AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of February 11, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. Sexual Harassment: Update from Anon

2. January 2011 Issue of STATUS

3. Underrepresentation of Women in Science

4. Getting Connected - Engaging Your Institution and Community

5. Conferences Celebrating and Advancing Women in Science

6. Visiting Assistant Professor at Haverford College

7. Visualization Researcher/Astronomer at Swinburne University

8. How to Submit to AASWOMEN

9. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN

10. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

1. Sexual Harassment: Update from Anon
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

[The March 26, 2010 issue of AASWOMEN contained a request for advice from an
anonymous female Astronomy PhD student who was being sexually harassed by her
thesis advisor. This young woman, whom we refer to as "Anon," has come a long
way since she sent that message. She has graciously provided this update of her
situation. - Eds.]

To all those who gave me advice through that difficult time, I want to thank
you. As is usually the case in matters like this, it got worse before it got
better, but I did want to report that it is getting better. After my first
message to AASWOMEN, things were put in motion that moved me out of the
situation, and has meant my harasser is no longer directly supervising me.
Thanks to the gargantuan efforts of some of the people I shared the dilemma
with, it looks like I not only have salvaged my thesis, but that I have a very
good chance of falling back in love with astronomy and am far more likely to
pursue a postdoc than I was 6 months ago.

That being said, this experience has changed me, both for the better, and
possibly also for the worse. I am still angry. I still find myself resenting the
success and happiness that my more fortunate peers have found, wondering what
might have been had my harasser not been in my life. I still feel my heart race
when I see him in the hallway, or find his name appearing in my email box. I am
also a lot more leery about everyone else - wondering if that new colleague or
collaborator, so seemingly inert will start acting differently to me. My
threshold for trusting someone is much higher than before. Just like with a
flesh wound, after the damage has been mended, scars still remain, and I will
forever be a different person because my advisor harassed me. At the same time,
I am stronger too. My reactiveness and fear has melted away into unflappability
and a complete lack of fear of rejection. I can deal with any and all in a
reasoned and calm way, because I know my own personal strength, and I know that
I have a safety net much larger than I ever thought possible.

One of the most special outcomes of asking for help was that before I knew it
people around me were knitting a safety net for me. Every time I walked out on
another ledge, by asking for the situation to be resolved, or having to parry
the attacks coming my way by those who were not ready to acknowledge that a
wrong had been done to me, when I looked behind me, there were always people who
had my back. Sometimes it was just supportive words, sometimes anecdotes that
helped me quell the frustration from the most recent harassing behavior, and
sometimes it was more. People built me a safety net of mentors and advisors to
ease the transition, people made phone calls and gracefully, calmly vouched for
me when key players doubted my credibility, but mostly, people shared their
stories. I got to witness the breadth of experiences that others had, and could
gain strength from their strength. I have a mentoring blanket to protect me that
was knit before my eyes. I thought I was wasting these people's times with my
concerns, only to learn that even the busiest person gladly created time for me
out of thin air, because they cared about me and my success. I might not be out
of the woods just yet, but I now have a strong network of people who are helping
me navigate away from the Big Bad Wolf and come out the other side without
becoming another casualty of science. Finally I learned that harassment is one
of the well kept secrets of academia, and a request for help can be met with
kindness and support, as the AASWOMEN responses were for me.

So to everyone who reads AASWOMEN, I want to say thank you. You gave me a voice
that I was robbed of. You confirmed something that the harasser and his enablers
told me was just me being crazy. The day that things finally seemed to be
working out, I made a promise. That if I am so blessed as to get to stay doing
what I am doing, being an astronomer, that I would provide the same amount of
support that I found from the people who supported me. Just as I learned,
harassment is still going on, and the victims are scared to come forward, either
because they did not think they had anyone to turn to, or because they couldn't
put their fingers on what was going on, just that they had that uncomfortable
feeling when they dealt with their advisor, or a collaborator, or an instructor.
The only reason I am still here is because people finally gave agency to my
experience, and I thank them (and you) for that every day.

2. January 2011 Issue of STATUS
From: Katy Garmany [garmany_at_noao.edu]

As the new Editor of STATUS, I'm happy to say that the latest issue is
now posted on the CSWA website at:


For those of you who receive a hardcopy, that will be arriving soon as well. In
the interest of greening, as well as a cost saving, this will be the last paper
copy that we print. Future issues will be electronic, enabling full color as

The current issue contains the following articles:

-Women in Astronomy: Meeting the Challenges of an Increasingly Diverse Workforce
by Anne Kinney

-Women and the Imposter Syndrome in Astronomy by Rachel Ivie and Arnell Ephraim

-Do you think that's appropriate? A survey of perceptions of behavior in
student-advisor relationships by Adam Burgasser

-STATUS Spotlight: Prof. Kelsey Johnson

-Book review by Gerrit Verschuur of Under the Radar: The First Woman in Radio
Astronomy, by W. Goss and R. McGee

I'm excited to be taking on the editorship of STATUS, which I see as a
forum for longer discussions than are possible in the weekly AASWOMEN. I look
forward to hearing your suggestions for articles you would like to see in
STATUS, as well as your submissions!

