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The Status of STATUS


By Meg Urry and Lisa Frattare

January 1999

STATUS was started in 1985 by Sue Simkin, then chair of the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA), and was edited most recently by Kathy Mead. As the official newsletter of the CSWA, STATUS has provided a forum for the topic of women in astronomy, and has reached a broad audience through direct mail and distribution at national AAS meetings.


This issue marks our debut as editors of STATUS. We took on this assignment with two very specific goals:

  1. To investigate the status of women in astronomy. Few of us know the statistics, either for our field alone (there are few data) or for closely related fields, and it must be an evolving story. Do women have a harder (or easier) time advancing in the profession? Are there parallels to other fields? We
    will explore the data for astronomy and the physical sciences at all levels of interest to professional astronomers.
  2. To explore possible barriers to the progress of women in astronomy, and what can be done about them. For example, women can be affected disproportionately by concerns about physical safety and sexual harassment. Their progress may be slowed by micro-disadvantages relative to their male peers (a sort of“1% discount” cumulative effect) or by lesser access to mentoring and networking. We will include many relevant studies inside and outside the physical sciences.


The CSWA already has a very active and important electronic forum, AASWOMEN, which needs neither duplication nor replacement. Rather, we aim to be the“review paper” complementing the dialog of AASWOMEN, with statistical studies, topical interviews, illustrative anecdotes, and guest columns. We further aim for balance, comprehensiveness, and relevance. By distributing STATUS widely
at each AAS meeting, we hope to reach a larger, broader audience than those who already follow CSWA issues.


We welcome your contributions either in area (1) or (2), as well as suggestions or criticisms. Because we publish only twice per year, letters might better be directed to AASWOMEN, but all submitted material will be considered for publication. We request that all submissions be signed, however, some contributions may be published anonymously, as appropriate, to preserve the privacy of those involved.

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