AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of September 9, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. Invitation to Subscribe to the AASWOMEN Newsletter

2. Berkeley Women in Science and Engineering: Our Struggle for Equality

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

4. America Needs More Women in the Sciences

5. Top 5 Myths About Girls, Math and Science

6. When Programming was Considered Women's Work

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. Invitation to Subscribe to the AASWOMEN Newsletter
From: The Editors [aaswomen_at_aas.org] 

The Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) strives to create a
climate of equal opportunity in hiring, promotion, salary, and in access to
research opportunities and infrastructure at all levels within the field of
astronomy ranging from undergraduate and graduate programs and then throughout a
career in teaching, research, and/or other astronomy-related fields such as
public outreach.

AASWOMEN is CSWA's weekly electronic newsletter. As a new academic year begins,
we invite you to help us expand our community of readers and contributors.
Please forward this issue to any new students, post-docs, and scientists that
may be interested. 

To subscribe (or unsubscribe):


2. Berkeley Women in Science and Engineering: Our Struggle for Equality
From: Laura Trouille [l-trouille_at_northwestern.edu]

This article was posted by Liz Boatman in the Berkeley Science Review:

'The University of California, Berkeley was founded in 1868. At that time,
female faculty and students were virtually non-existent in all of higher
education, not just in physical science and engineering disciplines. Here at UC
Berkeley, women were not allowed to enter the Faculty Club unescorted by a male
until 1915. Female faculty were still restricted from certain areas of the
facility for another 40 years; at the entrance to the Great Hall, a large sign
was hung that read "For Men Only". (No wonder the females established their own
social parlor next door, the Women's Faculty Club!) Nowhere on campus, however,
is the ongoing battle for equal opportunity as visible today as it is in the
north-east corner. Our College of Engineering (COE) is ranked 3rd in the world,
but the first female professor was not granted tenure in mechanical engineering
until the 1990s.

I recently spoke with that professor, Lisa Pruitt, and she mentioned that the
success in retention of women faculty in engineering disciplines goes up
dramatically when women are hired in bunches. At the time, this was a radical
concept to me, but later I thought about why I chose UC Berkeley for graduate
school after doing my B.S. in physics: more women. I am still here now, many
trials and tribulations later, and it is my female peers upon whom I rely
regularly for support. Apparently, I have been unknowingly participating in this
same sociological experiment, and the results are not surprising: like the
female faculty, the female graduate students do better in bunches.

These days, there are female faculty serving as department chairs and in dean
positions; clearly, science and engineering career paths for women in academia
have improved. We can be thankful that there are now laws preventing gender
discrimination in the form of unequal pay or lab space allocation. So, yes, the
situation is better than it was in the 1800s (and it only took 140 years, give
or take). The unfortunate consequence of "better," however, is that female
faculty in science and engineering now face an entirely new type of gender bias.'

To read more:


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

For this week's story of how things have changed for women in astronomy, I have
borrowed the words of a living legend, Dr. Margaret Burbidge. Margaret wrote an
article for the Jan 2000 issue of STATUS entitled, "Glass Ceilings and Ivory Towers:"


The editors described Margaret as, "a professor emeritus in the Physics
Department and an astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences
at the University of California, San Diego. She entered astronomy at a time when
there were few women and their access to astronomical facilities was severely
restricted. She not only transcended these obstacles, she made countless
critical contributions to the field, as attested by numerous honors and awards,
including (naming only a few) the Presidential Medal of Science, the Henry
Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society, and membership
in the National Academy of Science."

Margaret wrote: "Yet when I describe the ban on women using the Mt. Wilson
telescopes that prevented me from being considered as a possible candidate for a
Carnegie Fellowship in 1947, I am met quite often with surprise: "You mean women
were not allowed to observe with the 60- and 100-inch telescopes?" I then have
to explain that the ban was peculiar to the Carnegie Observatories directorship
and tradition, and was indeed circumvented eight years later by pressure from
the California Institute of Technology (Professors William A. Fowler and Robert

Next week's story is about how textbooks have changed. If you have a story to
share about the "old days" on textbooks or any other subject, please send it to
me at the address above. 

