AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of November 1, 2013
eds: Michele M. Montgomery, Daryl Haggard, Nick Murphy, & Nicolle Zellner

This week's issues:

1. Why men should advocate gender equity

2. How Do We "Demand Equality"?

3. Preventing Sexual Harassment at Science Fiction Conventions

4. Career Profiles: Astronomer to Research Scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

5. Annual Call for Nominations for NASA science advisory subcommittees

6. Registration deadline for 3rd Gender Summit

7. The Myth of "I'm bad at math"

8. Job Opportunities

9. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter

10. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter

11. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

1. Why men should advocate gender equity
From: Ed Bertschinger via womeninastronomy.blogspot.com

Recently I was asked to speak about gender equity at the Institute for Theory
and Computation at Harvard.  I chose to elaborate a theme that has been on my
mind lately.  In three brief parts:

I. Why men should advocate gender equity

Women are half the potential talent pool for any organization.   Broadening the
talent pool increases the talent.  Conversely, excluding or discouraging women
can only weaken an organization whose mission is not exclusionary.  This applies
to individual faculty research groups, academic departments, universities and
the entire scientific enterprise.  The same practices that improve gender equity
improve success and satisfaction for everyone.  A good climate for women is a
good climate.  Your competitors will be happy to absorb the talent you can't

An example: By working hard to improve the climate and to more effectively
recruit women who previously were preferentially declining our offers in favor
of the competition, MIT successfully increased the percentage of women graduate
students in physics from 13.7% in 2007 to 19.8% in 2013.  We now exceed the
national average and our students are better than ever.  This is a good
beginning, but significant progress towards full representation requires
encouragement and support of women in physics more widely, including at the
undergraduate level.

Other reasons I've heard why men should advocate gender equity:

-It's more fun to have a balanced, diverse group of students and colleagues.
-Our daughters, sisters, mothers and partners deserve equity.
-Meritocracy can not tolerate exclusion.
-It's their job!

To read more, please see


2. How Do We "Demand Equality"?
From: Elizabeth Rivers via womeninastronomy.blogspot.com

Two questions have come up repeatedly in the wake of the New York Times article,
"Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?":

1) How are we supposed to "demand equality" when we are only graduate students
(or undergraduates, or postdocs); we have no power; what can we possibly do?

2) Why should we keep at it when we know from all these data that we are going
to have to work twice as hard for half as much recognition, less money, and
fewer job opportunities?

In response to the first question I have compiled a list of advice I have heard
from other female physicists and observed in my own life.  It is by no means
comprehensive, but I hope to give you some strategies you can try.  Don't forget
that "demanding equality" doesn't have to be aggressive, but sometimes you do
need to make yourself heard and, more importantly, understood.

Problem: Women are perceived as less competent than men.

Solution: Give great talks. So many scientists underestimate the importance of
practicing public speaking.  You need to practice, do it in front of people, and
then get feedback.  Repeatedly.  If you still do not feel confident in your
ability to present your work, try a public speaking workshop or an improv acting
class.  You will quickly learn that what all these things really give you is
confidence.  When I was gearing up to defend my thesis my advisor told me, "You
are the expert on this topic.  No one else in the room knows as much about it as
you do." Which is a good thing to remember, especially when you are being
bombarded with questions.  Don't apologize, don't let yourself be bullied, and
if someone is being truly obnoxious just move on.  And don't forget, most people
form their overall impression of you in the first few seconds, so start
confident, dress well, and if possible, make sure the person introducing you has
material to talk you up with.

To read more, please see

3. Preventing Sexual Harassment at Science Fiction Conventions
From: Nick Murphy via womeninastronomy.blogspot.com

In January 2013, I attended Arisia, a sci-fi convention in Boston. For most
attendees, Arisia is a fun excursion where fans can dress up as their favorite
sci-fi character, play board games for hours on end, and speculate about whether
or not the Borg developed a taste for Earl Grey tea after attempting to
assimilate Captain Picard. Less appreciated is that for authors, editors, and
vendors, it is also a workplace and a professional environment. Amazing work is
being done within the sci-fi community to prevent sexual harassment, and these
strategies provide insight into what we in the astronomical community can do.

Anti-harassment work began months before the convention when representatives
from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center held a workshop on how to respond when
people report being sexually harassed or assaulted. The first response is
critical in setting the course for a survivor's recovery. By making this
workshop open to everyone, the organizers helped ensure that the community as a
whole is holding itself responsible for ending sexual harassment.

To read more, please see


4. Career Profiles: Astronomer to Research Scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
From: Laura Trouille via womeninastronomy.blogspot.com

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment
Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of
career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and
lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Christine Jones, an astronomer turned research
scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). She is the
Consortium director for the Smithsonian Grand Challenge of Unlocking the
Mysteries of the Universe.

