Monday, December 30, 2013

How this is Related to Astronomy?

As part of my role as Blogger-in-Chief for Women in Astronomy, I cross-post blog articles to groups on various social networks. Cross-posting has been great at getting wider exposure for this blog, and our readership has increased dramatically since I've started doing this.

However, with increased readership and exposure, we also get increased feedback, criticism, and frustrating responses to our posts. As the person who posts these blog articles to these communities, I get notified when people comment, and its been very interesting to see how many people don't believe that discrimination, harassment, or biases exist in scientific communities, or don't think information about these issues is relevant to them.

Below are some examples of these discussions, with links to the threads on Google+ and Facebook. I encourage those of you who read this blog to participate in these discussions (mostly in the Facebook Astronomers Group and the Google+ Science Community although there is also discussions in the LinkedIn Groups Association for Women in Science, APS Physics, Women in Physics, and American Astronomical Society.  In my opinion, the fact that people vocalize these views means that we have much more work to do.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Microloans to Benefit Women in India

The holiday season is a great time to spend time with family and friends.  The conversations range far and wide from new boy and girlfriends for the kids to world wars and peace.  I have a "sister", Shermali, from Sri Lanka who's astronomer father was  a colleague of my dad and she lived with our family through undergrad and grad school years.  She now comes to my parent's house in Tucson with the rest of us for Christmas.  This year the topic of microloans in India came up in our discussions.

Organizations make small loans to rural families in India to allow them to get started in business.  There are hundreds of millions of people who can not get credit because they have few assets for collateral   Many of them are women who often have less education and not as many business connections as the men in the village.  The loans are typically $100 to $200.  A common use of the money is to buy a cow or a sewing machine.

The program is an excellent idea, but it sadly had difficulties.  In some cases, the loans were not well researched.  A spending plan was not developed or tracked.  People used the loans to pay for urgent family needs or, in the worst cases, gifts and un-needed items.  Also, for-profit companies got into the loan business with the main objective to make money.  Even with repay rates of >90%, the bad cases grabbed the headlines and the national government shut down the program in 2010.

Things are now looking up.  India's central bank released national guidelines for microlenders in 2011 and set up a licensing system.  Interest rates are now capped and people with defaults are barred for further loans.  Through the program, women are becoming empowered and having a larger say in their villages.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What Can I Do? Share Advice & Resources

Today’s suggestion comes from CSWA alum, Caroline Simpson. Caroline is an associate professor at Florida International University. She works on star formation and evolution in dwarf galaxies. She also edited CSWA's weekly e-newsletter, AASWomen, from 2006-2013.

Spread the word in casual conversation, in class, wherever it seems appropriate, about resources online for women in science. Have links on your own webpage to them. Good examples would be the CSWA Advice page and the CSWA Resources page . Post your favorites in the comments section so the rest of us can share them.

Make sure your department webpage and/or Facebook page occasionally donates some time and space to women-related issues, items, resources, and news announcements. This doesn’t need to be limited to items directly related to your department; include national and international items that indicate that your department is conscious of the challenges facing underrepresented minorities. If you have policies or benefits that are of particular interest to women or dual-career couples, highlight that.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Maternity news

This map is from @Amazing_Maps, and it surprised me.  I knew that our maternity (and paternity) policies in the US are far behind those of Europe, especially the Nordic countries.  But we're no more advanced than Suriname, Papa New Guinea and Liberia? That's news.

Yes, there is a value judgment here, namely that in order to achieve and sustain excellence, organizations and societies that help women and men balance family and work are preferable to those that do not.

Mary Ann Mason, Nicholas Wolfinger and Marc Goulden have written a book Do Babies Matter: Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower, which presents a comprehensive picture of how career and family intersect over the course of an academic career.  Maternity leave is a small part of the story, and it is well worth the time of any academic or university administrator to read this book.  It's my top recommendation for holiday reading!

If you don't have time to read the book, I encourage you to see the movie: Professor Mason has given a lecture about it here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Values Affirmation and You: What You Deeply Care About Affects Your Ability to Do Science (Now Featuring Peer Review!)

Today I am sharing a guest post from Dr. Sarah Ballard. Dr. Ballard completed her PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics at Harvard University in 2012 and is now a NASA Sagan fellow at the University of Washington.