3. Underrepresentation of Women in Science
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

Several AASWOMEN readers alerted us to the article, "Understanding Current
Causes of Women's Underrepresentation in Science" by Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy
M. Williams. For me personally, I find these articles and the media coverage
they receive deeply frustrating. I think the authors should be sentenced to walk
a mile in my shoes . . . I hope I am wearing the highest of my high heels on
that day! Rather than let this frustration fester, I asked Dr. Abigail Stewart
of the University of Michigan for a comment. Dr. Stewart gave the excellent talk
on Unconscious Bias at the Seattle AAS meeting. Here's what she had to say:

The authors use their review of existing data (there is no new data here) to
conclude that discrimination does not exist. They do this mainly by focusing on
whether similarly-situated men and women scientists have similar outcomes. The
answer to that is yes--and that is indeed good, and perhaps not surprising. But
the problem we have is actually that men and women scientists are NOT similarly
situated--a point they note, but that is mostly overlooked in media accounts,
perhaps because less ink is shed on it in the article. They also argue that they
can tell that the reason men and women are not similarly situated is NOT due to
discrimination. They really cannot tell that, and they should know that they
can't. But they do point to institutional barriers that are in the way of
women's careers, and those barriers are worth attention.

Paper on the PNAS site (open access):


Nature article:


NY Times article:


Female Science Professor blog:


4. Getting Connected - Engaging Your Institution and Community
From: Meredith Danowski_at_women_in_astronomy_blog

[Meredith Danowski is a PhD student in Astronomy at Boston University and a
guest blogger at the Women in Astronomy Blog. This is the second in her series
describing her experiences with GWISE - Eds.]

You've got a group of people together, committed to a cause. You have ideas and
goals, you want to blaze a trail, you want to solve problems. Anyone can plan an
event, anyone can voice an opinion, so now we're down to the hard part. To be an
effective organization with a voice, you need members, you need to fill a niche,
you need to become a part of the fabric of your environment. Regardless of your
size or intended audience, fostering relationships between your organization and
the greater community is a way to ensure success.

A crucial step forward is to begin a conversation with those in positions of
power. Talk to department chairs, university deans, and leaders of your
community and get them invested in your cause. Show them how the goals of your
organization are consistent with their goals--diversity breeds excellence.
Beyond financial support, these individuals can provide ideas, contacts, and
administrative resources. Their support of your cause can open doors and
encourage the community. They can provide feedback on the impact of your work.
And in turn, your organization enriches the academic environment and supports
the community.

To extend our connection to the community beyond singular meetings with our
departments and college deans, Boston University's GWISE formed an advisory
board. With the goal of hearing feedback and engaging seemingly disparate
portions of our community in a larger conversation, we invited those leaders to
sit together for a discussion. To begin, we sat down and devised a list of
people to invite-- we included influential people involved in university
administration, individuals engaged in promoting STEM diversity (from other
local universities or groups), female leaders in their fields-- those whose
input would only help us strengthen our impact.

Once a semester, the leadership of our organization meets with our advisory
board. We discuss our recent events, our future plans, and we revisit our
mission. We share how our organization is benefiting the community. We talk
about areas for improvement, and ask for feedback. Are we accomplishing our
goals? What could we do better, and how? Are we serving our membership? How
might we increase the participation of our members? We solicit ideas and collect
input from a variety of viewpoints.

The key to longevity is to foster a symbiotic relationship between the
organization and the community, and this advisory board meeting serves to
strengthen that relationship and encourage conversations. Instead of fighting
for independence or against the structure around us, we strive to work well
within it-- to become an invaluable part of the community. We want to be a part
of the conversation, a part of the solution, an instrument for improving the
environment. The support of the individuals on the advisory board, the
institution, and the community are instrumental in helping us thrive and
continue working toward our goal, and hopefully, one day, making us obsolete.

5. Conferences Celebrating and Advancing Women in Science
From: Ed Bertschinger_at_women_in_astronomy_blog

Last month my university and three others hosted simultaneous Conferences for
Undergraduate Women in Physics. Approximately 150 students, nearly all
undergraduate women, traveled to Boston for a weekend as warm inside the
conference rooms as it was cold outside. It was an inspiring event and I'm
grateful to the students from Yale, MIT and Harvard who organized and ran the
conference. Although the conference series says "physics" in its title, many of
the attendees were interested in astronomy and greatly enjoyed the astrophysical
and personal perspectives given by JWST Mission Head Kathy Flanagan and Purdue
University President France Cordova.

