Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Women in Leadership: Networks


 As you make the transition from scientist to manager, you may realize that the technical and mathematical skills that got you where you are won’t help as much as you advance. Although (when mixed with a bit of intuition and common sense) they may be sufficient at lower levels, like department chair, group lead, or principal investigator, these abilities alone will not be enough as you move to higher levels. Even though your undergrad and graduate curricula were packed full of requirements, you may reach a point when you lament that you never took a management course. Your success will depend less and less on the skills that made you a successful scientist and more and more on your human competencies. In a community that is dominated by introverts, this is a particularly troubling realization, and an individual with even mild extroverted tendencies has a natural advantage. There is a joke I heard while I was working in the Astronomy Division at NSF. Question: How do you tell if someone is an extrovert? Answer: When they pass you in the hall, they look at your shoes. It is sort of funny only because it is so true. I worked on the Math and Physical Sciences floor – the directorate that includes Math, Physics, Chemistry, Materials, and Astronomy. I can’t tell you the number of times I passed someone in the hall, and they looked down. I found I had to really focus on keeping eye contact and saying something simple like, “Good morning.” So imagine how an individual in this community of introverts feels when they learn that their career advancement now depends on the one thing they were never good at (and never had to be) - their ability to develop effective working relationships with key individuals.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

First Summary Blog post: Work-Life Balance

There are over 1000 blog posts on the women in astronomy blog! The summary blog posts are a series of posts that summarize some of the major topics covered in the women in astronomy blog. They are intended to be part summary of topics covered as well as to add some updated information on those topics. Please suggest other topics in the comments!

Sometimes the best work-life balance is to do both at the same time! One of my hobbies is to play with various aspects of 3D printing. I am demonstrating what my 3D printer can do at the annual Institute for Astronomy Open House
The first topic for the summary blog posts is on work-life balance. Why? Because it's Sunday, and I'm splitting my day between writing this blog post, preparing for an upcoming conference, and keeping the Pan-STARRS processing moving along.  Clearly, I need to work on my work-life balance.  Since I don't have kids, I'm primarily interested in how to make it so that I do more than just work.  For me, posts that discuss how to set boundaries, how to say no to things, and how to set a reasonable number of hours to work are what I consider 'work-life balance'. When writing this post, I discovered that the majority of the blog posts on work-life balance are geared towards balancing a family and a career. However, I caution it's not just the women (and men!) with children that want to manage work-life balance, this is something that probably all of us can work on. Making a workplace culture more flexible and family friendly helps everyone out.  


I did a search for 'work-life balance' on this blog, and came up with 174 matching entries.  I sifted through all of these, sorted and culled them, found updated links, and organized them into several categories. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Meet The CSWA: Cristina Thomas



In our newest series on the Women in Astronomy blog, we'd like to introduce our readers to the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy.  Cristina Thomas is a research scientist with the Planetary Science Institute. She received her undergraduate degree from Caltech and her Ph.D. from MIT. After graduating she had postdocs at Northern Arizona University and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia.

Describe the first time you made a personal connection with the planets and stars?

When I was young, Voyager completed its reconnaissance of the Solar System. I had this amazing book that was full of great pictures of all the planets and short descriptions of what we knew about them. I absolutely loved that book. I went looking for it a few years ago because it had been so incredibly influential to my life. I never found it, but I can remember so much about it.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

eAlliances : An Invitation to Join a Mutual Mentoring Network

This post was submitted as a guest post in preparation for the Women in Astronomy IV Meeting.

Have you ever felt isolated at a department meeting and thought “Maybe it’s just me, but…”? Perhaps you are the only woman faculty member in your department, or the only faculty woman of color at your institution or maybe the only astronomer within a neutron star radius (10 km).  Perhaps you have heard that networking and mentoring can help combat the isolation you feel, but how can you grow your own mentoring network? An NSF ADVANCE grant entitled “Mutual Mentoring to Combat Isolation in Physics” might help you do just that.

The first NSF-funded mutual mentoring group (2007-10). The five members were all full professors at liberal arts colleges. From left, Amy Graves of Swarthmore College, Barbara Whitten of Colorado College, Anne Cox of Eckerd College, Cindy Blaha of Carleton College, and Linda Fritz of Franklin & Marshall College.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Becoming Inclusive

Jessica Mink writes astronomical
software at the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory



It's getting harder to decide whether to commit to conferences, what with the Texas Senate having passed SB6, the discriminatory bill about which I wrote in January. The possibility that the Speaker of the Texas House might be unable to stop its momentum delayed my registration for Women in Astronomy IV in Austin for a while, but I'll be there on a panel discussing our Inclusive Astronomy Recommendations. As a member of a class which seems to be under siege in much of the United(?) States, I have found that the best way to gain allies is to be an ally to as many groups as I can. Making astronomy more diverse and inclusive has become a major goal of my professional life.

In the other long-term activist part of my life, I have learned that if you want to make progress, there are three levels of work: 1) as an individual, 2) as part of a group with agreed-upon goals, and 3) inside the system. I don't mind meetings, so I tend to try to do all three. In addition to simply being my intersectional self, I've been working both within the American Astronomical Society as a member of both the Committee on the Status of Women (CSWA) and the Committee for Sexual orientation and Gender identity Minorities in Astronomy (SGMA), and outside, on the organizing committee for Inclusive Astronomy (IA).

A few months ago, I gave a presentation connecting our activities as a profession to better include LGBTQ+ astronomers to the National Organization of Lesbian and Gay Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) at their "Out to Innovate" conference, which this year was held conveniently near my home base of Boston. At that meeting, I learned that astronomy is ahead of other STEM disciplines in that we're trying to include not just one group excluded by gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, but to look at barriers which can affect any of them.