It was only several years into graduate school that I learned that language already existed to describe my academic experience in science. I’m an unusual astronomer in some ways, having arrived in the field only after devoting my early undergraduate studies to Peace and Conflict Studies and Gender Studies. I was inculcated in the early years of college with language that describes the human experience. I was literally tested on phrases such as “intersectionality of oppression” and “safe space.” Value is assigned in these disciplines, in the form of grades, to a student’s ability to articulate ideas of bias and privilege. I wrote essays in exam rooms, after poring over assigned articles, on how wrongs get righted within human group dynamics. I thought and wrote about the activities people undertake to restore feelings of dignity and agency to underserved groups: this was once my major. 

Let me describe to you here why this is relevant to you, an astrophysicist. Let me describe a way that you can leverage the knowledge other fields accrue about imperfect human functioning under high pressure. Let me make the argument to you that reflection on self-worth can alleviate distress and underperformance in yourself, your colleagues, your mentees.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Faculty Search Committee

What can we do about unconscious bias? First, we have to be aware that it exists. Then we need to establish policies and put them into practice. Finally, there needs to be accountability. We can illustrate this process with an example: A Faculty Search Committee. How do we typically start a job search for a new faculty member? There are several standard steps: (1) the department chair forms a search committee; (2) the committee writes an ad targeting a specific sub-discipline; (3) the position is advertised; and (4) the committee members go about their business until the applications begin to pour in.

Monday, December 16, 2013

One Person’s Advice on the Two-Body Problem

By Annika Peter, from the June 2013 Issue of Status: A Report on Women in Astronomy

My husband and I recently found a long-term solution to our two-body problem after seven years of hopscotching through job seasons. When we entered into the job season last year with the goal of permanence in mind, I asked many faculty people for advice on how to approach the job search as a couple. The advice was all over the place. From this experience, I gleaned that there is no established protocol for solving the two-body problem; each couple's set of circumstances makes each search and solution look a little different. And actually, this is one of the lessons I would like to impart to you — there is no one, straightforward, established path to a two-body solution.

Nevertheless, there were a few bits of advice that we found extremely useful and appeared to be pretty generally applicable, and there were some things we learned along the way. The focus of this advice is on academic solutions at the faculty/staff level. However, a lot of this advice is applicable at a postdoc level, or at the faculty level even if you are looking for only one job, not two!

AASWomen Newsletter for December 13, 2013

AAS Committee on the Status of Women AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of December 13, 2013
eds: Michele M. Montgomery, Daryl Haggard, Nick Murphy, & Nicolle Zellner

This week's issues:

1. Childcare at the 2014 AAS Winter Meeting

2. Is science is in the eye of the beholder? [Hint: NO]

3. ADVICE: Workplace Bullying in Astronomy III

4. Gender Progress(?)

5. NSF's Career-Life Balance Initiative: A Small Success Story

6. Factors that affect the physical science career interest of female students

7. Stephanie Slater is the December CSWP Woman Physicist of the Month

8. Women in Science: Standing on the Edge

9. The Huffington Post's Girls in STEM Mentorship Program

10. New Email List: Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics

11. 2014 Katherine Weimer Award

12. 2014 Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week's First-to-Solo Challenge

13. Job Opportunities

14. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter

15. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter

16. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is science is in the eye of the beholder? [Hint: NO]

This week we have another guest post by Renee Hlozek, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University. Take it away, Renee!

Side note: The past couple months haven't been great for women in science and science journalism. This post links to all the stories of racism and sexism as as experienced by Danielle Lee (#standingwithdnlee!!) and the sexual harassment allegations made by Monica Byrne and Hannah Waters. To be honest, I am pretty overcome by the stories of late. I (like a surprisingly large number of female scientists I know) have experienced sexual harassment, albeit of a rather different kind to that discussed in the articles. While I have lots of thoughts on the pieces, I'm going to save those thoughts for another time and discuss something perhaps a little less obvious. I was actually pretty nervous to discuss even this one for fear of the usual comments it might elicit, but that makes me all the more decided to do so.

We all have bias. If you think you don't, try this eye-opening test on implicit bias from Project Implicit. It'll make you think. 

