AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of April 6, 2012
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery
This week's issues:
1. Why Sexism, Racism, and Other Forms of Oppression Must be Considered Together
2. Survival Strategies for African American Astronomers and Astrophysicists
3. The Mighty Mathematician You've Never Heard Of
4. Giving Women the Access Code
5. Toys for Girls and Boys
6. New NASA Mentoring Program for Girls
7. M. Hildred Blewett Fellowship
8. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN Newsletter
9. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN Newsletter
10. Access to Past Issues of the AASWOMEN Newsletter
1. Why Sexism, Racism, and Other Forms of Oppression Must Be Considered Together
From: Women_in_Astronomy_Blog
[This week’s guest blogger at the Women in Astronomy blog is Nick Murphy. Nick
is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. His
research is on solar physics, including the role of magnetic reconnection in
solar eruptions. He is active in several community groups in the Boston area
that are working for gender equity and racial justice. - eds.]
It is a long term historical trend that liberation movements tend to leave
behind members of other marginalized groups. For example, as pointed out by
authors such as bell hooks and Audre Lorde, the feminist movement through much
of the last century focused on issues most relevant to white middle class women,
and the Civil Rights movement did not sufficiently challenge sexism and
patriarchy in the African American community. Both of these movements largely
left behind women of color.
Intersectionality is the idea that different forms of oppression (such as
sexism, racism, heterosexism, and transphobia) are interconnected and thus
cannot be considered in isolation. The racism experienced by men of color
differs from that experienced by women of color, and the way sexism plays itself
out depends strongly on many other identities such as sexual orientation.
Intersectionality is a powerful concept because it can help our community avoid
excluding people who are members of multiple marginalized groups.
To read more:
2. Survival Strategies for African American Astronomers and Astrophysicists
From: Jedidah Isler [jedidah.isler_at_yale.edu]
Dr. Jarita Holbrook recently posted the following article to astro-ph. It's a
timely article about the experience and coping mechanisms of African American
Astronomy students (and minority students in general). It's a fantastic piece
that should also be mentioned here and discussed extensively in
Astronomy/Astrophysics departments across the country.
Abstract: The question of how to increase the number of women and minorities in
astronomy has been approached from several directions in the United States
including examination of admission policies, mentoring, and hiring practices.
These point to departmental efforts to improve conditions for some of the
students which has the overall benefit of improving conditions for all of the
students. However, women and minority astronomers have managed to obtain
doctorates even within the non-welcoming environment of certain astronomy and
physics departments. I present here six strategies used by African American men
and women to persevere if not thrive long enough to earn their doctorate.
Embedded in this analysis is the idea of 'astronomy culture' and experiencing
astronomy culture as a cross-cultural experience including elements of culture
shock. These survival strategies are not exclusive to this small subpopulation
but have been used by majority students, too.
To read more:
3. The Mighty Mathematician You've Never Heard Of
From: Gerrit Verschuur [verschuur_at_aol.com]
Natalie Anger wrote this article for the New York Times about a mathematician
who united two pillars of physics, symmetry and the universal laws of
Scientists are a famously anonymous lot, but few can match in the depths of her
perverse and unmerited obscurity the 20th-century mathematical genius Amalie
Albert Einstein called her the most “significant” and “creative” female
mathematician of all time, and others of her contemporaries were inclined to
drop the modification by sex. She invented a theorem that united with
magisterial concision two conceptual pillars of physics: symmetry in nature and
the universal laws of conservation. Some consider Noether’s theorem, as it is
now called, as important as Einstein’s theory of relativity; it undergirds much
of today’s vanguard research in physics, including the hunt for the almighty
Higgs boson. Yet Noether herself remains utterly unknown, not only to the
general public, but to many members of the scientific community as well.
When Dave Goldberg, a physicist at Drexel University who has written about her
work, recently took a little “Noether poll” of several dozen colleagues,
students and online followers, he was taken aback by the results. “Surprisingly
few could say exactly who she was or why she was important,” he said. “A few
others knew her name but couldn’t recall what she’d done, and the majority had
never heard of her.”
To read more:
Currently you can read 10 NY Times articles a month for free.
4. Giving Women the Access Code
From: Michael Rupen [mrupen_at_aoc.nrao.edu]
There is an interesting article in the NY Times today (3apr12) about
(successful) efforts at Harvey Mudd College to increase the number of women
graduating with computer science degrees. 2005: 22% of comp sci graduates were
women; 2012: 40% -- pretty impressive!
There are lots of good ideas here: re-shaping the intro course to focus less on
young male geeks; sending female freshmen to an annual women's programming
conference; changing problem sets to address areas covering all of science,
rather than just programming. Much of the article focuses on HM's president,
Maria Klawe, which is also interesting, in looking at the career of a woman in
math & administration.
To read more:
Currently you can read 10 NY Times articles a month for free.
5. Toys for Girls and Boys
From: Jo Eliza Pitesky [jo.pitesky_at_jpl.nasa.gov]
At the website below, you pick one commercial for toys marketed to boys and one
for toys marketed to girls. Then get a mashup of the video of one with the audio
of the other.
I'm betting that other AASWOMEN Newsletter readers are going to find it
simultaneously hilarious and horrifying.
6. New NASA Mentoring Program for Girls
From: L. Trouille_at_Women_in_Astronomy_Blog
NASA has a new mentoring program for 5th-8th grade girls through the
Women_at_NASA program, called NASA G.I.R.L.S.
For a direct link to the program:
For a great write-up and short interview about the program:
If you know girls who might be interested, NASA G.I.R.L.S. will begin accepting
applications online by the beginning of May. They are due by June 15th, 2012.
The program itself runs July 9th through August 10th, 2012.
7. M. Hildred Blewett Fellowship
From: WIPHYS Apr 05, 2012
APS is now accepting applications for the M. Hildred Blewett Fellowship. This
award is intended to enable women to resume physics research careers after an
interruption. The deadline to apply is June 1, 2012. For more information and/or
to apply, click here:
8. How to Submit
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10. Access to Past Issues
Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.