AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of September 2, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. How Things Have Changed (for the Better!) part 2

2. How Things Have Changed (for the Better!) part 3

3. To travel with the kid or without, this is always a big question.

4. Culture Drives Gender Gap in Spatial Abilities, Study Finds

5. NASA Names Astrophysics Fellowship For Iconic Woman Astronomer 

6. Professional Skills Development Workshops in 2012 for female physicists.

7. Job Opportunities

8. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter

9. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter

10. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

1. How Things Have Changed (for the Better!)
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

The last issue of the AASWOMEN newsletter included a story from Katy
Garmany illustrating how much things have changed for women in
astronomy. I asked AASWOMEN readers for other examples and received to
following contribution from Kathy Mead, editor of STATUS from 1995-98. 

Kathy wrote: "When I first observed at NRAO on Kitt Peak in 1980, there
were Playboy magazines *everywhere.* They were in the control room as
well as in the trailers. Not just a current and couple of back issues,
but piles of them. At first, I just tried to figure out how to act like
I didn't really notice or care. Guys there read them right in front of
me. Later, as I became more bold, I asked about them and was told that
an observer had given a subscription to the observatory. To me, this
sounded like a clueless justification. They could have declined the
subscription. Even if there were zero women at the telescope, how is
pornography appropriate in the workplace? Working with state of the art
equipment should be enough to keep even a man's mind occupied for the
work day. But hey, I wanted a career in Astrophysics, and that was the
culture so I made up my mind to live with it. After a few years, the
magazines disappeared. However, many years after that, after they built
new lodging, I found a stash of them in a non-prominent place in one of
the buildings." 

Kathy's story reminded me that pornography was common in the
astronomical workplace in the 1980s, not just at Kitt Peak. The problem
was so widespread that the Oct 1986 issue of STATUS had advice on how to
get your male colleagues to take down their nude pin-up posters! I
remember computer printouts (on the old green and white striped paper)
of naked women in many places, mainly in the offices of the NRAO
computer operators. I never saw a pile of Playboys, but after years of
observing at Arecibo, one of my friends (a telescope operator) showed me
the local collection - it was in a file drawer in the control room. All
the guys know about it. 

I remember precisely when things changed: it was after the Anita
Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings on Capitol Hill, and the federal
government began taking the issue of sexual harassment more seriously. I
had visions of word coming down from the observatory directors to get
those posters off the wall. The pornography disappeared practically

If you have a story to share about the "old days," please send it to me
at the address above. 

2. How Things Have Changed (for the Better!) 
From: Caroline Simpson [simpsonc_at_fiu.edu]

When I was working at STScI in the mid-80s (before I went to grad
school) as part of the Guide Star Catalog team, one of the computer
screen savers (waaay back in the early days of such things) was a
publicity shot from the movie The Deep, which was of a scuba-diving
Jacqueline Bisset underwater in a white (and therefore completely see
through) T-shirt. I think the computer guys also used the image to test
the printers as well. I was quite non-plussed by the whole thing; but
never said or did anything about it that I recall. 

Interesting thread. I find it both appalling that things used to be so
bad, and reassuring that progress has been made.

3. To travel with the kid or without, this is always a big question.
From: AnnH on the Women in Astronomy Blog

Every mother has her own unique path through navigating career and
parenting. I am sure that many women maintaining a career while caring
for children struggle with the issue of professional travel. Up until
now, my nursing relationship with my child dictated (for me) that I take
her with me, but now I am finding I can get away with a few days away
and frankly, she is now running and napping slightly less. At 17 months,
she isn't the portable person she used to be.

So, I have just decided recently that I am not bringing my daughter with
me at all to the AAS High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) meeting. [...]

