AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of August 19, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. New CSWA Member

2. How to Encourage More Girls to Enter Science? 

3. L'Oreal USA Announces Recipients of 2011 for Women in Science Fellowships 

4. Resource Guide on Women in Astronomy

5. Advice for Starting a New Postdoc

6. Why the AAS Needs the CSWA

7. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN Newsletter

8. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN Newsletter

9. Access to Past Issues of the AASWOMEN Newsletter

1. New CSWA Member
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

Please join me in welcoming our new CSWA member, Dave Charbonneau (CfA), who
will be serving from 2011 to 2014. We would also like to thank our outgoing
committee member, George Jacoby (GMTO). His efforts on behalf of CSWA are much

Michele Montgomery (Univ. Central Florida) completed her first term and has been
reappointed. Additional continuing members are: Joan Schmelz (Chair, Univ. of
Memphis), Ed Bertschinger (MIT), Ann Hornschemeier (NASA GSFC), Hannah
Jang-Condell (Univ. of Maryland), Don Kniffen (USRA), Nancy Morrison (Univ. of
Toledo), Marc Postman (STScI), Caroline Simpson (Florida International Univ.),
and Laura Trouille (Northwestern Univ.)

We encourage you to contact any CSWA member if you have comments, questions,
and/or suggestions. We also encourage you to check out the CSWA web site at:

2. How to Encourage More Girls to Enter Science? 
From: Ed Bertschinger_at_women_in_astronomy_blog

Women earn the majority of college degrees in the U.S. and, since 2009, the
majority of doctorates. This is not the case in astronomy or physics. Why are we

The American Institute of Physics has studied the enrollments of girls and boys
in high school physics classes and AP exams in a recent report. Physics is
important preparation for STEM degrees. The good news is that the percentage of
girls taking high school physics has grown more rapidly than for boys. The bad
news is that fewer girls are electing to take AP Physics and even fewer are
electing to take the AP exams. As AIP authors Susan White and Casey Langer
Tesfaye note, "To examine why, we would need to look at factors which impacted
these students before their final years of high school. Did something in the
earlier science curriculum discourage girls from more advanced physics? Or was
it the general belief, widely embraced in our culture, that girls just don't
'do' hard sciences?"

Although we may not know the answers, I think we know some of the solutions.
Girls in middle school -- high school may be too late -- must be shown the value
of math and science and encouraged to believe that it offers them exciting
career choices. They need to see science as something cool that girls do. They
need role models and mentoring. The difficulty is less in identifying solutions
than in implementing them.

Here's one more need: universities need to value more the outreach efforts made
by some students, postdocs, staff, and faculty to attract more young people to
science and engineering. This will require the scientific profession itself to
value outreach more highly. Too often it seems to be an add-on to research
grants and not valued for its own sake. At my own institution, I'm impressed
with the efforts being made by engineers such as the Women's Technology Program
in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Physics has almost the same
gender balance challenges as computer science, yet I'm puzzled that the field
makes less of an effort.

Have you engaged in outreach? Was there a pivotal moment in your own early years
that brought you to astronomy? What lessons can you share?

3. L'Oreal USA Announces Recipients of 2011 for Women in Science Fellowships 
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

From Marketwire:

"L'Oréal USA Fellowships For Women In Science, a national awards program,
was created to support the advancement of women in science and to encourage
women to continue careers in scientific fields. Since the program's inception in
2003, L'Oréal USA has recognized and awarded research grants to 40
post-doctoral women scientists in the life and physical/material sciences, as
well as mathematics, engineering and computer science. The program aims to raise
awareness of the contribution of women to the sciences and identify exceptional
female researchers in the U.S. to serve as role models for younger generations. 

The 2011 Fellows were selected from a competitive pool of candidates by an
interdisciplinary review panel and a distinguished jury of nine eminent
scientists and engineers. The Fellows were selected based on several criteria,
including exceptional academic records and intellectual merit,
clearly-articulated research proposals with the potential for scientific
advancement and outstanding letters of recommendation from advisers and overall
excellence. The peer-review process was managed by the American Association for
the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The L'Oréal USA Fellowships For Women In Science Award ceremony will take place
in the Kennedy Caucus room in Washington DC on September 15."

