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About This Issue

From the Editor, Kathryn Mead

June 1996

 

When I took over as editor, one of the things I wanted to accomplish was to broaden the scope of the articles published in Status and to expand the number of articles. To accomplish this, I decided to reprint articles from other sources. For this issue, I was in the process of obtaining reprint permission from a couple of nationally syndicated columnists when I decided to reprint from the Proceedings of the Bridging the Gender Gap conference. I vigorously and enthusiastically recommend getting and reading the proceedings; information for obtaining them can be found at the beginning of the article by John White (page 2.) I chose this article for it’s length (medium-short) and for its passion. Mostly the latter. Yes, women have gained a lot over the years, but we are far from achieving a reasonable level of respect.

The article with which I am most pleased is the one on sexual harassment (page 5). The author has summoned great courage in writing frankly about her experiences. When you read of her experiences you will understand her desire to withhold her identity. My hopes in publishing this story are many. As the author says, “I know you’re out there.” Like her, I know there is discrimination against women. Such treatment will not go away on its own. Those who are the targets of discrimination may feel isolated. By way of this article, the author and I are telling you that you are not alone. We also want you to know that you can do something about it. I hope that having more information helps you to more effectively deal with your situation.

To those who have not felt discrimination personally or witnessed it, here is one person’s story, to remind us all that this sort of thing does indeed go on and it does effect us, even if subconsciously and indirectly. While the direct target is someone else, in harassing her, the harassers seek to demean the rest of us. (In so doing, the are futilely seeking to escape their own insecurities.) Finally, there are those who don’t understand the line between sexual harassment and normal behavior. (“I can’t ask her out because she’ll accuse me of sexual harassment.”) This article shows that to confuse a simple misunderstanding with sexual harassment is to exhibit a gross misunderstanding and trivialization of an extremely serious problem.

I like the article about a women’s leadership conference attended by Wendee Brunish because it reminds me of the security and empowerment I felt when attending the Women in Astronomy meeting at Space Telescope. As astronomers, we never go to professional meetings at which females are in the majority. However, such an experience (being in the majority) is a refreshing and energizing experience. Perhaps you can sense that from the article. (Reading the Bridging the Gender Gap Proceedings is similarly invigorating and empowering.) If you haven't heard of AWIS before, perhaps you will consider joining. It's inexpensive and a good way of m aking a statement about your support of women in science.

Finally, you may find interesting the update on the Job Guidelines. The opposition to these guidelines, especiall from some senior women, has been surprising, frustrating and disheartening to me. The level of misinterpretation of the guidelines has been mindboggling. For example, some people interpret the guidelines to mean that the AAS is going to police job searches. NOT! If you want to see the current draft of the guidelines, go to http://www.earthlink.net/~kmead/ and click on job guidelines. (If that doesn’t work, send e-mail to mkutner@nrao.edu)

Because we are coming ever nearer to drowning in overwork, it is often difficult to spend time and energy crusading for “women’s” issues. I hope this issue of Status encourages you to make the effort.

Kathryn N. Mead, kmead@nrao.edu

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