AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of July 22, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. Latest Issue of STATUS Now Available

2. Walmart Women

3. Undergraduate Women Engineers: Race Matters

4. Increasing Diversity in Your Department

5. Summer Conferences

6. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN Newsletter

7. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN Newsletter

8. Access to Past Issues of the AASWOMEN Newsletter

1. Latest Issue of STATUS Now Available
From: Katy Garmany [Garmany_at_noao.edu]

The June/July issue of STATUS is now posted on-line at:


Alternately, you can use the AAS Newsletter viewing software here:


Articles in the current issue include:

"Building Respect and Inclusion in Astronomy: Strategies for Addressing and
Overcoming Harassment," by Sheryl Bruff and Bernice Durand;

"'Women in Science' Groups as Instruments of Change," by Meredith Danowski;

"Leaders in Science and Engineering: The Women of MIT," by Edmund Bertschinger;

"Introduction to Unconscious Bias," by Joan Schmelz and Patricia Knezek; and

"Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science: An Astronomer among the American
Romantics," a book review by Kate Brutlag Follette.

With this issue, STATUS becomes entirely electronic. We have notified by
email all the members who received paper copies in the past. If you would like
to be included in this email notification when STATUS is posted, please
contact me at the address above.

2. Walmart Women
From: Hannah_at_women_in_astronomy_blog

You can interpret the recent Supreme Court ruling on Wal-Mart v. Dukes, where the
5-4 majority denied the right of female workers at Wal-Mart to certify as a
class in a class-action law-suit as pro-business, but I see it rather as an
attack on the rights of women workers in general. In the CSWA, we recognize that
overt discrimination is no longer where battles are being fought, but rather the
pernicious biases of individuals that affect everything from workplace climates
to hiring decisions. From the article at the above link:

'Writing for the court majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that in order to
sue as a single class, the women would have to point to a discriminatory policy
that affected all of them, and they could not do that. Indeed, Scalia noted that
the company has a specific corporate policy against discrimination.'

To which I can only respond that a written policy is useless if it is not

The case for the Walmart women relied on statistics, such as the fact "that
women held two-thirds of the lowest-level hourly jobs at Wal-Mart and only
one-third of the management jobs, and that women overall were paid on average
$1.16 an hour less than men in the same jobs, although the women had more
seniority and higher performance ratings." As scientists, particularly
astronomers, we know that statistics often tell the real story rather than any
one object. In the case of discriminatory hiring and promotion cases, it's easy
to point to a myriad of reasons why any one particular person was overlooked for
a promotion or fired or what have you. It's much harder to fight individual
cases, which can in the end be blamed on special circumstances, than to make a
case for an entire group as a whole.

It's notable that all the female justices dissented with the majority opinion.
They, at least recognize that unconscious bias is real:

'Writing for the dissenters, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed to previous
Supreme Court decisions holding that a companywide policy against discrimination
can be undermined where, as alleged here, local supervisors have so much
discretion that decisions are made without standards, often on the basis of
biases unrecognized even by the supervisors themselves, for example, assuming
that a female employee with a family would not be willing to relocate for a

Suffice it to say that I will be avoiding shopping at Walmart from now on.

3. Undergraduate Women Engineers: Race Matters
From: Rick Fienberg [rick.fienberg_at_aas.org]

Hannah Hickey wrote this article for the University of Washington entitled,
"Race Matters When Recruiting, Retaining Undergraduate Women Engineers."

'Attempts to recruit and retain more women in undergraduate engineering programs
often lump all female students into a single group. At best, minority women as a
group may receive special attention.

But a new study of female engineering students' perceived challenges finds
significant differences between black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-American
and white women. The findings by researchers at University of Washington could
help institutions better retain particular underrepresented groups of students.

"What we're finding is these women's experiences are different, which is why
grouping all women together doesn't make sense," said co-author Elizabeth
Litzler, research director at the UW's Center for Workforce Development. She
recently presented the findings in Vancouver, B.C., at the annual meeting of the
American Society for Engineering Education.

The study used data collected in 2008 by the Project to Assess Climate in
Engineering survey, conducted by UW researchers and funded by the Alfred P.
Sloan Foundation. Investigators distributed questionnaires and interviews to
undergraduate engineering students at 21 U.S. colleges and universities that
were interested in supporting diversity programs. The study received more than
10,500 responses, with higher than average numbers of women and minority

To read more:


4. Increasing Diversity in Your Department
From: Hannah Jang-Condell [hannah_at_astro.umd.edu]

The Special Session on "Increasing Diversity in Your Department" at the January
AAS Meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 9, 2012, 2pm-3:30pm.

Mark your calendars!

Diversity is becoming increasingly important as a component of a successful
department. As examples, the rankings of graduate programs by the National
Academies highlight diversity as a criterion and diversity is an important
component of the broader impact statements required by NSF proposals. This
special session, hosted by the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy,
Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy, and the Working Group on
LGBT Issues, will present hiring policies and practices that have been proven to
be effective in increasing both the diversity and the excellence of science
departments around the country. We will recommend steps that departments can
take to recruit and retain women, LGBT people, and minorities; discuss what
factors contribute to a friendly departmental climate; and demonstrate how to
create a diverse department while enhancing academic quality. We invite members
of the AAS community to attend this session to both share their own ideas and
learn new ones.

Confirmed Speakers: Caroline Simpson (Florida Inter. Univ.), Andrew West (Boston
Univ.), Van Dixon (Johns Hopkins Univ.), and Caty Pilachowski (Indiana Univ.).

5. Summer Conferences
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

If you have attended a conference this summer, please help CSWA update its list
of % women invited speakers:


If you would like to add a conference, please carefully check the gender of all
the invited speakers and send the information given in each column of this table
to the CSWA webmaster, Nancy Morrison [nmorris_at_utnet.utoledo.edu]. Please
remember to include only invited speakers on research topics, no popular

6. How to Submit

To submit an item to the AASWOMEN newsletter, including replies to topics, send email to

aaswomen_at_aas.org .

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

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

7. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe

To subscribe or unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter, please fill in the required information at:

http://lists.aas.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/aaswlist .

If you experience any problems, please email itdept_at_aas.org

8. Access to Past Issues


Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.


AASWList mailing list

End of AASWList Digest, Vol 53, Issue 4