To read more:


4. Resource Guide on Women in Astronomy
From: Andrew Fraknoi [fraknoiandrew_at_fhda.edu]

An expanded resource guide to the role women have played and are playing in the
development of astronomy is now available on the web-site of the non-profit 
Astronomical Society of the Pacific:


The guide includes both printed and web-based materials, and has general
references on the topic plus specific references to the work and lives of 32
women astronomers of the past and present. All the materials are at the
non-technical level and thus appropriate for student papers, curriculum
development, or personal enrichment. 

The guide makes reference to 178 different web resources, as well as books and
articles that are either in print or found in many larger libraries.

This resource guide is part of a series that can be found on the Society's
web-site, on such topics as the astronomy of many cultures, debunking
astronomical pseudo-science, and resources for astronomy education.

5. Advice for Starting a New Postdoc
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

A few weeks ago, Hannah Jang-Condell, CSWA's blogger-in-chief, posted an item on
the Women in Astronomy Blog called Starting Up:


Hannah asked what advice readers might have for new postdocs. CSWA has an item
on their web site on "Advice for Postdocs Applying for Tenure-Track Positions"
but nothing for beginning postdocs. AASWOMEN, would you help us write this up
for our advice page? What do you wish you had been told when you started your
first postdoc?

Megan posted a reply to Hannah, which should get us started:

-Write papers. Now is the time to show your productivity as an independent researcher. 

-Go to the talks. Leave your laptop in your office. Ask questions.

-Meet with your advisor regularly, if you have one. Don't disappear.

-Talk to astronomers other than your advisor. Don't become the person no one
knows. Don't be a troll.

-Work with students if you have the opportunity. 

-Learn how to give great talks to a wide variety of audiences. Areas of weakness
for most postdocs: public lectures and colloquium talks to physics (or physics &
astronomy) departments. After years of learning to talk to experts (or your PhD
committee), it takes some effort to learn how to give a talk to other audiences. 

-Your publication record might get you on a faculty short-list, but how you
interact with people and your job talk will affect your ranking on that list.

6. Why the AAS Needs the CSWA
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

I've spent some time this summer compiling information on the History of CSWA
(more on that in the weeks to come). During this historical journey, I reread
some of the old issues of the STATUS magazine and come across an article in the
Oct 1987 issue written by then CSWA chair (and current AAS VP) Lee Anne Willson
entitled, "Why the AAS Needs the CSWA."

This is a topic that comes up every once in a while, and Lee Anne's thoughtful
and articulate summary is well worth reading. She summarizes five points:

-provides increased visibility to the community of women astronomers;

-monitors the AAS policies and publications to prevent bias;

-collects and distributes information on careers in astronomy; 

-provides a channel for complaints concerning discriminatory policies or practices; and

-promotes discussion and sharing of ideas concerning the extra complications associated with the combination of an astronomical career with the other obligations.

To read more:


I was a newly minted PhD when this article came out in 1987, and in some ways,
CSWA is still working on the same issues. Should we be discouraged because we
have not made more progress? No! I feel that my career in astronomy has now been
long enough to have personally witnessed real progress. Although sexual
harassment and discrimination still exist, the number of incidents has waned
significantly. It is true that this progress has uncovered a new set of
problems, e.g., unconscious bias and astronomical bullying, but we are
developing methods to deal with these as well. As I happily cram as much science
as possible into what is left of the summer, I realize that I am grateful to Lee
Anne and all the other CSWA members who went before me and made it possible for
me to do the astronomy I love so much. A full list of all those members going
back to the founding of CSWA (and before) is coming soon. Stay tuned!

7. How to Submit

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aaswomen_at_aas.org .

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

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9. Access to Past Issues


Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.


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End of AASWList Digest, Vol 54, Issue 3