The goals of this conference series are to help female undergraduate physics
majors transition to graduate studies; to foster a supportive undergraduate
culture for women in physics; and to strengthen the network of women in physics.
Based on my conversations with students the last four years, and my
participation the last two, I believe the conference series succeeds admirably.
MIT, while perhaps not fully representative, has had an increased rate of women
going to graduate school after attending the conference. I have had several
women tell me that contacts they made at the conferences, and encouragement they
received, are responsible for them staying in the field to pursue a PhD.

Graduate school attendance marks a critical transition for women in science.
Between about 20% and 40% of physics or astronomy undergraduates are female
(with a few excursions to either side). The percentages in graduate school are
typically half those at the undergraduate level. Many women, and some men,
choose not to go to graduate school because of the perceived difficulty of
balancing work and family or because of a lack of encouragement. It's important
that we communicate the value of an advanced degree for many different careers
-- not just the professoriate -- and that we encourage everyone to achieve their
full potential.

Once women obtain their PhDs, they enjoy comparable opportunities as men for
academic careers (see the NRC report Gender Differences at Critical Transitions
in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty). Although the
numbers are small, their success is often huge. Recognizing and celebrating the
success of women in these fields, as well as assessing progress and identifying
challenges in achieving gender equity, is the theme of a major symposium at MIT
to be held March 28-29, 2011. One of a series of symposia celebrating MIT's
150th anniversary, Leaders in Science and Engineering: The Women of MIT may be
of interest to many. Registration is open to anyone and we hope that the program
will be of wide interest to AAS Women.

Men and women sometimes ask me why we bother holding conferences that emphasize
or favor one gender. The irony of that question will be apparent to many
readers. I do it because it empowers the attendees and I am one of them. In
fact, I feel strongly that more men would enjoy attending and benefit from such
conferences; it will help them become better mentors and scientists. At the
conference for undergraduate women in physics, a speaker recounted her husband's
reaction as the accompanying spouse at a conference for women in physics. He --
also a physicist -- told his wife, "As the only man among 30 women physicists, I
wanted to run out of the room. Then I realized this is what you experience every
day." The insight made a deep impression on the audience.

6. Visiting Assistant Professor at Haverford College
From: Beth Willman [bwillman_at_haverford.edu]

Haverford College is inviting applications for a visiting assistant professor of
astronomy, pending budgetary approval, in the 2011-12 academic year. This
position will involve teaching small classes of highly motivated undergraduate
students, both non-scientists and majors. Candidates should be comfortable
teaching courses across the undergraduate astronomy curriculum. Qualified and
interested candidates may also have the opportunity to advise a student on
senior thesis research and to participate in our public observing program.

A Ph.D. in physics or astronomy, teaching experience, and research publications
are required. Please send a CV, list of publications, statement of teaching
interests and experience, an unofficial grad school transcript, and arrange for
two letters of recommendation to be sent to: hc-AstroSearch_at_haverford.edu.
Review of applications begins March 14, and continues until the position is

Haverford is a highly selective college with a commitment to quality teaching
and scholarship. Our college enrolls 1200 undergraduates, with a
student-to-faculty ratio of 8 to 1. We emphasize cutting edge research with and
the development of personal integrity with our students, resulting in a friendly
yet academically intense atmosphere. Our location on two commuter rail lines
less than 10 miles from downtown Philadelphia allows for interactions with
colleagues at nearby institutions including: University of Pennsylvania, Drexel,
Princeton, Swarthmore, and Villanova. Please contact bwillman_at_haverford.edu
if you have any questions about this position.

Haverford is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action employer, committed to
excellence through diversity, and strongly encourages applications and
nominations of persons of color, women, and members of other under-represented

7. Visualization Researcher/Astronomer at Swinburne University
From: Sarah Maddison [smaddison_at_swin.edu.au]

Application closes 31 March 2011

Applications are invited to apply for a Senior Lectureship in the general
research area of scientific visualization and astronomy at the Centre for
Astrophysics and Supercomputing in the Swinburne University, Australia. This
position is a continuing University appointment with a generous package of
salary and benefits.

The applicant will be required to lead independent astronomy and visualization
research and is expected to engage in high level programming in the support of
research and commercial activities of the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and
Supercomputing. They will also be involved in teaching and developing University
courses in the area of scientific visualization and computing.

Swinburne is a 2010 Federally-recognised "Employer of Choice for Women". For
details, see


8. How to Submit to AASWOMEN

Send email to aaswomen_at_aas.org .

All material will be posted unless you tell us otherwise, including your email

Please remember to replace "_at_" in the e-mail address above.

9. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN


If you experience any problems, please email itdept_at_aas.org

10. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN


Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.


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