiatives? Are there examples of the latter? What should federal agencies do?

Child care is generally unaffordable for graduate students and places a
financial strain on postdocs and staff. Many organizations have subsidized day
care, however there are far too few spots for the demand. Should universities or
funding agencies provide portable child care benefits? Some places do; what are
examples of best practices?

Some university systems have made serious efforts to accommodate trailing
partners in dual career couples, with obvious benefits to their hiring success.
How important is this and what kind of accommodations work best?

Are there other topics you consider similarly important, where policies or
funding can make a real difference?

I welcome suggestions from AAS Women and gender equity advocates.

5. The Cost (and Value!) of Breastfeeding and Doing Astrophysics
From: AnnH_at_women_in_astronomy_blog

Only now do I realize that while folks were sharing stories with me about
breastfeeding and working, no one said it would be easy. My own mother, who has
been an elected judge for over 30 years, breast-fed all three of us for a year.
For some reason I figured it wasn't too hard. The answer is, it isn't too hard
(it is possible to do this).

I also remember reading quite a bit about how much less expensive breastfeeding
is than formula-feeding. This is quite true, but those figures don't take into
account the real cost of traveling with an infant. Disclaimer: I am traveling
with my daughter. I know it is possible to pump and bring the milk back, but I
made the choice (an expensive one) to keep her with me. This is an account of
things you need to consider if you want to do the same.

I just embarked on a major international trip for a 10 day astronomy conference.
We spent substantial additional money to pay for my husband and daughter to
attend with me to keep breastfeeding going during the trip (note: children held
on your lap are not free on flights, you have to pay hundreds of dollars in
airport taxes/fees). Since I needed my daughter nearby, we didn't find a cheaper
hotel, we stuck with the conference hotel, which was a larger drain on my
research grants. I was harassed a bit by airport security in Athens, Greece
about my breast pump (what is this? Can we take it apart to scan it! Answer:

The expense and headache did yield results: I got to ask questions about
accreting X-ray binaries, pop into the coffee break to chat, pop into the hotel
room to nurse a fussy Anya, and then pop back into the conference. I nuzzled my
daughter at lunchtime and I nursed her at night. So, it was a real pain and our
bank account is now depleted, but I am very glad we did it that way.

Next up, I head to Cambridge, MA for the Chandra User's Committee meeting. I am
learning about day care in other cities. I had no idea how expensive this can
be! Rates in Boston and Chicago (the two cities I've checked) range from
$12-$20/hour and if you're using a service there is an agency fee ($20-$40/day).
To do the math, it can cost you a cool $140-$160/day for reliable child care in
another city if you have to make a 'cold call'. Lucky for me, I have a
grandmother that I could fly in for $190 for a Southwest ticket. At these
prices, it becomes worth it to call everyone you are related to and that you
know well to find out if there are other options. However, all those phone calls
and emails cost you time. Again, no one said this would be simple.

Part of the solution is to turn down some of the travel, which I have done too.
However, my decision at this stage of my astrophysics career is that it would be
detrimental not to travel at all. I also feel (my opinion!) that being separated
from my daughter for more than an overnight right now is not good for the
breastfeeding relationship. So, my decision is to do both.

Luckily, it is not too hard.

6. Smith College Executive Education Program for Women
From: Ann Hornschemeier [Ann.Hornschemeier_at_nasa.gov]

This program was one that a few of us from NASA attended a few years ago. It is
an excellent program and I want to make sure other astronomers knew about it. It
is for people who find themselves transitioning to leadership positions within
organizations and is run by the excellent Smith College executive education
program. I received this note from the organizers:

"We would be delighted to welcome any interested women to the From Specialist to
Strategist: Business Excellence for Women in Science, Technology and Engineering
program. Attendees do not have to be affiliated with SWE, but we do offer
complimentary annual membership to those who would like to join. Our 2011
brochure is in production and I'll be sure to get this out to you as soon as it
is ready.

Program dates are June 5 - 10, 2011. The tuition is $6,900 and includes program
materials, housing, and most meals. For more information, please visit our web
site at http://www.smith.edu/execed/programs/ScienceTechnology/SWE/ .

7. Padova Postdoctoral/Predoctoral Position
From: Bianca Poggianti [bianca.poggianti_at_oapd.inaf.it]

The INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Padova (INAF-OAPd) invites applications for
a postdoctoral/predoctoral research position in the field of "Star formation in
clusters and superclusters". A copy of the announcement (in Italian) is
available at:


(click on Selezione...."STAR FORMATION IN GALAXY . . . ")

Applicants should fill the application forms and send them, together with a full
CV, a complete list of publications and a statement of research to:

Director of the Astronomical Observatory of Padova
Assegno di Ricerca - DD42/2010 vicolo dell'Osservatorio 5
35122 Padova

Candidates should have obtained or should be in the process of obtaining a Ph.D.
in astronomy, physics or equivalent by the time of starting the position. They
should arrange for at least two letters of reference to be sent to
bianca.poggianti_at_oapd.inaf.it before the deadline for application: 15
November 2010.

The appointment is for one year with a possible renewal depending on the
availability of funds. The annual salary will be about 19400EUR.

Women, Minorities, and Disabled Persons are encouraged to apply.

8. STScI Education and Public Outreach Content Specialist
From: Denise Smith [dsmith_at_stsci.edu]

The Space Telescope Science Institute is seeking a motivated Education and
Public Outreach (E/PO) content specialist to conduct and lead
astrophysics-related projects for the Office of Public Outreach (OPO). OPO
manages the E/PO efforts for the Hubble Space Telescope and the future James
Webb Space Telescope, and assists NASA in defining and coordinating its space
science E/PO efforts through the Astrophysics Science Education and Public
Outreach Forum (SEPOF). OPO has recently been awarded the contract to conduct
the E/PO program for the newly established Virtual Astronomical Observatory
(VAO). OPO is looking to hire a content specialist who can split their time
between the SEPOF (40%) and VAO (60%) projects. Further information, including
duties, requirements, and application process, may be found online at


The Space Telescope Science Institute, located on the Johns Hopkins University
Campus in Baltimore, Md, offers a competitive salary and generous benefits.

Qualified candidates should have an advanced degree in Astronomy, Astrophysics,
Physics, or closely related discipline. Ph.D. preferred. Minimum of three years
related experience in the creation and dissemination of Astrophysics E/PO
content and programs required. Web-based information sharing and Web-based
resource experience critical.

Interested candidates are requested to complete an on-line application, attach a
resume in the "Resume Upload Section." Please include job #10-0093 in the
filename. Applications received by November 15, 2010 will receive full
consideration. Women and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.
EOE/AA/M/F/D/V. Additional relevant education or experience for stated
qualifications may be considered.

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

[Please remember to replace "_at_" in the below e-mail addresses.]

To submit to AASWOMEN: send email to aaswomen_at_aas.org. All material sent to
that address will be posted unless you tell us otherwise (including your email

To subscribe or unsubscribe to AASWOMEN go to


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10. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

Past issues of AASWOMEN are available at


Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.


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