But while we're getting much better on average at identifying obvious forms of bias and sexism (at least I feel there is forward momentum!), one form of sexism is much more subtle: benevolent sexism. Rather than just giving a definition of the term, I'm going to try and relate what happened to me as an example and explain how this well-meaning person made me so angry and frustrated that I had to take a few (many) moments away from my colleagues to calm myself.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ADVICE: Workplace Bullying in Astronomy III

This is the final post in a series on workplace bullying. It is about the delicious fantasies of revenge. Remember the old adage, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” This tells us that the best payback is the one that comes with planning. Revenge can be sweet (and tempting!), but be careful. If you are in a position to plan revenge, make sure that your scheme will not backfire and put you in an even worse situation. Here are a few sweet revenge stories from a great reference on workplace bullying entitled, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't by Robert I. Sutton.

Monday, December 9, 2013

NSF's Career-Life Balance Initiative: A Small Success Story

Guest Post: The below post was submitted anonymously by an astronomy post-doc. 

I recently was in one of those exciting conversations with an NSF Program Officer in which s/he is providing feedback from the review panel that is suggestive that your grant has been approved for funding given a few minor tweaks.

Then the bomb dropped. NSF would like the start date to be in the coming few months and the program to launch this summer. PANIC. I am a post doc just ending the first trimester of my first pregnancy, I haven't yet told my advisor who is also on the phone, and I am due at the start of the summer, exactly when the NSF would like for the program to launch.

Friday, December 6, 2013

AASWomen Newsletter for December 6, 2013

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of December 6, 2013
eds: Michele M. Montgomery, Daryl Haggard, Nick Murphy, & Nicolle Zellner

This week's issues:

1. Perhaps You Should Consider Wearing Racier Clothing
2. Why So Few? Scientific Workforce
3. Evaluating a Diversity Research Program
4. ADVICE: Responding to workplace (and other) bullies
5. Science: A Creative Outlet
6. Congratulations to the new AAAS Fellows!
7. Women’s Adventures in Science
8. Science Camps for Young People
9. Job Opportunities
10. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
11. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
12. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Perhaps You Should Consider Wearing Racier Clothing

This video, by Emily Graslie of The Brain Scoop, has been making the internet rounds this week.


Emily does a good job of summarizing some of the reasons why it's hard to find women role models in science. A lot of it boils down to the fact that women frequently get judged based solely on appearances, and that the feedback we got often has more to do with how "hot" or "sexy" we are rather than the content of our work.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why So Few? Scientific Workforce

The 2010 report entitled, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), finds that women’s representation in the STEM workforce is uneven. This graph shows the percentage of women in selected STEM occupations between 1960 and 2000. In general, women’s overall representation has increased in all these occupations since the 1960s; however, in 2000, although women were well represented among biological scientists, for instance, they made up a small minority of engineers. These data come from the census, so the most recent data available are from 2000. Also, the definitions of the different occupations have changed slightly with each census.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Evaluating a Diversity Research Program

Guest Post by Sarah Schmidt, astronomy postdoctoral fellow at The Ohio State University

The Pre-Major in Astronomy Program (Pre-MAP) at the University of Washington (UW) was designed to increase the number of under-represented students who chose to major in STEM fields. The main component of Pre-MAP is a seminar that gives freshman and first-year transfer students the chance to learn astronomy research methods and apply them to real projects. Students work closely with research mentors (graduate students, post-docs, or professors) and with each other. At the end of the quarter, each Pre-MAP student presents their work to the department. Beyond the seminar, we offer many other opportunities to Pre-MAP students such as one-on-one academic mentoring, cohort building, a yearly field trip, and tours of research labs around campus. 

Does our program meet its goal of increasing the number of under-represented students who choose to major in STEM? Over the past year, a group of us have been working to evaluate the program through use of the UW student database. We find that we succeed in attracting students with a range of ethnicities and pre-college experiences. Our students perform similarly to the overall UW population both in and out of STEM fields and are significantly more likely to pursue STEM degrees than their peers. 

A short paper describing our evaluation can be found on the arXiv. If you have questions, please contact Sarah GarnerMichael Tremmel, or Sarah Schmidt. For more information on Pre-MAP at UW, you can see the program website and look at the DIY Pre-MAP tools.