4. America Needs More Women in the Sciences
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

Steve and Cokie Roberts wrote this article for the Bemidji Pioneer:

'It's already back-to-school time for many kids. As they again stuff their hefty
backpacks, here's what won't be in enough of them: science, technology,
engineering and math books. Girls, especially, will not be weighted down by
those texts, and that's a problem for those girls and for the country.

To compete in the world economy and preserve the lifestyle Americans expect, the
nation needs innovative and scientifically savvy workers. And if girls want
their paychecks to come close to those of the boys in their classrooms, they
need to study those so-called STEM subjects.

Early this month, the Commerce Department issued a report showing that women who
work in fields such as computer science and engineering have more employment
security and higher incomes - 33 percent higher - than women in other jobs. In
STEM jobs, the gender pay gap shrinks markedly; women make almost as much as men
do. But, even though a majority of college graduates are women and they're
almost half of the workforce, women hold only about a quarter of the positions
in these lucrative fields. That number has stayed steady over the last 10 years,
even as educated women have marched into the workplace in greater numbers.'

To read more [Purchase may be required - Webmaster]:


5. Top 5 Myths About Girls, Math, and Science
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

LiveScience debunks the top 5 myths about girls, math, and science:

'The days of sexist science teachers and Barbies chirping that "math class is
tough!" are over, according to pop culture, but a government program aimed at
bringing more women and girls into science, technology, engineering and math
fields suggests otherwise.

Below are five myths about girls and science that still endure, according to the
National Science Foundation's (NSF) Research on Gender in Science and
Engineering (GSE) program:

Myth 1: From the time they start school, most girls are less interested in
science than boys are. 

Reality: In elementary school about as many girls as boys have positive
attitudes toward science. A recent study of fourth graders showed that 66
percent of girls and 68 percent of boys reported liking science. But something
else starts happening in elementary school. By second grade, when students (both
boys and girls) are asked to draw a scientist, most portray a white male in a
lab coat. Any woman scientist they draw looks severe and not very happy. The
persistence of the stereotypes start to turn girls off, and by eighth grade,
boys are twice as interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math)
careers as girls are. The female attrition continues throughout high school,
college and even the work force. Women with STEM higher education degrees are
twice as likely to leave a scientific or engineering job as men with comparable
STEM degrees.'

To read more:


6. When Programming was Considered Women's Work
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

Anna Lewis wrote this article for the Cap Times:

'"It's just like planning a dinner," Adm. Grace Hopper, a computer science
pioneer, told readers in a 1967 Cosmopolitan magazine story. "You have to
plan ahead and schedule everything so it's ready when you need it." Pot roast or
computer programming - both, Cosmo told its readers, could be women's work.

I first came across that article this summer when I was working in recruiting at
a software company. I'd spent the past year trying to get more undergraduate
women to apply for our summer internship program. I kept seeing reports that the
number of women majoring in computer science was growing. It was about 25
percent at certain elite institutions, such as Harvard, MIT and Carnegie Mellon.
(Little to no increase has been observed at other universities.) That seemed
like good news for people in my field - the business of getting a diverse and
talented group of people to design software. But it wasn't exactly a triumphant
rise. It's just a slow climb back to where things used to be.

When Cosmo's "The Computer Girls" ran, 11 percent of computer science majors
were women. In the late 1970s, the percentage of women in the field approached
and exceeded the same figure we are applauding today: 25 percent. The portion of
women earning computer science degrees rose rise steadily, peaking at 37 percent
in 1984.'

To read more:


7. 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.

8. 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

9. Access to Past Issues


Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.


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End of AASWList Digest, Vol 55, Issue 2