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B. Career Advancement and Recognition

The "classic" career path for a professional astronomer has been a progression through undergraduate and graduate school, a postdoc or two, and then a research faculty job at a major university. Statistics indicate that women are lost from this "progression" in proportion greater than for men, for a variety of reasons such as unsupportive work environments, lack of role models, and insufficient opportunity for recognition of their performance. Recognition often comes in the form of professional awards and invited presentations, where women frequently have been underrepresented relative to their achievements. Informal mentoring is easy and widespread for young people who resemble those already in the field but often is nearly inaccessible to those from underrepresented groups. We offer several recommendations to ameliorate this situation:


  1. Academic institutions should provide regular evaluation, mentoring and career counseling to young faculty members.
  2. Universities and individual departments should set up formal programs to train mentors for younger students and professionals, with attention paid to both career and family issues. In addition, the AAS should sponsor periodic special sessions or short training programs at the semi-annual general meetings. The individual astronomy and physics departments then should take the responsibility of implementing a mentoring program, so that their more junior members have a mechanism to acquire support and advice. Specific areas of interest for training and mentoring would include information about rules (both written and unwritten), expectations, networking, and the general decision-making process of a particular institution.
  3. Ph.D.-granting universities should recognize the potential of graduate-student applicants from institutions that traditionally serve underrepresented groups. Departments should develop working relationships with faculty at these institutions, and establish specific mentoring programs for graduate students who may undergo "culture shock" upon arrival at a major research university.
  4. Decisions on advancement should result from an open process, based on specific criteria that are spelled out in advance. Senior faculty and other senior personnel must provide an environment that enables all junior faculty to have an equal opportunity to succeed and advance in this process.
  5. Organizations and academic institutions should offer women equal opportunity for scientific recognition in the form of awards (AAS awards and others) and invitations to present invited talks in a variety of circumstances, including AAS meetings, topical professional meetings, and traditional colloquia/seminars. Prize nominee pools and invited speaker lists should adequately reflect the diversity of the astronomical profession. The institutions responsible for selecting awardees and invitees should review periodically their policies and progress in this area, in order to ensure that the achievements of women are being represented fairly.
  6. Along with direct contributions to science, criteria for success should include teaching and other functional terms of employment. Specifically, outreach and education activities are important both for the future of astronomy and in relation to possible career paths; involvement in such activities should be supported and rewarded at all levels, including hiring decisions and performance evaluations. Paradoxically, individual women sometimes are heavily burdened with committee service in an effort to achieve greater diversity; this additional service also should be recognized in advancement decisions.
  7. The responsibility to create institutional changes that promote equity in astronomy lies first and foremost with the senior and more established members of an institution. However, individuals at a more junior level have a strong interest in such change and should participate as is feasible. In addition, these younger astronomers should not be thwarted by apparent barriers, but should enthusiastically pursue their own goals and dreams for scientific achievement and career advancement.
Follow-up Suggestions for Implementation:
Other Resources: