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CSWA Talk in Pasadena

Abstract by Debra Rolison

June 2001

AAS Meeting Pasadena

Session 29

Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy
Special Session Oral Monday, 2:00-3:30pm, C211 29.01

Isn’t a Millennium of Affirmative Action for White Men Sufficient??

Debra Rolison (NRL)

Science and engineering departments need more women as faculty-and not only to show
their undergraduate students (the majority of whom are now women in many disciplines) that
a career in academia is a viable path. In my field, statistics show that one-third of U.S.
Ph.D.s in chemistry are awarded to women, yet according to cocktail folklore, applications from
women for advertised positions are only 10% (or less!) of the total. Why aren’t women
applying to academia in proportion to their numbers? Why are they voting with their feet
against a career in an institution they know all too well? The disproportionate absence of
women from the applicant pool warns that an unhealthy environment exists in U.S. academic
departments: unhealthy to those professors who want to play a continuing, rather than
merely genetic role in the lives of their children and unhealthy to those women, who once they
demonstrate productivity, scholarship, and mentorship, still reap less respect (and the
ancillary rewards of space, salary, funding, and awards) than their male colleagues.

Should Federal funds be withheld from those universities that do not increase their departmental
faculty hires to reflect the pool of U.S.- granted Ph.D.s? Can the threat of the loss of
Federal dollars be the impetus for the changes necessary in American universities in order to
create a departmental environment that women are willing to call home? Many posit that such
changes will concomitantly improve the academic experience for women *and* men, faculty *and* students. If the “system” is broken, and many of its citizens think it is, can it be fixed? Plausible action items up for discussion include such practical, achievable alternatives as aggressively recruiting good women candidates for faculty openings, fairer evaluation of the contributions and productivity of candidates and faculty who are women, ensuring on-campus day care, mentoring the junior faculty through the minefields, and really
rewarding the good teachers and advisors because of how they guide and challenge their
students. It is not coincidental that these suggestions help men, too.

In the interest of men?!
Joanne M. Attridge (MIT Haystack Observatory) who was in attendance at the January 2000 AAS meeting in Atlanta snapped this amusing photo. Extra issues of “Astronomy Magazine” and “Sky & Telescope” are available for sale at this newsstand, ironically in a section called “Men’s Interest”. The magazine stand was in the mall adjacent to the conference hotel.

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