AAS 198th Meeting, June 2001
Session 29. Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy
Special Session Oral, Monday, June 4, 2001, 2:00-3:30pm, C211

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[29.01] Isn't a Millennium of Affirmative Action for White Men Sufficient??

D. Rolison (NRL)

Science and engineering departments need more women as faculty-and not only to show their undergraduate students (the majority of whom are now women in many disciplines) that a career in academia is a viable path. In my field, statistics show that one-third of U.S. Ph.D.s in chemistry are awarded to women, yet according to cocktail folklore, applications from women for advertised positions are only 10% (or less!) of the total. Why aren't women applying to academia in proportion to their numbers? Why are they voting with their feet against a career in an institution they know all too well? The disproportionate absence of women from the applicant pool warns that an unhealthy environment exists in U.S. academic departments: unhealthy to those professors who want to play a continuing, rather than merely genetic role in the lives of their children and unhealthy to those women, who once they demonstrate productivity, scholarship, and mentorship, still reap less respect (and the ancillary rewards of space, salary, funding, and awards) than their male colleagues.

Should Federal funds be withheld from those universities that do not increase their departmental faculty hires to reflect the pool of U.S.-granted Ph.D.s? Can the threat of the loss of Federal dollars be the impetus for the changes necessary in American universities in order to create a departmental environment that women are willing to call home? Many posit that such changes will concomitantly improve the academic experience for women *and* men, faculty *and* students. If the ``system" is broken, and many of its citizens think it is, can it be fixed? Plausible action items up for discussion include such practical, achievable alternatives as aggressively recruiting good women candidates for faculty openings, fairer evaluation of the contributions and productivity of candidates and faculty who are women, ensuring on-campus day care, mentoring the junior faculty through the minefields, and really rewarding the good teachers and advisors because of how they guide and challenge their students. It is not coincidental that these suggestions help men, too.

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