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Women in Astronomy

Hacking a respectful and caring community in your department

1 Dec 2014, 22:31 UTC
Hacking a respectful and caring community in your department
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Astronomy graduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign requested a departmental colloquium on diversity and inclusion, which I gave two weeks ago. Kudos to the department for agreeing to this and for advertising it widely, and to those who attended. The experience may be useful to others, so I share it here. The punchline first: the graduate students are disappointed at how little progress there has been in increasing faculty diversity. Even when proactive efforts are made by department leadership, change happens slowly at best. Increasing the representation by 50% or even 100% seems like a drop in the ocean given the small numbers of women in most astronomy and physics departments, especially if there are 0 or 1 women faculty in the department. Are we settling for permanent inequity if we talk about 25% women and not 50%? And what about other problems of underrepresentation and marginalization?These are the kinds of questions that can shift attitudes, including my own. Whereas I have taken pride in increasing the percentage of women in physics at MIT (for example, from 10% to 18% of the PhDs during my term as department head), I may be deluding myself that this is ...

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