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SPOTLIGHT

Lisa Frattare

January 2007

STATUS is beginning a new column to honor the women and men who promote women
in science issues and particularly those who have a unique and active role in the astronomy
community. If you have a candidate for the Spotlight column, please contact Joannah Hinz
at jhinz@as.arizona.edu.

Lisa Fratt are received her under graduate education in physics an astronomy at Arizona
State University and went on to receive a master’s in astronomy from Wesleyan University. She
is now an Astronomical Image Processor at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, where she has worked for the past 10 years. She is a member of the Hubble Heritage Team and the STScI News Team and juggles this high-profile work with taking care of her two children.


She has long served the community of women in astronomy as a member of the CSWA board
and has held the positions of co-editor of the STATUS and AAS Women newsletters. She
is a co-founder of the Women in Astronomy Database, and co-author and co-editor of Equity
Now: The Pasadena Recommendations for Gender Equality in Astronomy. Colleague Pat
Knezek says of her, “She has put a tremendous effort into promoting women in science issues,
in a very quiet, persistent mode”.


Lisa became attuned to women’s issues early in her career and can remember being “easily
set-off” by inequities in her college environment. One incident specific to astronomy stays with
her: as an undergraduate attending an AAS meeting, she read an article in STATUS that
horrified her. It was a personal testimonial from a student who was being sexually harassed by a
professor and who was likely leaving astronomy because of it. Lisa felt moved by this article,
enough that she attempted to talk to others at the conference about this terrible account. Lisa was
sorely disappointed: “Most had not read it. Most did not care. It was my first time being exposed
to such a tragedy, but for them, the effect was not the same.”


Turning her disappointment into a positive force, Lisa became more aware of women’s issues,
listening to the experiences of more senior female astronomers and mentors and held to the belief
that, with some attention to detail, people could be taught not to act in a discriminatory manner.
She began emailing authors of documents with male-dominant language, both in her professional
and private life, eventually joining with the more formal AAS infrastructure to continue her
activity in women’s issues.


Lisa says of her experiences, “I am grateful for all those who have gone before me and to
all my comrades in arms that encouraged me to continue the fight. A special thanks goes
out to my early mentors: Meg Urry, Anne Cowley, and Bill Keel. Their enthusiastic push for
gender equality in astronomy was contagious and empowering. What I have taken away from this
battle is to stand up for what I feel is right, and to call someone on an injustice. Small changes
are still progress, even though across disciplines many groups are endlessly reinventing the wheel
when it comes to improving the atmosphere for women in science. At times, the going gets tough.
Eventually, enough change will be made that I will feel we have made a difference in the world.
For now, I will slowly keep fighting, one ‘he/his’ at a time.”

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