See the full post at

and read the comments on our facebook page:

4. Culture Drives Gender Gap in Spatial Abilities, Study Finds
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

Culture Drives Gender Gap in Spatial Abilities, Study Finds

"Some, like former Harvard president Lawrence Summers, have suggested
that such innate abilities might be the reason that women are
underrepresented in science and math careers. Summers drew fire in 2005
for suggesting as much during a conference on ... "

Full story at 

See all stories on this topic at

5. NASA Names Astrophysics Fellowship For Iconic Woman Astronomer
From: Meg Urry [meg.urry_at_yale.edu]

Wonderful news about the recognition of the tremendous leadership of
Nancy Roman for NASA's space science program: 

RELEASE : 11-277

NASA Names Astrophysics Fellowship For Iconic Woman Astronomer

WASHINGTON -- NASA has established an astrophysics technology fellowship
named for the woman many credit as one of the key contributors in the
creation of the Hubble Space Telescope. 

The Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowship in Astrophysics is designed
to foster technologies that advance scientific investigations in the
origin and physics of the universe and future exoplanet exploration. The
fellowship will help early career researchers develop innovative
technologies to enable scientific breakthroughs, while creating the
skills necessary to lead astrophysics projects and future

See the full article at:

For information about applying to the fellowship, visit:


[For direct access to this information, see: 

method=init&solId=%7b50602831-D41D-D4E7-62C9-0AC9FD7A2CFD%7d&path=open - Webmaster]

6. Professional Skills Development Workshops in 2012 for female physicists
From: WIPHYS, Aug. 31, 2011

The American Physical Society, with support from NSF, will host two
Professional Skills Development Workshops in 2012 for female
physicists. Postdoctoral associates and senior-level faculty and
scientists are invited to apply for the February 26, 2012 workshop in
Boston, MA. Postdoctoral associates and early-career faculty and
scientists are invited to apply for the March 30, 2012 workshop in
Atlanta, GA. Senior graduate students, recent graduates, and physicists
in-between careers are also welcome to apply. 

Applicants currently residing in the US (or those outside the country
affiliated with a US institution/facility) are eligible for travel
and/or lodging funding consideration. Those needing funding assistance
are encouraged to apply early. The deadlines for the workshops and a
link to the online application can be found at

7. Job Opportunities

Related to Item 3 above:

1. The Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowship in Astrophysics
  Beginning Nov. 18, early-career researchers may submit proposals for
  one-year concept studies for the development of new astrophysics
  technologies. See http://bit.ly/qWEPYC  for full information. 
  [More directly: http://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/solicitations/summary.do?
  method=init&solId=%7b50602831-D41D-D4E7-62C9-0AC9FD7A2CFD%7d&path=open - Webmaster]

2. NRAO has the following scientist positions available.Full information
  for all three positions is available at: https://careers.nrao.edu ;
  click on 'scientist positions.' 

  A. EVLA/VLBA Postdoctoral Fellow: NRAO invites applications for three
     postdoctoral positions to participate in the scientific commissioning
     and technical development of the EVLA and VLBA. 

  B. Jansky Fellow: Fellows formulate and carry out investigations
     either independently or in collaboration with others within the
     wide framework of interests of the Observatory. Prior radio
     astronomy experience not required.

  C. Green Bank Postdoctoral Fellow: The successful application will
     have 50% of his/her time available for independent research, while
     50% of his/her time will be devoted to support of the GBT and GBT

3. Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Santa Fe Institute
  Apply by November 1. The Institute has no formal programs or
  departments. Research is collaborative and spans the physical,
  natural, and social sciences. Most research is theoretical and/or
  computational in nature, although it may include an empirical
  component. http://www.santafe.edu/omidyar-fellowship/ 

4. Project Officer: IAU Global Office of Astronomy for Development
  The International Astronomical Union (IAU), in partnership with the
  South African National Research Foundation (NRF), has established the
  global Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) at the South African
  Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town, South Africa. This
  office will be the centre of development activities worldwide in the
  areas of (i) astronomy for children and schools; (ii) astronomy for
  universities and research; and (iii) astronomy for the public. 

8. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN newsletter

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topics, send email to aaswomen_at_aas.org 

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10. Access to Past Issues


Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.


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End of AASWList Digest, Vol 55, Issue 1