To read more, please see


5. Annual Call for Nominations for NASA science advisory subcommittees
From: Jeffrey Kruk [Jeffrey.W.Kruk_at_nasa.gov]

NASA invites nominations for service on NASA science advisory subcommittees of
the NASA Advisory Council. U.S. citizens may nominate individuals and also
submit self-nominations for consideration as potential members of NASA's science
advisory subcommittees. NASA's science advisory subcommittees have member
vacancies from time to time throughout the year, and NASA will consider
nominations and self-nominations to fill such intermittent vacancies. NASA is
committed to selecting members to serve on its science advisory subcommittees
based on their individual expertise, knowledge, experience, and current/past
contributions to the relevant subject area.

The following qualifications/experience are highly desirable in nominees, and
should be clearly presented in their nomination letters:
•       At least 10 years post-Ph.D. research experience including publications
in the scientific field of the subcommittee they are nominated for, or
comparable experience;
•       Leadership in scientific and/or education and public outreach fields as
evidenced by award of prizes, invitation to national and international meetings
as speaker, organizer of scientific meetings/workshops, or comparable
•       Participation in NASA programs either as member of NASA mission science
team, Research & Analysis program, membership on an advisory/working group or a
review panel, or comparable experience;
•       Good knowledge of NASA programs in the scientific field of the
subcommittee they are applying for, including the latest NASA Science Plan
(available as a link from http://science.nasa.gov/about-us/science-strategy/),
or comparable experience; and,
•       Knowledge of the latest Decadal Survey conducted by the National
Research Council or other relevant advisory reports for the scientific field of
the subcommittee.

These are not full-time positions. Successful nominees will be required to
attend meetings of the subcommittee approximately two or three times a year,
either in person (NASA covers travel-related expenses for this non-compensated
appointment) or via telecom and/or virtual meeting medium.

DATES: The deadline for NASA receipt of all public nominations is November 22,

ADDRESSES: Nomination and self-nomination packages from interested U.S. citizens
must be signed and must include the name of the specific NASA science advisory
subcommittee of interest; nominations and self-nomination packages are limited
to specifying interest in only one NASA science advisory subcommittee per year.
The following information is required to be included as part of each nomination
and self-nomination package: (1) a cover letter (with the name of the specific
NASA science advisory subcommittee of interest); (2) a professional resume
(one-page maximum); and, (3) a professional biography (one-page maximum). All
public nomination packages must be submitted electronically via attachments to a
single email to one of the following addresses:

Astrophysics Subcommittee (APS) -- aps-execsec@hq.nasa.gov
Earth Science Subcommittee (ESS) -- ess-execsec@hq.nasa.gov
Heliophysics Subcommittee (HPS) -- hps-execsec@hq.nasa.gov
Planetary Protection Subcommittee (PPS) -- pps-execsec@hq.nasa.gov
Planetary Science Subcommittee (PSS) -- pss-execsec@hq.nasa.gov

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: To obtain further information on NASA's science
advisory subcommittees, please visit the NAC Science Committee's subcommittee
Web site at


6. Registration deadline for 3rd Gender Summit
From: Elizabeth Pollitzer [ep_at_portiaweb.org.uk]

The aim of the 3rd Gender Summit, which is focused on North America, is to
interconnect all relevant stakeholders in a Call to Action to achieve positive
change towards greater diversity in the Science, Technology, Engineering and
Mathematics (STEM) workforce and leadership, and greater inclusion of biological
sex and gender considerations or the "gender dimension" in research content and
process. The event will be held on the 13 - 15 November 2013 at the Washington
Hilton in Washington DC.  The registration deadline for this meeting is 4
November 2013.

For more information, please see


7. The Myth of "I'm bad at math"
From: Caroline Simpson [simpsonc_at_fiu.edu]

By Miles Kimball & Noah Smith

"I'm just not a math person."

We hear it all the time. And we've had enough. Because we believe that the idea
of "math people" is the most self-destructive idea in America today. The truth
is, you probably are a math person, and by thinking otherwise, you are possibly
hamstringing your own career. Worse, you may be helping to perpetuate a
pernicious myth that is harming underprivileged children - the myth of inborn
genetic math ability.

Is math ability genetic? Sure, to some degree. Terence Tao, UCLA's famous
virtuoso mathematician, publishes dozens of papers in top journals every year,
and is sought out by researchers around the world to help with the hardest parts
of their theories. Essentially none of us could ever be as good at math as
Terence Tao, no matter how hard we tried or how well we were taught. But here's
the thing: We don't have to! For high-school math, inborn talent is much less
important than hard work, preparation, and self-confidence.

To read more, please see


8. Job Opportunities

For those interested in increasing excellence and diversity in their
organizations, a list of resources and advice is here:


 -Postdoctoral position in Low-mass Stars and Brown Dwarfs at Boston University

9. How to Submit to the AASWomen newsletter

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11. Access to Past Issues


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