Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Large Survey Reveals Limitations for Women Scientists

I just read a 2012 Physics Today article about statistics on women scientists that was understandable and compelling.   It was great to see their numbers and be able to interpret them myself.

The PT article is called "Women in Physics:  A Tale of Limits" by Rachel Ivie and Casey Langer Tesfaye (Feb. 2012).  In 2009 and 2010, the Working Group on Women in Physics of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics did a large international survey to determine the status of women physicists worldwide.  They surveyed 15,000 women and men physicists from 130 countries, asking questions to reveal where women may be limited in their careers.

Results are given related to career-advancing activities that respondents experience.  Examples are invited speaker at conferences, leader of a group, editor of a journal and serving on conference organizing committees.  They gave the numbers and I couldn't resist doing my own analysis.  Here is my summary plot of the ratio of women to men experiencing different activities as a function of the importance of the activity.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Confidence Gap and Possible Effects on Persistence and Pay

An article in The Atlantic by Kathy Kay and Claire Shipman is well worth reading and pondering.  On average, women are less confident than men, with harmful consequences for equitable advancement based on ability.  "Confidence, " says psychologist Richard Pette, "is the stuff that turns thoughts into action."  A person with low confidence tends to try less hard, to give up more easily, to negotiate less successfully, and to face fewer challenges that lead to growth.  Could it be that men's overconfidence is putting women at a disadvantage?

 Numerous surveys show the same thing: women as a whole are less confident than men.  In my own university's survey of its students, the gender difference on self-assessed confidence is one of the largest and most robust signals  in the data.  The effect has been noted in studies of math performance and as a reason why fewer women than men run for political office.  To be sure, there are underconfident men and overconfident women.  But the balance is tipped, and female self-confidence goes against social norms, as the mixed response to Sheryl Sandberg's messages makes clear.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Career Profiles: Astronomer to Staff Scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with an astronomer turned staff scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about this career path, please leave a comment below.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every first and third Thursday of the month.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Call to Nominate! And, Self-Nominate Too!

Fellow AAS Members!

The time has come for you to nominate!  Nominate, I say, be it thy colleague, or thyself!

The AAS Prizes are important. They are our community's most visible means to foster and acknowledge excellence in research, education, and service.

Yet some of the research prizes remain overwhelming exclusive of women.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Strength in Numbers

Today’s guest blogger is Katja Poppenhaeger. Katja is a Sagan postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Her research interests are exoplanets and their host stars, with a focus on stellar magnetic activity and its effects on exoplanetary atmospheres. She also is the organizer of the CfA's Women In Science Chats, a series of informal discussions where female CfA postdocs and graduate students can meet with visiting scientists.

A few weeks ago my colleague, Mohaddesseh Azimlu, mentioned how great it would be to have a group photo of all the female astronomers and astronomy students at the CfA. She was about to leave for a new career opportunity in Canada, so we hurried to invite everyone for a photo shot on a cold February day. We got an overwhelmingly positive response from the astronomers: We had 55 people join the picture, and 17 more who could not attend in person sent in photos of themselves to be added to the picture. Here's the result:
(picture credit: Clive Grainger, Katja Poppenhaeger)

AASWOMEN Newsletter for April 11, 2014

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of April 11, 2014
eds: Michele M. Montgomery, Daryl Haggard, Nick Murphy, & Nicolle Zellner

This week's issues:

1. Guest Post: Time to talk about Privilege
2. Cultural Change: Broadening the Metrics for Promotion
3. France A. Córdova Sworn In as NSF Director
4. Career Profiles: Astronomer to Tenure Track Faculty at a Community College
5. Uwingu Invites Applications for Graduate-Student Travel Grants
6. Look past cult of perfection to promote women in sciences
7. Yes, Daily Mail – black and Asian women can be qualified to talk
8. Job Opportunities
9. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
10. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
11. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter