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F. Statistical Information

Evidence of the underrepresentation of women in the astronomical community relies on insufficient long-term statistical data. Recent studies (e.g., Hoffman in WIA-II proceedings) indicate that there still is a "leaky pipeline" in the road to tenure-track positions in astronomy. At present, more than half of the AAS members in the range of 18-23 years of age are women, and one-third of the astronomy graduate students are women, but women occupy fewer than 15% of the astronomy tenure-track positions. Better longitudinal data, specific to astronomy, are needed to assess women's representation and to assess the effectiveness of remedies. The issue of statistics must be recognized for its central importance to understanding the social and cultural forces that shape the characteristics of our field.

Recommendations:

  1. The American Astronomical Society should commission immediately a longitudinal study of young women in astronomy, beginning with those aged 18-23 in 2003. A similar group of men should be used as a comparison sample. Both subjects that remain in the field and those that leave the field should continue to be tracked for the duration of the study. The AAS should commit to continue this study for at least 10 years, in order to establish statistics on retention and career paths for this cohort. Professional sociologists, using accepted statistical techniques, should carry out this study. One goal of this study would be to measure whether there is differential attrition of women from the pipeline and if so, to learn the reasons for it.
  2. The AAS should form a "Committee on Statistics"; whose main objective would be collecting, analyzing and reporting data on the demographics of our field. This committee could work closely with the CSWA and other relevant AAS committees (as well as organizations such as the National Science Foundation and American Institute of Physics (AIP) that conduct their own surveys). This committee should provide complete and regular access to statistics on items such as gender balance, the fraction of beginning students who earn their Ph.D., and the mean time to completion.
  3. The above mentioned committee's prime focus should be to examine the demographic status of the AAS membership and the astronomical community in a three-fold approach: (a) mining standardized yearly departmental reports (using those currently administered by the AIP) for statistical information, (b) administering and analyzing in depth periodic surveys (every 2 to 3 years but no more than 5 years between surveys) similar to the STScI/CSWA survey, and (c) giving input to and reporting results from longitudinal studies.
Follow-up Suggestions for Implementation:

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